Dollars and Sense – Managing Your Money in College
Matt signed up for his first credit card on his way to class during his sophomore year of college. While scholarships and a campus job covered his tuition and basic living expenses, he wanted a few extras.
His financial difficulties began innocently enough. At first, he paid off his balance every month, but soon he could only afford the minimum payment. By the time he graduated, Matt was $17,000 in debt.
Unfortunately, Matt’s story is not unique. While it’s possible to fall into debt at any time in your life, the often busy-yet fund-less college lifestyle makes it entirely too easy. Representatives from credit card companies frequent college campuses and target their advertising to students.
The good news is that college money woes, like credit card debt, are avoidable. It’s never too early to start thinking about money management in college. In fact, the more you plan now, the better off you’ll be once you set foot on campus, especially in today’s economy.
Checking And Online Banking
If you don’t already have a bank account or if your account is local chances are you’ll have to sign up for a new account with a bank near campus. Many banks cater to students with promotional deals and savings such as free student checking and savings accounts.
Most schools offer on-campus jobs that range in scope from peer tutoring to food service. Even if your parents are paying your way through school it might not be a bad idea to look into ways to make a little extra cash. Visit your college’s website to peruse job listings and find out which jobs interest you most. Again it’s never too early to consider your options.
If possible try to avoid credit cards in college. You’re better off waiting to open a line of credit until you have a full-time job and steady paycheck. However if you do decide to use credit while you’re in school be smart about it. Don’t spend beyond your means and pay off your card in full at each billing cycle. It’s tempting to just pay the minimum payment but you’ll end up paying an exorbitant interest rate (as high as 24 percent!). That’s how credit card holders get into real trouble — they can never pay off the balance because of the interest charges.
Luckily more colleges are addressing the money issue and providing money-management services for their students. If you’re unsure about any aspect of your finances and your college offers these types of services take advantage of them. Though managing your money may never be easy it doesn’t have to be stressful.