Financially Fit – Take These Money Steps Your First Day at College
A lot of the college experience is about building independence, and finances are an important part of that journey.
Starting college with a plan can help you get through the first semester, all four years and post-college life. How you prep for your financial future as a freshman can set a precedent—good or bad—that’s ingrained in your brain for years to come. So, start off on the right foot with these tips.
Set a budget
Make a list of all the things you spend money on and all the recurring bills you have. Spending categories might include food, transportation around town, haircuts, transportation home for holidays and breaks, books, entertainment, toiletries, clothes and fees for sports or other activities. Recurring bills might include your cell phone, prescriptions, credit or store cards, music subscriptions and Greek life dues.
Get a job
If work-study was included in your financial aid packet, great! Head to your student employment office as soon as possible so you’ll have more jobs to pick from.
If you need to work off campus, try to find something close by so you’re not spending your time and money on transportation.
Start a savings account
Once you get a job, even if it’s only part time, you can set up an automatic withdrawal to have a set amount deposited into the savings account of your choice.
Even just $20 per paycheck will get you on the path to good financial habits, provide you with an emergency fund, and give you the advantage of time when it comes to saving.
Analyze your budget regularly and look for ways to cut back
How do you know if your budget is too low, too high or just right? Review your spending using tools that your bank or credit card provides, such as a pie chart that shows you what percent of your budget is spent on each category.
Once you uncover any areas where you’re overspending, you can either bring more money in (which probably isn’t likely unless you haven’t picked up a part-time job yet), or spend less.
How do you spend less? Rent textbooks instead of buying them each semester. Walk, bike or use the bus instead of driving your own car or taking an Uber everywhere. Research where your student union card will get you discounts on entertainment, meals and transportation.
This does not mean applying for every credit card offer that shows up in your mailbox. In fact, although the laws changed in 2009 to better protect college students from aggressive credit card marketing, you may still get several offers. Do your research to compare fees, interest rates, APRs, introductory rates and more. Open one card and pay off the balance every month to build your credit history.
Get a jumpstart on your financial fitness by implementing these tips immediately. Your future bank account balance will thank you!