College years are a transitional time into the “real world.” Not only will you learn skill sets to gain employment, but you will learn life skills as you start living on your own. Now is the perfect time to start building a financial foundation that sets the course for the rest of your life. The following tips will help you become a money savvy college student.
Use Credit Wisely and Sparingly
Getting a credit card can help you establish credit, but only if done responsibly. Try to resist credit card offers through your school and stores. If you do have a credit card, use it sparingly and pay off the balance each month. If not, you’ll end up paying interest on the items you purchased, and who wants to pay more for something? Certainly not money savvy people!
Set a Budget
Review your monthly expenses and set realistic expectations for spending on items like groceries, gas, entertainment, and recreation. Determine how much money you will take in each month and whether or not you need to consider a part-time job. There are lots of personal finance tools available, many of which are free and fun to use. If you’re looking for a budget worksheet, here is one from Hills Bank. A budget will help provide a serious overview of your finances—just make sure you stick with it!
Balance Accounts Often
If you’re like most college students, you’ll probably use your debit card more often than writing a check. Even though debit cards are fast and convenient, it’s easy to forget where and what you’ve spent. Be sure to monitor and balance your accounts often, with each transaction recorded in your checkbook or online budgeting system as soon as possible. Knowing what’s in your account keeps you from possible overdraft fees and the embarrassment of a purchase being declined or a check bouncing.
Take Active Measures to Protect Financial and Personal Information
Be aware of how personal information is stolen, and being knowledgeable is one of the most effective tools against identity theft. Visit the Customer Protection Center for ways to protect your accounts and personal information.
Use Online Resources
Set up alerts within online banking and mobile banking for your accounts. Alerts make emails or text messages available every time a transaction is made to your account so you can monitor your accounts between monthly statements.
Get Into the Habit of Saving
Starting early with a savings plan helps develop good habits in the future. Not only that, but the more you save now, the more interest it compounds over the years. Even though you may not have a lot of money now, time is on your side! Consider saving as “paying yourself first” and include it as a part of your monthly budget.
Visit the School Years Life Stage for more tips and resources on how to build your financial future and become money savvy. What money savvy tips would you offer college students today? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.