While most students go to college to help ensure that they will get a good job after they have graduated, many do not consider how choices they make when they are in college will affect their future finances.
I’ve seen students rack up thousands in credit card or student loan debt because they were living well beyond their means in school. I’ve seen others simply fail to plan for the future, assuming it will all work out.
Here are several tips that all students should follow, which will help to ensure that they are financially responsible and leave school in the best financial condition possible.
1. Set a Budget
Most students, and young adults, neglect the importance of establishing a budget. To avoid going further into debt, all students should set a personal budget to stick to going forward.
Budgeting during college can be easy — you don’t typically have a lot of income or expenses to keep in mind. So just jot down what you make each month, and don’t spend more than that — simple!
2. Eat at Home
Many students spend a lot of their money eating out with their friends. While it can be a fun treat, it can end up being very expensive and very unhealthy.
The more you can eat at home, the more you’ll save. Learning to cook is also a great skill to have for your entire life anyway!
3. Have Fun on the Cheap
Going to expensive parties and bars can be a temptation for students. While doing this is okay once in a while, students should look to see what cheaper entertainment options are being provided by their schools, which could help to save money.
There are so many free things you can do to have fun, but it can be a challenge to know what the options are. Here’s a list of our favorite free activities to do when you’re bored.
4. Always Pay Your Bills on Time
Students waste millions of dollars each year on late fees and penalties. Through the use of online bill-pay tools and other bill-pay services, a student can be assured that they will pay their bills on time.
Plus, being late on your bill payments is the most common reason college students have poor credit scores. If you want to get a good interest rate on a loan, or even be able to rent a nice apartment, you have to have a good credit score.
5. Avoid Credit Cards
Since most students do not have much savings or income, using credit cards is a necessity at times. While they are important to have access to, credit cards should be limited to emergencies and should always be repaid each month.
If you choose to use a credit card, check out these great college student credit cards.
6. Get a Job
While going to school full-time is a lot of work, most students have some time to work each week. Even working 10 hours per week could add up to a considerable amount of extra money each year, which could help to offset debt or start saving.
Beyond just the money, working during college is a great way to build skills that employers want after graduation. Typically, you can learn problem-solving and business communication skills by having a job in college. These will allow you to shine after graduation.
7. Don’t Spend a Fortune on Housing
Next to tuition, housing is the biggest expense that a student has each year. While it may be more comfortable to live in an off-campus apartment, these cost thousands of dollars extra every year, which can lead to an accumulation of debt.
Even if you live off campus, consider getting a roommate or look into house hacking. These are great ways to minimize the cost of housing.
8. Plan for the Future
While most people start saving for long-term goals when they start working, there is no reason to wait that long if you have some extra money. By putting some money into a savings account or an IRA while you are in school, you could give your long-term financial goals a strong start.
9. Get Scholarships If You Can
While they are competitive to get, most students are giving up on the chance to get some extra money because they do not spend the time to apply for available scholarships. Make sure that you also complete the FAFSA so that you can see if you qualify for Federal financial aid.
10. Graduate on Time
Many students today end up taking too small of a course load while they are in school, which may require them to be in school for an additional semester or two. This could end up wasting tens of thousands of dollars. In fact, you should even consider graduating early in just three years.
In conclusion, most students that are in college spend very little time considering how the choices they make will impact their future financial lives. There are 10 tips that all students should follow, which will ensure that they are financially responsible while they are in school.
What other tips do you have?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.