Going off to college is an exciting time—newfound independence, solo decision-making and lots of fun. But with this new stage in life comes new responsibilities. No one is looking over your shoulder to ensure you do your homework, you don’t have to check in with mom and dad before you go out, and nobody is managing your spending—which is precisely why you, as a student, need to.
Budgeting may not be glamorous, but it is an important part of being an adult. And the earlier you learn how to create and stick to a budget, the better off you’ll be in college and beyond. Here are our top tips for budgeting as a college student.
Keep track of your spending
Make a list of your fixed expenses, like your cell phone bill, rent, internet—anything that is the exact same amount each month. Then, take a look at your variable expenses, like eating out, going to the movies, and any other expense you can’t necessarily predict. It’s important to know where your money is going, what you can afford, and where you can cut corners.
There are lots of digital tools and apps to help track your finances and make it easy to budget.
We wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t thought much about your long-term financial goals, beyond getting a job and supporting yourself after graduation. Setting goals can help create a blueprint for your future, including paying off student loans, saving to buy a car or house, or just moving out of your parents’ house.
It’s possible your goals may change over time, but the earlier you start making them, the better.
The concept of credit can seem like walking a tightrope—you don’t want to rack up a big credit card bill, but building credit is important. A healthy credit score will serve you well in the future, when it comes time to buy a house. Start by choosing a credit card wisely; pay attention to fees, interest rates, and incentives. Then, make a herculean effort to keep your balance as low as possible—don’t order pizza willy-nilly, don’t go on any unnecessary shopping sprees. In addition to keeping your balance low, it’s also crucial to do your best to pay your bill on time every month (and paid in full, if possible).
It’s easy to put things on a credit card here and there, but you’d be surprised how quickly the balance grows.
Get a job
Many college students are eligible for work-study programs through their school. If you weren’t able to land a spot on campus, try looking nearby at a coffee shop, grocery store or any other business that offers part-time hours to students (there are always a ton near college campuses!). Keep some money to have fun with, and sock away the rest. You’ll be glad you did someday!
Live below your means
This is true of life in general. Many people have a champagne appetite on a beer budget, but the smart ones don’t spend money on things they can’t afford. As a rule, you should bring in more money than you spend. Overspending can lead to burst budgets and high credit card balances.
Apply for scholarships
If you already have scholarships through your school or outside sources, that’s great! It never hurts to keep looking, though, especially after you choose a course of study. Many scholarships are directed toward students in specific programs, so it pays off—literally—to keep an eye on things.
Save, save, save
Whenever you can save money, do! Every little bit counts, and you’ll be glad you did if and when times are tight. Plan ahead and you’ll be better set for your future!
And, if you’re looking for a checking account, savings account, or simply advice on the next steps in your financial journey, schedule an appointment, or stop by one of our convenient locations. At WaterStone Bank, we’re here just for you.
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