You'll probably never be as broke in your entire life as you are during college. If that isn't enough, college kids surviving on hotdogs and spaghetti is usually the norm, combined with studying, a part-time job and juggling a social life. This would be tough for anyone, especially a student without a lot of cash. To get you through these years unscathed, here are six smart financial tips especially for college students.
1. Manage Student Debt Wisely
One of the first experiences you'll ever have with paying back a debt is with your college loans. However, if you plan well, you can save yourself thousands of dollars. It's important to shop around for the best loans you can find and apply for every scholarship you're eligible for. If you're getting ready to start payments, a student loan refinance plan can lower your monthly obligation.
2. Formulate a Budget
A budget is useful for anyone, whether you have a lot of bills or money to spare. Budgeting allows you to see exactly where your money is going and how much you'll have left. Creating a budget doesn't have to be complicated and you can formulate one online or with just a pen and paper. Add your income from part-time jobs, financial aid and due dates for bills. Make sure financial aid goes where it's supposed to, and check your budget schedule every day to make sure you're on track.
3. Take Advantage of Student Discounts
Being in college opens up a whole new world of student discounts so don't be shy about using them. Discounts are available on everything from computers and software, to transportation and online streaming. Some restaurants even offer a certain percentage off of food items so it never hurts to ask. Remember, even if a 10% discount doesn't sound like a lot, over the course of four years it adds up!
4. Open a Bank Account
Even if you're on a budget, you must find a way to save a little money. If you don't already have a bank account, visit a bank or credit union and open both a checking and savings account. This allows you to direct deposit checks from your job and use a checking debit card for expenses. Each week, deposit a portion of your income into your savings account. Even if it's only a few dollars, promise yourself you won't touch it.
5. Buy Used Books and Furnishings
Saving money during the college years can be difficult, but it's easier if you buy used school books and furnishings. Check online for preowned books or purchase older editions. You can also ask about renting them or seeing if they're available in ebook format. When furnishing your dorm, always try to go with used or like-new pieces. You can even go with vintage pieces from a secondhand store for a totally unique look.
6. Be Responsible With Credit
Some credit cards offer special rewards and cash back if you're a student. A credit card can be a great tool for emergencies, travel expenses and building your credit. However, it's important to understand that a credit card isn't a license for a shopping spree and racking up debt you can't pay back. Credit cards are meant to be used sparingly and paid off quickly. If you abide by these rules, your credit score will rise and make it easier for you to get good rates on loans in the future.
The college years are financially challenging, but also one of the best times in your life. Make the most of it by budgeting, taking advantage of discounts and refinancing your loan at a lower rate.