Managing money is one of the first things you need to learn how to do when you go to college. You are on your own and need to consider the costs of tuition, housing, textbooks, insurance, food, and a multitude of other expenses. Your financial aid package will help, but you need to balance income and bills so that you finish your higher education without too much debt. Here are some money management tips to help you.
Be sure to apply for as much aid as you can. Your FAFSA application assesses your eligibility for all federal grants, scholarships, and loans, but you should also check with your university’s financial aid office for further grant, scholarship, and work-study possibilities. Grants and scholarships are gifts, but loans you have to pay back. Try to stick with federal loans, as they are fixed-rate and low interest. When you receive your financial aid money, designate it for the big expenses, such as tuition, housing, books, and fees. If you have further living expenses, use your savings or get a part-time job.
Textbooks are very expensive, but there are ways to save on them. Wait for your syllabus, and buy books only when you need them. Compare prices at the university bookstore with prices online. If possible, find used books. Look at used bookstores, online used bookstores, bulletin boards, and school newspapers. See if e-textbooks are available, as these are usually much cheaper than physical books and are easier to carry around.
It is important to draw up a budget. Pace yourself by setting weekly and monthly allowances. Keep track of your expenses so that you know where your money has gone if you come up short. Use your student ID for discounts wherever you can. Use credit cards sparingly, and never spend more on a credit card than you can pay back at the end of the month. Credit card debt is one of the worst financial traps to fall into, as the interest rates are high and it is difficult to climb out of debt. If you are not sure you can control yourself, stick to a debit card that won’t allow overdraws instead of a credit card.
Keep a money calendar to mark upcoming expenses, payments, and bills due. Be ready to make hard choices and forego pleasures if you need to. Instead of eating meals out, eat at the university cafeteria or prepare your own food. In lieu of expensive entertainment options, look for clubs and entertainment on campus. You will thank yourself later on if you keep your expenses under control.
Despite doing what you can to manage your money, you might run into financial hardship anyway. If this happens, do not hesitate to ask for help. Rather than struggle on in despair by yourself, get advice from your parents or the school financial aid office. Living on your own is a big responsibility, and as a student you have a number of additional expenses that others do not. Accepting the counsel of those more experienced is a mark of maturity.
This article was written by Richard Craft, an MBA student who hopes to help you with your finances. He recommends taking a look at the banking jobs with moneyjobs.com if you’re interested in pursuing a career that involves money management!