Hidden college expenses (late-night pizza, anyone?) can sneak up on you, especially during your first year. But great money management skills can help you prepare for those unexpected costs and budget for them ahead of time. Here are some helpful hints to start you off on the right foot.
Create a Budget- The first thing you want to do is establish a budget. By outlining how much money you’ll bring in each month and giving yourself spending guidelines at or below that amount, you’ll be able to keep yourself out of debt. One way you can be sure to stick to your budget is to eat on campus. Though it may be tempting to get takeout every night, ordering out can eat away at your budget fast. Instead, why not use your campus meal plan, cook at home or attend free on-campus events serving food. Also, keep an eye out for discounts available through your student ID. Everything from movie theaters and restaurants to salons, museums and theme parks usually offer great deals to local college students (and don’t forget to check out freebies on campus like tee shirts, cups and food).
Consider a Part-Time Job- Sometimes sticking to a budget can be challenging and you may find yourself spending more than you planned, even if you’re tracking your spending. In that case it might be worth thinking about getting a part-time job to make some extra cash. Consider working in an office, the library, as an RA or even babysitting. The best part about being a student employee is that supervisors are usually flexible and understanding of your academic responsibilities and needs.
Avoid the Credit Card Trap- Now that you have a budget, and part-time job, it seems like a logical next step to open a credit account. But keep in mind, a credit card is not free money! College students are bombarded with credit card advertisements. Don’t be enticed. It’s very important, if you chose to get a credit card, that you be responsible and avoid unnecessary debt. Pay your balance in full every month and never charge more than you can afford to pay off.
Save What You Can- Yes, college is a time of independence, but it’s also and an opportunity to develop money smarts and become financially responsible. Don't blow all your money. Start saving early by putting a little bit from your paycheck into a savings account each month, even if it's not very much. And when you skip out on ordering Chinese food or going on a shopping trip, you can be proud of the fact that you’re saving for emergencies and your future.