By Jeffrey J. Buonforte
You’ve waited 18 years for this moment. You’re leaving home and going to college—and the first lesson you may need to learn is how to manage money on your own.
After all, between studying, socializing, and doing laundry for the first time, it’s easy to lose sight of balancing your finances. Here are some guidelines to help you make smart financial decisions.
Easy Ways to Save Money and Spend Wisely
- Make a budget. Be sure to list all estimated expenses, including miscellaneous spending money and review it monthly to make sure you stay on track. You can find personal budget templates with programs like Microsoft Excel and Word.
- Sell last semester’s textbooks online or take them back to the school bookstore.
- If you’re on the college meal plan, use it. If you’re not, make the grocery store a regular destination for low-cost, nutritious meals.
- Shop with coupons and buy generic store brands rather than advertised brands.
- Avoid eating out as much as possible.
- Use store loyalty cards whenever possible to save additional money.
- Visit the local Salvation Army, Goodwill or other vintage shops for clothing, furniture and other items.
- Use Internet phone services such as Vonage or Skype to save on phone bills.
- Consider a part-time job, on or off campus, to help with expenses.
- If you drive a car, some insurance companies offer discounts to students who maintain a high GPA.
Tips on Managing Your First Credit Card
Credit card companies often approach college students on campus. Students are given the opportunity to start building their credit history, with their parents co-signing the contract.
Credit cards can be an additional learning experience, so it is important to talk with your parents or guardians about the consequences of accruing credit card debt. Also keep in mind the following tips:
- Choose a card with a low interest rate and no annual fee.
- Read the credit card contract carefully. Introductory offers will expire. Know exactly what the card requires after that period.
- Use the card minimally and do not spend more than you can easily pay off each statement.
- Pay the credit card bill completely each month. Avoid carrying a monthly balance.
- Watch out for due date changes. Credit cards sometimes change due dates with little notice, causing you to pay late charges.
These are just a few examples of the different ways college students can spend money wisely, save money while on a budget, and build credit. And, keep in mind that the way you manage your credit card activity today will impact your credit rating in the future.
For more information on tips for saving money for college
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