It’s back to school season. A fresh wave of college students will be arriving on campuses throughout the country, many of whom will be living on their own for the first time. With that freedom comes new responsibilities in work and home life. And few loom larger than the questions of personal finance. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Keep those three numbers in mind, and you’ve got a solid stating budget. Whether you’ve secured an on-campus job or are getting a little bit of regular cash from back home, you should be spending no more than 50% of your income on bills and fixed necessities (phone, car payments, etc), 30% on savings, and 20% on yourself. Play around with the numbers as you see fit. If you aren’t paying for your own phone bill for instance, that’s a bit extra that could go into savings. Creating a little nest egg in college isn’t easy, but working at it is helpful— especially if you fall sick or need to replace a book at the last minute!
Credit Cards— A Tricky Situation
Credit cards are a tool. Use them as such. Saying that they are absolutely unnecessary for a college student is a bit of a stretch, because having a credit history after graduation can be extremely helpful. When you leave the campus gates, no prior experience with credit can make securing an apartment or vehicle extremely difficult— doubly so if you have student loans. Because your credit score is used to determine your trustworthiness on loans, not having credit can be as damaging as having poor credit. Sure, you’ve never missed a payment or maxed out multiple cards— because you’ve never had the opportunity to. There’s an absence of evidence, and lenders or landlords might be wary. However, don’t go out and get a credit card the minute you set foot on campus. Make sure you have a steady source of income so you can keep that balance paid off.
Embrace Frugal Living
Unless you have fabulously wealthy parents, college is a time that will try your patience. As a full-time student, income may not always be steady. And even the income you are receving will most likely not be all that much. You’ll sometimes find yourself stretching every dollar you have. And that’s not a bad thing. You should be getting creative! Every time you find yourself ready to buy soemthing— from food to books— try to think of a more creative option. Combine loads of laundry with a roommate. See if there are any textbook rental programs available to you. Learn to cook, and be wowed by your weekly food savings (and impress your new friends).