Maintaining a balanced budget is an essential part of living independently at college. Some students may have been hard workers in high school and juggled a part-time job and academics. Others, meanwhile, may not have and suddenly panic when a wave of responsibility comes crashing down on them.
Not to fear -- managing money in college can been done effectively and efficiently (if you’re smart about it).
First off -- and I cannot stress this enough -- get yourself a credit card. It may even be better for you to have two of them. Establishing credit while in college will open the gates to getting loans on future big purchases such as a car and a house, and it doesn’t require you to bother mom or dad for their credit card numbers when making an online order.
It is a smart idea to open an account with the local bank, as you can easily sidestep annoying ATM fees and make deposits simpler. Some schools have a medley of banks (URI has Bank of America, Washington Trust and Citizen’s Bank, among others within close range) while others are almost monopolized (Marquette University runs almost exclusively on U.S. Bank). Banks should not charge you a monthly fee if you are a student, so take the offer while you still can.
So we’re talking about bank accounts and credit cards, but where is all of that money coming from? The next step is for you to look into part-time jobs on campus. Getting familiar with people at the school will ease your new adjustment and the money will keep rolling in. Your job doesn’t need to be on campus grounds. Those jobs tend to be competitive in the fall when new students are clamoring for open positions. Off-campus jobs may have exactly what you’re looking for, but the commute is a down side. Investigate your school’s Career Services center if it has one and pay attention to bulletins that are sent to your campus e-mail for job opportunities that interest you.
To optimize your financial experience during your freshman year, scavenge for student discounts around campus and in the surrounding area. Museums, restaurants, theaters, and local sporting events will typically offer gracious student discounts.
A Marquette student can get a free order of french fries with a burger purchase at a restaurant down the street and the Milwaukee Brewers feature a half-price ticket for students for select games. Do some digging to see if local establishments will offer you a markdown on products or, when you’re in the facility, just ask in person and they will gladly help you out.
Every now and then there are stories that pop up detailing the monetary irresponsibility displayed by college students, with a notable case being credit card debt, but with some common sense you can prevent yourself from diving deep in the red.
Pay your bills you are responsible for on time, especially your credit card. You don’t need to be accruing any unnecessary late penalties that will cost your more dough and have implications on your credit score.
Don’t go crazy on grocery shopping, or otherwise you will end up with more snacks in your room than you intended and it will be a waste of money. Do not go to the grocery store on an empty stomach and only get items you will really need for the week. I get my snack shopping done about once a week and don’t usually get much because of the dining hall convenience located in my dorm and numerous eateries situated adjacent to it.
But you don’t need to be frugal about all of this. Money doesn’t need to be your only concern while in college. Every now and then go out and really treat yourself to something nice, just for you. If you’re a video game fan, then stock up on a few brand new titles. If you are into fashion, then get a pair of sharp jeans or whatever tickles your fancy.
Just be responsible with your money. After all, we don’t need to see you on TV at football games holding a “Hi Mom and Dad! Send money!” sign.
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