College is the only time in your adult life when a little bit of financial instability is almost expected (and eating ramen for every meal isn’t ever questioned). But that doesn’t mean financial balance is out of your reach!
Getting your budget in order while still in college can set you up well when the real financial obligations begin to pile up and student loans kick in. Unless it has to do with loans or your weekly coffee budget, college finances aren’t often talked about so sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. So we have put together a list of 6 good places to start when getting your college finances in order.
6 ways to get your finances in order while you’re still in college
Create a Budget and Stick To It
Use your 4 years in college to set up your next 40! Start creating regular habits of budgeting and sticking to it. Learn from any mistakes while you’re in college and practice adjusting your budget and how you spend your money. Try these tips to stay on track:
- Use your meal plan and other university services to stay within budget.
- Check your bank’s website for budgeting tools or software like YNAB, can help you stay on course.
Regularly tracking your spending will build habits for years to come.
Pay Yourself First
All college students need to set aside some money for an emergency fund. Start with $500, then grow it to $1,000 and don’t touch it unless there is an emergency (for clarification, this is not 2 a.m. pizza). Many students will have an unexpected change in finances while in school. Maybe you need to travel home for family, or your car breaks down or your course schedule doesn’t work for your job anymore. Having set aside funds “just in case” will prevent financial pit-falls. Then after you spend these funds, make it a priority to replenish .
Ditch Your Ride
In high school having a vehicle can feel like freedom, but in college it can be a financial limitation. Most college students, especially in an urban setting like North Central University’s downtown campus can have great success without a vehicle. Cars come with insurance costs, gas prices, parking tickets, maintenance costs, and unexpected repairs. Eliminate the unknown, control your budget, and free yourself from a car.
Be Careful with Credit
College is a great time to build credit, but be careful how you start your journey. Credit cards are a slippery slope. Many students will get one under the guise of building credit but can easily fall into financial trouble with high-interest repayments. Pay off your credit card every month and limit your purchases to items that you know you can afford to avoid unnecessary debt. Keeping track of your credit score while in college through your credit report is free and helpful.
Understand your debt
Understand how much you are borrowing while you’re in college will ensure you are prepared to start your repayment when you graduate. Every time you file your FAFSA, look at the amount you have borrowed to stay informed. Then develop a plan to tackle you debt. Keeping track of how much debt you are accruing while still in school can help you manage your college finances accordingly.
Graduate On Time – or even Early!
College is expensive, so the best thing students can do for their finances is pass their classes and graduate on time or early. Adding a semester (or more!) can easily increase student debt that can be avoided by taking the courses you need and passing them.
The truth is, you can make it through college while simultaneously setting yourself up for financial success after you graduate. Budgeting in college is not always fun (especially when most of your friends aren’t), but when the student loans hit along with other financial obligations you will have already put your best foot forward. Getting your college finances in order early will only benefit you in the long run! There are a lot of financial tools and resources for college students, so asking a financial aid counselor or simply looking online is another great place to start and personalize your financials goals.
Start Financial planning today
By applying these tips and tricks to your college finances, you will be on your way to financial stability!