While college expenses can add up, but with some forward thinking, your college experience can teach you financial lessons that will last you a lifetime. This is the perfect time to learn about credit, loans, and budgeting so you can be prepared for things like retirement plans, home ownership, and investments down the road. With these smart money habits, you can turn any college experience into a crash course in financial responsibility.
1. BUDGET AND SAVE.
Learning to establish a budget, and actually stick to it, is a skill you’ll want to learn early on. Look at your current financial situation and establish just how much money you have each week for essentials like food and school supplies. From there, see what’s left—you can eventually save that remaining money for a substantial purchase down the line, to pay off any debt you may have, or use as the start of a savings account you’ll have throughout your adult life. Getting into the habit of maintaining and following a budget will pay off handsomely once you’re in the working world.
2. STUDY THE LANGUAGE IN YOUR LOANS.
Things like interest rates might not mean a whole lot to a college freshman, but as you enter the working world, these numbers are vital parts of your monthly budget. Going through the details of your loans and asking questions to the providers is an ideal way to get comfortable with the basics of everyday finances. This knowledge will come in handy when taking out a car loan or purchasing a home.
3. BUY USED, SELL LATER.
The campus bookstore is full of the essentials that will get you through your toughest classes, but they’re also known for their cost. You can easily drop a few hundred dollars on just a couple of books and still not be done with everything you need to buy for the semester. That’s why it’s important to always be looking for a deal.
Scour online ads and used bookstores, look at every campus flier, and browse every auction website you know of to find the best deals on those books you need. Many will be available used for just a fraction of what the campus bookstore charges, which could lead to savings in the hundreds every semester. Once you’ve completed a course, you can always get a head start on the next semester’s budget by selling your textbooks online or to another student on campus.
4. MAKE THE MOST OF WHAT YOU HAVE.
For most students, money is tight, and what you can scrape together will likely go towards assorted school expenses and maybe the occasional dinner splurge. Don’t look at this as a bad thing, though. Instead, focus on the things that make you happy, and learn to enjoy experiences that don’t cost a lot of money.
The psychology of spending habits has been well documented, and retail therapy and other assorted activities can give you a short-term mood boost at the cost of long-term financial stability. Instead of focusing on what you’d like to buy, make the most of what you’ve got. It’s a time when you can gain a perspective about the kinds of things you really need in life.
5. LOOK INTO A CREDIT CARD.
Establishing credit is important for everyone, and you can learn the fundamentals and begin working on that while in college. Consider opening up a credit card so you can start building your credit history and getting in the habit of using credit responsibly. There are even cards that are specifically designed for students, which might be a great fit for your needs.
6. TAKE A CLASS.
Since you’re already on campus, you might as well see what your school offers in the form of basic economic or finance classes. Learning about retirement, the stock market, and other financial basics might not jive with your major, but it could be invaluable to your future in other ways.
Developing smart money habits early can really pay off. Having a credit card with good rewards can really pay off, too. Discover’s Student Card will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year as a card member, dollar for dollar. Learn more at Discover.