Managing money as a college student is not easy. Tuition, housing, food are all expensive – not to mention the costs of extracurricular activities (the fun stuff!). Some ways to help your finances stay afloat in college:
- Make yo’self a budget! This is the most important step. You need to know how much money you have saved as well as income – wages, scholarships, etc. Then you need to try to think through what expenses you might have. This isn’t always easy! But think through costs such as school supplies, food outside your meal plan, personal care items, laundry, cell phones, subscriptions, etc. Then try managing your budget and tracking expenses. This can be done by hand, using a digital spreadsheet, or just signing up for an online personal finance management tool like Mint.com.
- Separate wants from needs. These are personal decisions. After a few months on campus and tracking expenses (again, super easy with Mint.com or other applications like it), you will be able to see patterns and put a plan into action to minimize unnecessary spending. Some students get out as much cash as they can spend on “wants” each week and only pay with dolla’ bills. Once they run out, they wait until next week for more.
- Use, don’t abuse, credit cards. College is a great time to start building credit, a crucial aspect for leasing an apartment, purchasing a car, and someday buying a house – but it’s easy to build up loads of debt while at UNC. To build credit, pay off your credit card every month. That means you can only spend on the card what you have in your accounts already.
- Research loans and financial aid. Understand what your student loan debt will be upon graduation and plan how you will pay it back.
- Shop smart. Textbooks are one of the biggest college expenses – find ways to make that expense cheaper. Look at your monthly recurring charges. Subscription services add up – are there any you don’t need? Cell phone bills can often be made cheaper with family and friends plans or using a pay-as-you-go version. Coupons and sales are everywhere. There are almost always ways to minimize costs on purchases!
Employing basic money management now will set you up for success later. Plus good financial habits help you handle more and more responsibility around money when you move on from UNC. For more tips:
CashCourse.org has accurate, easy to understand and college-centric financial management information. Just make yourself a free account using your UNC email address. It covers loans, saving for spring break, studying abroad, jobs, taxes and more. There are even worksheets and tools that you can use to help get your finances in order, meet a savings goal or determine your spending allowance.
The Dean of Students Office provides financial literacy events on campus such as “Ballin’ on a Budget” and “Swiper, No Swiping. Debunking Credit Myths.” You can hop into one of those or request one for your organization.