September 12, 2018. By Anthony Norris:

Attending college is a transformative time period for a young individual. College allows students to expand social circles, learn the importance of responsibility, gain independence and finally, develop healthy financial habits. For freshman, the dramatic changes that come with college can be overwhelming. As for seniors, preparation for the “real world” after graduation creates both excitement and anxiety. Financially, a lot can change for a student as they descend on graduation. As such it is important to highlight helpful budgeting tips for both freshmen and seniors.

College is the best time to learn how to budget and live within your means. The financial skills you develop in college will carry long past your college career. Here are some helpful tips so that you can master your budget and develop healthy financial habits early on:

Find an effective budgeting tool to track your expenses and income. There are numerous apps and services available at low to no costs. If you have trouble finding a tool you are comfortable with, consider creating your own spreadsheet on excel or equivalent program. Being able to clearly view your expenses and income will make you much more conscious of your spending and eliminate the stress of not knowing your finances.

Consider finding a job, either on or off campus. With a busy class schedule it can be difficult to justify having a job. However, most on campus jobs provide adequate flexibility so that you can stay ahead of your work load. Off-campus, consider positions in retail, or at a restaurant, where weekend shifts are an option. The ultimate goal is to establish cash flow without compromising your studies or completely sacrificing your social life.

Be cautious with credit cards. Many universities and local banks offer opportunities for students to enroll in credit cards. Although having a credit card at a young age is helpful for building credit, it is easy to lose track of your spending and miss payments which can devastate your credit score. To avoid the latter, stick to one credit card and only use it on items you know you can afford; ideally only for emergencies. Getting into the habit of always paying off your balance is a great way to increase your credit. You may want to consider a method to remind you to pay your bills such as text reminders, marking your calendar, or simply checking your balance weekly.

Take advantage of the free and discounted. Don’t forget that your tuition is not exclusive to your classes. On campus you find such services as, gym access/fitness programs, medical assistance, tutoring, personal counseling, college survival workshops, and so on. Most college campuses also offer free events which can include, music concerts, comedy shows, or keynote speakers. These services can save you a lot of money so take advantage of them as long as you can. Off-campus, you can seek out businesses that offer discounts for college students. Savings can range from 10-50%. In some cases stores will give you discounts even if it is not advertised, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Every college graduate and senior will tell you that the time flies by. Thus, it is important to be prepared financially for life after graduation and the added responsibilities that follow. Here are a few tips to help you in the transition from student to employee:

Maximize your budget with affordable living. A large expense in attending college is the cost of housing. Most college students are familiar with the experience of living in dorms with roommates. As such, taking a closer look at the costs of living on campus may surprise you. Researching the actual dollar amount you spend to share a small room may convince you to look for housing off campus. As a general rule, it is wise to only spend one third of your income on housing. With that in mind, it is worth discussing with others the possibility of renting an apartment or house off campus to save money.

Start building credit. As a senior you have an idea of what it means to operate on a budget. As such, if you have not opened your first credit card it may be time. Establishing credit is necessary to make big purchases in the future such as a house or car. If you do have a credit card, consider looking at your credit history with each of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Trans union). Additionally, knowing your credit score will provide insight into how you can improve your credit going forward.

Understand your student loans. Before graduation, take a look at your loan repayment options and evaluate how those options will affect your budget. When assessing your loans, you should plan to pay off ones with higher interest rates as to minimize the accrued interest over time. Even if you are given a grace period after graduation, you may need to start saving now so that you can maintain your budget post-graduation. Additionally, make sure to take advantage of your school’s financial aid office for guidance while you still can.

Have a postcollege budget. Once you secure a full-time job it can be easy to get complacent with your budget. However, it is important to consider upcoming expenses such as student loan payments, utilities, rent, household expenses, emergency savings, retirement savings, cellphone bills, and entertainment. The motive of creating a post college budget is to avoid surprises that may negatively impact your budget, and to save enough to avoid living paycheck-to-paycheck.

College is a great opportunity to develop and practice sound financial behaviors. Establishing a solid personal budget early on in life allows you to make wise fiscal decisions both during and after your college years. In addition, having a financial plan give you the freedom to focus on your future and make the most of your experience in college.

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