Every college freshman experiences financial issues. Going to college for the first time can feel like being on cloud nine. You’re floating along, going to parties, going out to eat, spending all the money you saved from the summer before or all the money Mom and Dad sent you off with, when suddenly – the money and the cloud are gone and you’re left sinking into a finance issue, with a bank account sinking as well.
Don’t be ashamed. It happens to almost all of us incoming college students, so here are a few helpful tips to keep you on that financial cloud nine.
Find a job.
This may sound obvious to those who worked during high school, but for those who did not need to, this may seem like a last resort. You will make money and new friends with your co-workers, gain good real world experience, and create new opportunities for yourself. Look for places where you have the possibility to move up, or that have benefits for college students. I currently work for a grocery chain in the Midwest known as Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee offers a 401K plan for everyone ages 19 and over. This is the kind of benefit I am talking about.
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Find the right bank.
Look at the banking options you have around you. Check out the savings account and checking account options. Which one has the highest interest rate? Do any of them offer start up or joining benefits? I highly recommend starting out with a checking account. Once you’ve accumulated around $500, start a savings account, which usually have to be started with a $100 deposit. Start a monthly automatic transfer of a small sum from your checking into your savings. This way, you’ll be automatically saving money and not even thinking about it.
Create a budget.
This may seem like the solution to all your problems. “Oh I’ll just start a budget and stick with it. No problem.” It is actually a lot harder than it seems. First, take a look at the things in your life that are costing you money: driving, eating out, groceries, going out with friends, rent, utilities, etc. Then, take a look at how many hours you work during a week. This may seem overwhelming, but once you know where all your money is going, where you can cut back, and where you can afford to give more, you will feel much more confident in your financial situation. Make a list of all things you cannot live without, and then plan out how much you can put towards these items each week. Remember; do not plan on spending all your paycheck on these things every week. You will want to have a little “random” fund set aside in case of emergencies or something comes up. If you’re planning on creating the savings account with the automatic transfer of money, do not forget to budget that in either.
Take advantage of your options.
If you attend school in a big town, like I am in Iowa City, take advantage of the buses. Many times, the university’s bus system will be free, which could save your gas money for the week.
Look for coupons online and at the nearby grocery store. I am not recommending becoming an extreme couponer, just think about what you’re buying and where you can afford to save.
Find the free shows downtown or go to the park and play Frisbee golf with friends! Activities that are free usually tend to be a lot more fun for you and your pocketbook.
Jump into your new financial situation with confidence and knowledge, and have a great time doing it! Check back monthly for more blogs about finances and other situations that every college student is going to want to know about.