Let’s face it, learning the ropes around campus and getting an education—all while spending time with friends and family—is a lot to juggle. And right now, money management might not be your biggest priority, but if you take control of your finances now, you’ll set yourself up to make sound financial decisions for years to come.
Do the Math
Creating a financial plan is a life skill that takes commitment and focus. As a college student, this may be your first stab at creating a budget. So start by making a list of your income and expenses, you can use this spreadsheet to get started. Track how much you spend on gas, class supplies, rent (if applicable), groceries, and fun stuff like games or spontaneous road trips with friends.
A budget never lies, so it’ll be clear if you’re overspending. As your income changes, adjust your budget accordingly, and if you stay on top of it, you’ll be in great financial shape.
Use Credit Cards Wisely
While it’s tempting to take advantage of every credit card offer that comes your way, steer clear of cards with higher interest rates, unfavorable terms, and high fees. One in 10 college students has more than $10,000 in credit card debt, and this mainly boils down to spending beyond their means.
To prevent this from happening, pay off your entire balance every month. We get it, sometimes that’s not possible, so try to get in the habit of paying more than your monthly minimum and use an automated payment service to help keep you on track.
Keep in mind you’re borrowing money with each credit card swipe. So, although cards can play a big role in building your credit history, it’s important to use them wisely. If you keep your balance below 30% of the limit and make payments on time, you’ll begin establishing good credit history, which can earn you more purchasing power down the road.
Protect Your Personal Information
There are many ways to protect your personal information. This may go without saying—but guard your passwords and keep your debit and credit cards close at all times. Scammers are getting savvier, so update your passwords regularly and don’t lend your card out. Avoid using public Wi-Fi anywhere you go, and when possible opt for your own personal hotspot instead. And while social media is a great way to stay connected, don’t overshare your information to decrease your chances of becoming a victim of theft.
Save for Your Future
While your first priority should be your studies, securing your financial future shouldn’t be completely off your radar either. It may seem too far off to start thinking about retirement, but if you’re working while you’re in school, consider putting some funds aside for your future.
You don’t have to start big, a small deposit here and there goes a long way. When you’ve finished school and land a higher paying job, start contributing more. The sooner you begin, the more you’ll have when the time comes to retire. If you have questions about retirement accounts, speak with a financial advisor or visit your financial institution for more details.
College is an exciting time, and in the blink of an eye you’ll be stepping into the next phase of your life. At BluPeak Credit Union, we’re here for our members every step of the way!