Handling money during college can be difficult. Some college students don’t yet have the experience to know how to handle financial situations when they’re on their own at college.
Navigating college life finances is tough with a part-time job, classes and daily living expenses like food, utility, car and phone bills. Here are some Dos and Don’ts that will give you easy money saving tips for college students.
Money saving dos
1. If you are in your last years of high school preparing for college applications, develop a “top 25%” strategy to make you better eligible for the financial aid you need, suggested Montgomery Educational Consulting in “Ten College Planning Tips for Tough Economic Times,” posted November 18, 2008. “Most colleges shower their best financial aid packages on those students in the top 25% of their incoming class. Colleges routinely report the average ACT or SAT test scores by identifying the ‘middle 50 percent’ range of scores of admitted students.” For example, a middle 50% ACT range of 22 to 26 means that a quarter of students scored lower than 22 and a quarter scored 27 or above. You would have a better chance of receiving financial aid if you have an ACT of more than 27. It doesn’t hurt to continue to apply this strategy after you’re already in college: strive for the top 25%, and you’ll have more financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
2. Fill out a student budget calculator. Input your monthly income (savings, allowance job or grants) and your monthly expenses (food, utilities, school supplies and transportation). The Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid site has a calculator form to fill out: http://www.direct.ed.gov/BudgetCalc/budget.html.
3. Protect yourself from fraud. According to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research, it takes 18- to 24-year-olds nearly twice as long to detect fraud compared to other age groups. Also, young adults easily fall victim to identity theft from people they know, and students living in a dorm with high traffic of strangers are also at risk. In “The New Freshman 15: Financial Tips for College Students” posted on Daily Finance August 1, 2011, Sheryl Nance-Nash reported: “Take advantage of services that allow you to monitor your accounts regularly, such as by reviewing statements online or using mobile banking to see a snapshot of your account information, suggests Secil Watson, senior vice president at Wells Fargo Internet Services Group.” Nance-Nash also recommended having sensitive mail sent home to the parents rather than your campus mailbox.
4. Use your credit or debit card responsibly. Don’t buy what you can’t afford (or can’t afford to pay for later). Pay off your balance every month to avoid high interest charges.
5. Take advantage of your student ID. Check out local businesses that offer money saving programs for college students. Students often get discounts on movie tickets, computers, pizza, transportation—almost anything.
6. Clip coupons or print them online. They really do save money on items you buy often or special items that you don’t want to buy at full price. Keep an eye on Groupon and other social discount sites.
7. Eat in the cafeteria or buy food at the grocery store (see #10). Restaurant food and food that is delivered are more expensive.
Money saving don’ts
8. Don’t freak out. Stress about finances worries people of all ages. Ask a teacher, parent or counselor for help making a budget. Brown University’s Health Education site provided tips on how to avoid “Economic Stress” during college: “Discuss financial concerns and plans with your parents or other family members and work together to identify resources and options. You might decide to track your day-to-day spending and make changes where you can.…You might choose to consult with the Office of Financial Aid, who can work with you and your family to identify options available to assist in paying your student account.” Making a plan will help you feel more in control and less stressed.
9. Don’t buy everything you want, just buy what you need. Impulse control is especially difficult when you don’t have parents around to give you the evil eye after you just bought a new leather jacket. Separate the “oh, that looks nice” from the “I need this for class.” Give yourself an allowance or a limit for the non-necessities to make sure you’re saving enough money for the things you really need.
10. Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Everything will look good when you’re hungry and you’ll buy more than you need or can eat up before it spoils.
What are some of your money saving tips for college?