Smart Spending in School

smart_spendingOkay, freshmen: Getting away from your parents can be a liberating experience. It’s an opportunity to prove you’re an adult and can do it on your own. However, this newfound freedom comes with a down side: its expensive being an adult. As you’ll probably soon find out, things cost more than you think they do, something your parents probably tried explaining for the last 18 years. To get you set for your first year of college here are some freshmen financial tips to help ensure you don’t end up breaking to bank to pay for your new-found independence.

Before you leave for school, you’ll need to accept your student loan awards. If you aren’t taking out loans, consider yourself lucky! When accepting your loans, remember to take only what your need. You aren’t obligated to take all of it, though it may be tempting. Keep in mind, though, you don’t want to take out too little and run short, so it’s a good idea to think it through because whatever you borrow you’ll be paying back in a few years.

Then, when you go to school, you’ll want to open a checking account. But remember, even though all checking accounts seem the same, there are a few things you’ll want to consider:

  • Are there ATM’s and branches on campus?
  • Do you need to keep a minimum balance?
  • What are the overdraft fees?
  • Is there a branch near your parents? (This is critical to getting you money in a financial emergency)

The next thing you’ll probably consider is a credit card. It makes sense: nearly three-quarters of first year college students decide to use a credit card. It’s a great way to build credit and have in case of an emergency. Don’t abuse your credit card, though. It’s a quick way to rack up debt and ruin your credit.

Something to keep in mind is your meal plan. It’ll be built into your tuition bill so it’s an easy way to get meals without paying out of pocket. You’ll need to be realistic about the amount you’ll want to eat in the cafeteria, though. Are you really going to eat 3 meals a day there? If the answer is no, opt for a smaller plan, because you don’t want to pay for meals you don’t eat.

Also, don’t assume the campus bookstore will be the cheapest place to buy textbooks, either. Sure, you can bill your student account at the bookstore, but you’ll be paying that money back anyway. Take some time and save some money by looking around. There are plenty of online resources that sell textbooks, even used ones, which offer competitive pricing. There are even businesses that rent textbooks near your school, just remember not to write in it!

Our last piece of advice is a big one: your car. Unless you’re planning on driving home regularly, your car will likely be more of a hindrance than a bonus. Parking can be fairly costly on campus, plus the cost of gas, insurance and upkeep all add unnecessary expenses. Plus, if you want to get the full college experience you’ll want to be around on the weekends. You may be missing out on quite a bit if you’re going home on the weekends.

Remember, your first year in college is an opportunity to demonstrate your maturity and that you’re finally an adult. These simple financial tips will help ensure you avoid some of the financial pitfalls that come with freshman year. Have a great time!

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