The beginning of a new year at college is filled with expectations of cool courses, new friends, catching up with old ones, and something that that never seems to change for freshman or seniors alike; a limited cash flow. How to successfully oversee your student loans, credit cards and cash-on-hand can ease some stress and allow you to concentrate more on acing your courses.
Your mantra should be “it’s not how much money I have, it’s what I do with it”. Once you can map out what you spend money on, how to save it, and how to stretch it, you’ll be ahead of many of your classmates. Being chronically out of money is as common for millionaires as it is for those starting out on their own, once you get the spirit of money you can manage it instead of it managing you. Look at handling your money as a part time job, once you do you’ll have much more of it. Here are some tips to get you started.
-Make an computer file to keep track of all your spending. A spreadsheet works good, list the categories of your spending and the date and amount spent. Don’t be surprised at what you spend your money on, it’s always an eye-opener. Keep a notepad or enter amounts into your blackberry when you make a purchase to enter later into your spreadsheet.
-Get a free copy of your credit report, you’re allowed one each year from the three large credit reporting agencies. If you find inaccuracies take the time to email or write them to clear them from your record. Check out:
-Credit is a given for the rest of your life. Learn how to use it, and the signals when it is being abused. Open a department store account and pay balances on all purchase in full each month. If you can’t pay a balance in full for a big ticket item each month think twice before buying one. Resist taking on major credit cards with high lines of credit, it’s too tempting. Figure the real cost of charging that new sweater or pair of shoes if you don’t pay it off right away. Look for credit offers that charge the lowest interest rates. Don’t have more than two credit cards. You might want to help a friend out, but don’t let anyone put charges on your credit cards.
-If you live off-campus, pay your utility bills on time, they effect your credit history too. Telephone pre-paid calling cards are an inexpensive way to call long distance.
-It’s easy to get carried away when you’re out for an evening of fun. Find lost cost or free ways to have a good time with friends or on a date. Binging on entertainment is a sure-fire way to blow your budget. Don’t carry all your cash when you go out, you’ll be tempted to spend it.
-Look for sales on personal care and hygiene items, and stock up when the deals are especially attractive. Look for effective generic brands or combine manufactures coupons to boost savings. Ditto food and household necessities.
-Explore resale, consignment and vintage clothing stores. Most new cloths loose a far amount of value once you walk out the door. Good and funky buys are available if you willing to look for them. Estate, church and garage sales can be treasure hunts for quality stuff at bargain prices.
-Borrow the minimum in student loans, you might want an extra cushion but try to pay miscellaneous expenses and non-educational ones from out-of-pocket. Do you really want to finance your college lunches for the next ten years?
-Make working while in college a given. It will give you some additional income that you won’t have to pay back. Plus it shows to you summer employer or internship prospect that you’re vested in making your own way financially.
-Buy used books for courses if you can. Sell the ones you no longer use back to the bookstore or put all that unused stuff you accumulate on ebay.
-Balance you checkbook or debit account each time you receive a statement, don’t forget or procrastinate on entering checks and debits, bank fees on overdrafts are killers to a budget and sometimes repeated ones can force a bank to close your account.
-Save a little each month. Even if it’s twenty-five dollars, you’ll feel better knowing you have achieved a goal and have some back-up reserves.
-Don’t loan friends money. You don’t have the luxury of excess funds and your friends don’t probably have the excess to pay it back.
-If you’re used to shopping and spending money and need a fix, find items around a dollar in cost to get the consumption buzz.
-Identity theft is on the rise and the Internet is the number one place for your to be stolen. Only use secure payment sites and never give account information in emails.
Mark Nash is the author of four books including his latest:”1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home”. Mark is a syndicated columnist and writes on book reviews, decor, personal finance, and real estate. He contributes analysis to Business Week, CBS The Early Show, CNN, HGTVpro.com, The New York Times, and USA Today.
He speaks on college campuses on the topic ” You’re book smart, get money smart”. Reach him at: Mark.Nash@cbexchange.com