1. Start Investing in Yourself
- Now is the time to take your finances seriously! For example, you can take an active role in your FAFSA preparation, read up on the terms of the federal loans that have been offered to you, or talk to friends and family members who may have gone through this process before. You also must make your studies a priority. One of the biggest financial hurdles students can run into in school is failing classes and having to retake them or tack on extra semesters to their path toward graduation.
2. Create a Personal Monthly Budget
- Budgeting is a skill that can last a lifetime, but it takes time and effort to perfect. Even if you don't have many financial responsibilities or your parents are covering many of your costs, the best time to get started on a budget is now, as a college student, while the stakes are relatively low. Through budgeting, you can create a spending and saving plan, track your spending, and forecast your expenses across a number of different categories. As the month carries on, you can track your progression of spending against your budget. Not sure where to start? Visit our Resources web page and download our personal monthly budget tracker!
3. Build and Maintain a Small Emergency Fund
- Did you know that almost 40% of Americans wouldn't be able to cover a $400 emergency? Whether it's car maintenance or a medical bill, life can throw you some curve-balls from time to time that are hard to fit into a budget. Getting into the habit of creating a pot of cash for an emergency situation now is a great skill. After you graduate and your personal responsibilities grow, so does the potential increase in emergency financial need. Having this type of fund lessens your reliability on having to put unexpected costs on a credit card.
4. Start a Responsible Credit-Building Plan
- Credit isn't just for buying a home or a car. Did you know that even some rental properties are using credit score as a way to determine responsibility? Right or wrong, it's happening! Responsibly using a credit card for minor expenses you know you can pay down is a great way to build credit while in college. The main thing to avoid is carrying a balance and paying the interest. If you pay off your credit card bill every month, you are able to effectively build credit while also being able to avoid pesky interest and finance fees. Only using it on small expenses you know you can immediately pay off, like gas or groceries, is a great way to start building that credit for post-graduation responsibilities.
5. If Your Schedule Allows It, Work Part-Time
- Obviously your studies should come first, but if you are feeling like you are able to maintain your grades and still have some extra time on your hands, a part-time job is an excellent extra source of income. Through part-time work, you could save up funds to build an emergency fund, or even to help reduce your reliance on student loans. For instance, if you work for a summer and save up $1,000, using those funds instead of taking out an unsubsidized loan that will tack on interest every day can really help you in the long run. Not only do you get the cash from working part-time, but you also have the opportunity to gain valuable working experience to add to a resume, time management skills, and some places even offer solid benefits for part-time workers!