Money Management 101: Tips For College Students

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Five money-management tips to help college students begin their future on firm financial footing.

Heading off to college is the start of many things: new friends, more freedom and increased financial responsibility. According to a Sallie Mae study, 84 percent of college students have at least one credit card. And with an average balance of over $3,000, many college students are using credit cards to live beyond their means.

It can be easy to reach for the plastic whenever a needed—or wanted—purchase comes up. But students who study smart money moves will find themselves with solid financial practices once those degrees are in hand. Here are five tips:

  1. Create a budget. Figure out what income you’ll have coming in while in school. This could include scholarships, grants, part-time jobs or savings. Now project your monthly expenses. Don’t forget tuition, room and board, insurance costs, books and supplies and other fees. Free online sites like Mint.com can help. Learn more about creating a budget.
  2. Build your credit, but don’t blow it. Getting a credit card can help you establish credit history, which can make it easier to eventually make larger purchases like a car or home. But if your credit history shows that you continually borrow more than you can afford, you’ll end up jeopardizing your buying power in the future. Learn how your credit score is determined.
  3. Get a job. As long as it doesn’t hurt your studies, a part-time job can be financially rewarding. The more money you have coming in the less you’ll need to borrow. And you’ll have cash on hand to splurge on entertainment now and then.
  4. Start saving. If you do have a part-time job, save some of your earnings each month. Even $25 can add up in the long term. Don’t have a job? Live frugally and save whatever you can from your monthly budget. Look for savings you can receive by showing your student ID. Many theaters, restaurants and retailers—especially those near campus—often provide discounts to students.
  5. Protect your financial information. Now is the time to begin practicing habits to guard your financial identity. Don’t share your social security number. Shred statements that contain your financial information. Only conduct online or mobile banking in a verified-secure environment. And check your monthly bank and credit card statements for suspicious activity. Learn how to avoid identify theft—and what to do if it does happen to you.
Source: U.S. News, Bankrate.com, Wall Street Journal, Sallie Mae
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