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Financial Advice For Students Going Off To College

8 July 2010 One Comment

Leaving your parents is one of the best feelings you can have in the world. The financial freedom of being a full-time college student is not only exhilarating, but also worrying. Many incoming college freshmen have no idea what it means to manage a budget. They’re giving a monthly allowance by their parents or university to spend on different bills and various expenses. In most cases, students don’t have much extra money to throw around each month. But because college freshmen have been living under their parents’ roof for so many years, they often lose track of how much money they’re spending each month. We have outlined some tips for incoming college freshmen to help them balance their budgets accordingly and not overspend as well as some other handy tidbits of information.

Rent

Before you decide to spend any other money each month, the first thing you should do when you receive your monthly allowance or your paycheck is to set aside money to pay rent. Rent is generally in the ballpark of about $500 per month, depending on where you live. Setting aside this money into a separate account, perhaps into your savings account at the bank, will not only help you mentally prepare to pay the rent each month, but also help prevent you from getting to rent money to pay for other things.

Food

Many incoming college freshmen make the mistake of thinking that all of the fast food restaurants available on-campus and off-campus are there to be eaten every single day. Not only is fast food bad for your health, it’s also bad for your bank account. College freshmen often fall into the habit of buying fast food and Starbucks on a daily basis. Because it’s easy to just grab a sandwich from the cafeteria rather than bring your own lunch, fast food is very popular on campuses. But if you were to take a step back and look at how much money you are spending on food every month, you may be a little surprised. All of the money that you’re spending on fast food meals could be better spent at a grocery store on proper groceries. Eating something like pizza or McDonald’s once a week is okay, but if you are struggling financially it is not advised. Evaluate your food budget and set aside about $100 or $200 each month to eat healthy and plentiful.

Textbooks

During your university’s introduction week you may be shown the campus bookstore. Campus bookstores are notorious for overcharging for books. While you may find it worrying to wait until the first days of class to start buying textbooks, don’t fret. It is recommended that you go to all of your classes before you start buying textbooks. Usually during the first week of classes professors will go over all of the books necessary to complete a certain course. In general, the list a professor gives is entirely different from the book lists that universities have for all of their classes. Also, third-party book vendors are located everywhere in college towns. They stock both new and used books at fractions of the cost that you would pay on campus. You may still be paying a few hundred dollars for textbooks, but you know that you won’t be overpaying just for the convenience of buying on campus.

Loans

As you wander around your new college campus for the first few weeks, you may notice many banks setting up tables around your favorite buildings. Banks target college freshmen with student loans to help them get through school. Student loans aren’t always a bad idea, but many of them are. It is best to try and avoid loans at all costs during your college career as they are generally bad news and are difficult to pay off.

Identity theft

Lots of people throughout the country are always afraid their identities are going to be stolen. But college freshmen are generally easier to target than people with fully established credit. Because most freshmen are barely 18 or 19 years of age, they don’t have much credit built up. Because they’re not usually actively tracking their credit cards and debit cards, college freshmen are usually oblivious to identity theft until months after it has happened. Don’t let your naivety get the best of you. Stay aware of your expenses and spending habits and watch for any changes or unusual things on your bills.

Written by Nick, a frequent contributor to 20smoney.com

One Comment »

  • Valentine said:

    Look at what students getting graduate degrees are paying. A student graduating from medical school can very reasonably have a debt of 20k from undergraduate studies and well into six figures for medical school. Law school students almost have as high of debt. And worse, the legal field is over crowded and in decline. 100k and a declining profession? Wow. There aren't many decisions more economically foolish than drowning yourself in debt to gain a degree where its harder and harder to get a decent paying job. We'd be fine with far fewer lawyers, but unfortunately we are about to face a doctor crisis. Can someone please explain why we aren't doing more to curb education costs? http://cashadvancesus.com/debt-deal-hit-students/