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How College Students Can Navigate a Financial Jungle

31 July 2013 No Comment

canstockphoto0753048Like a young gazelle straying from the heard for the first time, college students are vulnerable to a variety of fierce financial predators. Many organizations want to sink their teeth into your thick, supple wallet and drain you of all your money. However, if you are familiar with the dangers, you can traverse the tender first years of your financial independence and come out the other side unharmed.

Here are some things that are on the hunt for your bucks:

Credit Cards

It’s an unfortunate truth that credit card companies prey on college students. In fact, card companies will even set up tables near or on college campuses, lying in wait for unsuspecting students to sign up. They may lure students with the promise of a free t-shirt or hat just for signing up. Don’t fall for the ploys. If you need a credit card, then you should do your own research. There are plenty of cards that can actually help students, but don’t just sign up for any old card. Find the best card for you and consider interest rates and rewards. Remember that companies want you to get behind on payments; that way your interest snowballs, which means more money for them and more credit card debt for you.

Organizations like ConsolidatedCredit.org are set up to help people facing this situation, but savvy college students can take small steps now that will have a huge impact on their financial future and reduce the risk of having to fish themselves out of credit card debt.

Banks

Sometimes student loans are unavoidable, but they should really be your last option after you’ve explored all other avenues. First you should fill out a FAFSA form, even if you think you don’t qualify, you never know what you can get. Filling out this form lets you see if you are eligible for federal assistance, which comes in the form of grants, scholarships and loans. Your university will have an admissions representative who can answer any questions that you might have regarding student loans and will make this process much easier for you to digest. There is also a huge amount of scholarships with a multitude of different requirements.

Even if you are not eligible for federal financial assistance, contacting the admissions representative is a good idea because you could have access to scholarships or other forms of financial aid through the university. There is plenty of free money available for students from all backgrounds. A friend of mine once got a small scholarship just for never having played sports in high school, seriously. If you apply for as many as you can you are more likely to get something. You should also explore on-campus options for saving or making money. Some schools allow resident assistance to stay in dorms for cheap or for free. You may be able to get an on-campus job as well, like becoming a student tutor. Whatever you do, don’t go straight to the bank for a loan.

Textbooks

Textbook prices are a travesty. There I said it. The prices of college textbooks have gone up 812% since 1978. You may end up spending over 200 dollars for a book that you will use for one semester and then have to sell back for a fraction of the cost. I once spent 200 dollars on a book that wasn’t even bound. That’s right; I had to put the loose pages in a binder! The worst part is that you can’t just choose not to buy the books if you need them for class, so you have to explore other options:

· Rent or buy used books if they are available. Besides a lower price, there is one other advantage to having a used book. They may come with all the important content pre-highlighted thanks to fellow students.

· Don’t just buy at your university bookstore. Check other sources for books like Amazon or Chegg.

· Ask your friends or sibling if they have taken the class before. They may already have a copy of the book.

Food

If college is your first time being out on your own, and likely it is, then you may be tempted to eat out all the time. That’s bad for you and your wallet. Instead, buy some food and eat at home more often and follow some basic money saving advice for buying food.

Clubs

Lots of college students like to go clubbing on the weekends and many go all week long. You should moderate this activity because clubs are another thing that is designed to sap you of your cash. I’ve been to places that have a wide array of expensive drinks and a crazy cover charge on top of it. No one should have to spend $10 to get inside to pay for expensive drinks.

With all these traps for college students the future of your finances may seem foreboding. However, if you stay alert and pay attention to what you are spending money on, you may yet be able to evade the money monsters that are after you.

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