Saving 101 for College Students
by Jenna Richardson
Can college students learn to manage their finances well and still have extra money on the side? The answer is yes.
The first word that should come to mind is the great six-letter word every collegian should use often in his or her vocabulary, “budget.” Budgeting is the basis of beginning life without parents and learning how to successfully spend and save money. Using an easy, free online budgeting tool and knowing how much you spend on gas, rent, and groceries can save you a lot of money over a short amount of time and create money conscious habits that last a lifetime.
Although credit cards may sound appealing when one first turns 18, steer clear of spending money you do not have. Credit cards can be a plus for building credit, but make sure it is used for things such as gas and groceries; the key to building good credit is just that, being good about paying bills on time and leaving no month-to-month balance. For the more timid, stick to debit cards, record purchases, don’t forget to check your monthly statements and use the free money tracking tools provided online from your bank.
According to USA Today, “two-thirds of college seniors graduating from non-profit four-year colleges in 2010 had student loan debt, and the average owed was $25,250 — up 5% from a year earlier.” Defaulting on student debt can become a graduate’s worst nightmare, having major effects on credit scores, getting a job and security clearance. If you must take out loans, make sure to do adequate research to know how much you are paying in interest and always try to pay more than is due if possible. Seek out scholarships; although many are need and merit-based there are websites dedicated to find a range of scholarships given for a number of miscellaneous reasons, such as being left handed or of a particular cultural descent.
It’s never too early to start saving for the future! Try to put away each month into an emergency fund, not to be touched unless desperately needed, or contribute earnings from a summer job into a Roth IRA. Roth IRA’s typically have low limits for entry and will give a much better return than your savings account. Contributing as low as $40 a month to a Roth IRA is a great way to get used to putting money aside for future needs. Investing now is a great step toward eventually contributing to a 401K when you get your first post-graduate job.
College itself is the number one investment for your future. Now that you’ve made it this far, consider some of these steps and take the initiative to a successful and well-prepared future. Now is just the beginning of your financial life and it is never too early to start being money conscious and saving, whether it be investing in funds or putting money away for retirement; you’ll be happy to have the extra time for your money to grow. Just remember you are a college student, so live frugally and save money while expenses are low so that you can build a better start toward your future.