If you’re a college student, you must learn how to save money and spend it wisely. Here are five expert secrets to help you get your college finances in order.
Finances play a big role in your college years.
As you transition from high school into the rest of your life, you must learn to manage your finances and protect yourself from falling into a debt trap.
Luckily, these five secrets will help you to get your college finances in order.
You can’t pass up this opportunity. Whether you’re just starting your first year of college or halfway through your senior year, there’s something here for you.
1. Avoid Credit Cards as Much as Possible
Credit cards are an undeniable risk to your finances.
Sure, the offers seem friendly enough. That’s the point. These companies thrive on luring students in and trapping them with late fees and high interest rates.
The average credit card interest rate is more than twice that of student loans.
Graduating college with a mountain of credit card debt can bury you financially. If you have any existing debt, pay it down ASAP, even if that means adding a part-time job or side hustle to your schedule.
If you’re in the clear, keep it up.
It can be difficult to avoid credit cards when you’re on a tight budget. If you must have them, make sure to pay your bills on time. The last thing you want to do is miss a payment and rack up more debt in the process.
2. Apply for Financial Aid
Financial aid varies from student to student and from college to college. No matter your circumstances, you should always consider applying for some kind of financial aid.
I know what you’re thinking: loans.
But just stick with me here. There is more to this whole financial aid business than student loans.
Filling out a FAFSA application is the first thing you should do. That’ll let you know exactly what you’re eligible to receive.
The most common kind of financial aid out there is student loans, which don’t have to be repaid until you graduate. They have comparatively lower interest rates than other loans, making them the best choice for college students.
Aside from loans, you could receive grants, work-study, and scholarships. None of these options have to be repaid during college, which makes them great for students who want to focus on their education.
Grants are awarded based on a demonstrated need. Work-study is a paycheck earned from a school-sponsored job that you work while you’re in college. Scholarships are usually awarded based on merit.
Not all schools offer scholarships, but there are many different scholarship websites to help you find them.
Remember to reapply for financial aid every year. You don’t want to miss out!
3. Start Paying Your Student Loans Early
Most student loans don’t have to be repaid until after you graduate. You’re free to enjoy college life without worrying about monthly payments.
But just because you don’t have to pay them doesn’t mean you can’t.
Paying your student loans while you’re still in school may sound like the ultimate bummer, but you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and money in the future.
You can lower your principal and future monthly payments by getting your balance down.
There are no penalties for paying your loans early. In fact, it will probably benefit you to get used to making payments while on a budget. Once you graduate, it won’t be such a shock to your lifestyle.
If you can work it into your budget, there’s no reason not to start paying now. It just means you will pay less down the line.
4. Protect Your Personal Information
Get into the habit of checking your bank and credit statements. If you happen to have your identity stolen, you want to fix it as quickly as possible.
If you see any red flags on your statements, report them immediately.
Your personal information should be of the utmost importance to you. Keep your personal documents in a lockbox and only log in to financial accounts when connected to a secure wi-fi network.
Don’t use a public computer on campus to access sensitive information.
Credit protection plans can help keep your information safe, but they’re not always in the budget. So, you have to be diligent to make sure you don’t get taken advantage of.
And, obviously, protect your passwords with your life. There’s no reason for anyone else to have them, even trusted friends.
5. Only Spend What You Can Afford
Now it’s time to figure out how much you have to spend. The best way to start is to create a budget and stick to it.
If you want a little extra cash, consider getting a part-time job to pad your wallet or help with living expenses.
Take advantage of student discounts and used textbooks. Free events on campus are a great way to have some fun without blowing your budget.
It’s important to set limits for yourself. And then to actually follow them.
Spending as little as possible is key. Once you’re aware of how much money you have and how much you need to live, it will be much easier to keep your finances in line.
Cleaning up your credit report and grabbing some extra hours at the coffee place will only get you so far. You still have to be mindful of your money.
Make yourself a comprehensive plan and then follow the rules you set. These five secrets will only work for you if you work at them.
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