As a new college student, you have many exciting and memorable experiences awaiting you. You’re likely on your own for the first time, not to mention needing to figure out what kind of degree you should pursue. Just as important, if not more so, is learning how to manage money. You may have been doing this while in high school and, if so, great. If not, financial literacy is a course you don’t want to miss.
Avoiding taking excessive student loans is a part of that of course. So is going to class as you want to benefit from the money you’re spending to be there. Those only scratch the surface. Here’s a primer to Financial Literacy 101.
Paying Yourself First
Paying yourself first is a key part of financial literacy. What exactly does it mean though? In simple terms, it means to take out a certain amount of each paycheck, (assuming you’re working while in school) and setting it aside for future needs. This could range from starting a simple emergency fund to creating a cushion in the event you want to take a semester off of work.
If you don’t plan on using the money for emergencies, you can put aside the money for more long-term needs. You can even start investing with $500 or less with the money as a way to start planning for retirement. I know, retirement might seem far away, and it is, but the sooner you start the better off you’ll be.
Do you live off campus? If you do, you will, of course, be responsible for your own meals. You will be tempted to eat out when busy. If done in moderation you will be just fine, but will be costly if done on a regular basis. I know learning how to cook seems difficult or impossible. It really isn’t, trust me.
An Internet search yields many simple recipes you can use with very few ingredients. Learning to cook is not only healthier but will also help save you money over the course of your life. If all else fails, a $20 slow cooker can take care of many meals when you don’t have the time to cook.
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Budget Your Vices
A budget is often seen as restrictive. It doesn’t have to be. However, if you don’t want to use a full budget consider a budget for your vices. Vices might sound too harsh, but it’s the things you enjoy that can be costly. Consider some of the following questions:
- Do you enjoy going out to the movies?
- Do you like to eat dinner out?
- Do you enjoy going out for a drink once a week?
Assuming you do, you’ll need money for it. Instead of just using a credit card, put aside money each month to allow you to enjoy these things. Think of it as the fun half of paying yourself first. By putting aside money regularly for such things, you can enjoy them in moderation without risking going into debt for them.
Avoid Cable and High Priced Data Plans
Did your parents have a cable plan at home or where you on their cell phone plan? If so, it’s possible you weren’t aware how expensive they can be. Consider the following:
- The average cell phone bill on a major carrier is nearly $150 per month
- The average cable bill is almost $125 per month
You don’t have to spend that much to get many of the same options those high priced alternatives offer. That’s also not to mention the fact you’ll likely be too busy to use your cable subscription enough to make it worth the cost. Find ways to lower those monthly bills and you’ll have that much more money to keep to yourself.
Pay Your Bills
When I was in college, it was easy to let things slide by. I was busy with classes, extracurricular responsibilities and work. There were numerous times I’d forget to pay a bill only to have to pay a late fee or interest. There is one simple way to avoid that from happening – automation. Things can easily be forgotten, but if you automate items like bill payment and savings you insure not forgetting something which allows you to focus on more pressing needs.
College is a great experience. It can also be a great time to establish money saving habits you can take with you for a lifetime.