College expenses pile up fast – books, fees, laundry, a night out with friends – so if you don’t want to find your pockets empty, pay attention to how you manage your money:
Plan it! Figure out your monthly income (from a job or from your parents) and calculate your monthly expenses. Begin by totalling predetermined expenditures like cell phone bills, car insurance, etc. Then you can determine how much you can afford to spend on food, entertainment, etc.
Bank it! Shop around to find the bank that offers the best account options and convenient locations. Look for no minimum balance, no monthly fees, free ATM transactions and free online banking, which lets you manage your account and pay bills from your computer or smartphone.
Also consider credit unions that you can join. Credit unions are membership organizations that offer the same services as banks at reasonable rates. There used to be stipulations to joining most credit unions, but those restrictions have been relaxed.
Save it! Make sure you have a savings account. Through your online banking, you’ll be able to set up a repeating transfer to your savings account, which will make saving money (almost) painless. Think about it: Putting just $25 a month into a savings account adds up to $300 a year.
Watch it! The moment you step on campus, the card sharks will be lurking. They will come bearing smiles and gifts, and all you have to do is sign up for the credit cards they’re offering. Offer a gracious “No thank you,” and be on your way.
If you have to have a credit card, keep these tips from Bankrate.com in mind:
• ALWAYS pay your credit card on time. Otherwise, you’ll be slapped with a costly late fee.
• Choose a card with no annual fee and a low credit limit.
• Don’t apply for every card you’re offered.
• If your card is lost or stolen, report it to the credit card company immediately.
• Never use cash advances, which can result in major fees.
• Never give out your credit card number to anyone! Credit card fraud has become a big business.
ATM – Don’t use ATMs that charge a fee. A $2 charge once a week is $28 each semester; a $3 fee twice a week is $84. That’s several extra dinners and movies that you’ve lost.
Bank balance – Keep track of your bank balance to avoid extra fees. Many banks happily cover an overdraft if you don’t have enough money in your account for a purchase, but assess hefty fees to do so. If you don’t monitor your account, you could find yourself paying a $30 fee on a debit card or check transaction of only a dollar or two. Know your bank’s policy and keep a close check on your account.
Books – CheapestTextBooks.com offers a price comparison tool that finds the lowest prices on textbooks at multiple online stores and lists prices along with available free shipping offers, coupon codes or specials. Make sure you request the correct book and order it a couple of weeks before the semester begins.
Little things – Find an app or use a small notepad to track of how much you spend on seemingly inexpensive items (coffee, snacks, etc.). All those purchases add up really quickly.
Take Charge of Your Cash
By NEXT staff
Get smart when managing your money