Four years of new friends, new experiences, and learning new things make this one of the most memorable times of your life. The less-fun part is having to get a handle on finances now that you’re living at least semi-independently, but the choices that you make now can impact you for the rest of your life. The tips below can help you make good financial choices.
How much is all this going to cost you? There’s more than tuition and books to think about; you also have to take living expenses into account. If, like most students, this is your first time living away from home, it can be hard to figure out how much you’ll need although if you’re living and eating on campus, there will probably be a fixed figure. Your school may provide some cost-of-living estimates, and your parents may also be able to help you come up with a realistic budget. This is your starting point not just for getting your finances in shape and being responsible with your money but for knowing how much money you need to have in the first place.
Paying for College
If you’ve answered the question of how much this is going to cost you and started to feel low-level panic, take a deep breath. It’s true that college is expensive, but there are many different ways to access funds to pay for it besides any savings you or your parents may have tucked away. Scholarships, federal loans, and private loans are all ways to get funding, and there are additional ways to get help beyond this. There are programs that offer federal loan forgiveness if you work in a certain job for several years. There are even private employers that may help with loans. Whether or not these options are available to you, look for loans that offer favorable interest rates and repayment plans. There are Earnest private student loans available as one option that can help you cover your college costs.
Good Money Habits
It can be tempting to assume that you’re in college and you’re allowed to be a little irresponsible with your money, but the truth is that those mistakes and bad habits can follow you. You might as well start now living within your means and avoiding credit card debt. You can use apps to help you track your spending and even warn you when you’re getting close to your limit in any particular category. Sticking to a budget can be tough when it feels like all your friends are taking great vacations and eating out whenever they want to, but you’ll be glad you did it when you graduate owing only your student loans. If it’s feasible, you can even start repaying your student loans while you’re in college. If you work a job while you’re in school that offers a retirement fund, contribute to it. This may sound crazy with retirement 50 or more years in the future, but small amounts put away now can grow exponentially over those decades.