The College Student's Money Survival Guide
Off to college? Here are some important tips for managing your money while you are away!
- Choose a bank and set up a checking account.
A checking account is essential for college students – even if you don’t see yourself using checks, a checking account is required to have a debit card to make purchases, withdraw money from an ATM, etc. Look for one with no or low fees and free ATM withdrawals – also, find a bank that has mobile deposit so you can deposit checks right from your phone. The Institution for Savings also has a ‘pay a person’ feature, so that you can transfer money back to individuals as needed! Check out our Collegiate Checking account.
- Create a budget.
This is important! List monthly income sources include savings, wages and parental allowances, and then write down estimated expenses for the month. It isn't easy to identify college living expenses in advance but try. Take costs such as school supplies, food outside your meal plan, personal care items and laundry into account. Then, try managing your budget and tracking expenses using an online personal finance management tool like Mint.com which helps you easily create and stick to a budget.
- Use, don't abuse, credit cards.
College is a great time to start building good credit (which is crucial for leasing an apartment, purchasing a car or even landing a job after graduation). Be careful, it’s easy to get carried away and amass a large amount of debt quickly. It's important to understand the difference between credit building and overextending.
- Know the difference between wants and needs.
Is $30 a week for gas a ‘need’ or a ‘want'? How much should you budget for non-meal plan food? How much will laundry cost? After a few months on campus and tracking expenses, it becomes easier to distinguish wants from needs and put a plan into action. Some students give themselves a weekly cash allowance rather than carry a debit card, and when that week's allowance is gone, they wait until next week for more ‘wants’.
- Protect your personal information.
- Don’t give someone else the opportunity to spend your money or use your credit!
- Never give anyone your Social Security, credit card, or bank account numbers unless you know why the individual or organization is requesting them.
- Be sure to ignore and delete emails requesting personal information.
- Shred anything with your name, address, credit card information, or bank account numbers before putting it in the trash or recycle bin.
- Keep your security software updated and NEVER send any personal information via a computer unless it is a well-established secure site.
- Keep your credit card and ATM receipts in a safe place until you’ve paid the credit card bill or balanced your checking account.
- Keep track of how much money you have in your account.
If you write a check for more money than you have in your account, the check will bounce and your bank will charge you an overdraft fee, which may be as high as $40 per check depending on where you bank. The same goes for using your debit card when you’re out of money. Bounced checks also can hurt your credit history. To avoid bouncing checks, always record your ATM withdrawals and checks into your checkbook register or on your smart phone and subtract it from your balance. And don’t assume your account balance at the ATM is correct. If you made purchases that haven’t been processed by the bank yet, the ATM balance will be higher than the amount of money you really have. And enroll in Internet Banking so you can check your activity and balance regularly.
- Take advantage of student discounts.
Going to the movies, riding the bus, or even ordering pizza might cost less if you show your student I.D. Other ways to take advantage of your student status and save money include buying used textbooks or buying books discounted online and receiving free or low-cost health care at campus health centers.
- Avoid Credit Card Pushers with Too-Good-To-Be-True Offers.
Many times, colleges and universities allow vendors that promote credit cards to set up on campus. These vendors offer everything from free T-shirts to duffel bags if students will apply for their card. Don’t be fooled, make sure you understand the terms before you sign up.
- Resist peer pressure.
Many students report that they sometimes feel pressured by college friends to spend money that they don’t have. Be willing to say “No, I can’t afford to do that.” Many students don’t have much money, but sometimes they are unwilling to admit it. Your willingness to be honest and live within your means sends a strong message to your friends that you are both confident and responsible.
- Remember: money is important, but it’s not everything.
Good friends, strong values and work you enjoy count for more than all the money in the world. Money is only a vehicle to help you get where you want to go. Manage it well: cut the little expenses that add up, and watch your money grow as you save and invest. This way, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and your money will help you reach your goals.
10 Tips to Save Money in Your 20s
Your 20s are a dynamic time, full of exciting and nerve-wracking changes. Whether you’ve just graduated from college or have been working full-time for a couple of years, it’s likely that money management is one of the biggest stressors in your life. This is a perfect time to gain control of your money and start planning for the future, but you don’t have to do it alone! Read on for some of our favorite tips to help you get into the saving mode for life.
- Make A Budget
Once you’ve joined the workforce full-time, it is crucial that you develop a budget to prioritize your spending and saving. However, savings must be a key component of your budget, not merely whatever money is left over at the end of the month and should be a top priority after basic necessities (food, rent, etc.). One way to structure your budget, as suggested by www.NerdWallet.com, is to use the 50/30/20 rule – allocate 50% of your income for necessities, 30% for wants, and 20% for savings.
- Pay Off Student Loan Debt
Along with budgeting for savings, you should also prioritize paying off your student loan debt (if you have any) to avoid being charged large amounts of interest. If you’re struggling to make your monthly loan payments, investigate what other repayment plans are available to you or consider changing your repayment strategy. For more ideas for paying off your student loan debt, check out our Tips for Paying Off Student Loan Debt article.
- Automate Your Savings
One way to ensure that building your savings is a consistent component of your monthly budget is to automate it! Choose to have a portion of each paycheck directly deposited into your savings account. This way you won’t be tempted to spend the money that you should set aside OR get used to a lower income in the future once you do start saving. Also consider using a smartphone app that automatically saves and/or invests your money. To learn more, check out our article on Five of the Best Personal Finance Apps.
- Earn Extra Income
Adding an extra source of income to your regular earnings is a great way to save money in your 20s. Whether you get a part-time job or take on sporadic gigs such as dog-sitting or being a ride-share driver, put all of that extra cash you earn towards your monthly savings.
Your 20s are a good time to start investing, even if in small amounts and low-risk endeavors. Before investing, you should assess your financial needs and personality to determine your risk profile, and then seek professional advice if necessary. You should aim to create a diversified portfolio to reduce your exposure to risk, especially when you’re just getting your feet wet.
- Save For Retirement
You might think that your 20s is too early to start saving for retirement, but it’s actually the best time to do so. You should take advantage of your employer’s 401(k) plan, if offered, and contribute at least the maximum amount that your employer will match, if not more. If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) plan, you can choose to have a set amount of money automatically deposited from your checking account into an individual retirement account each month.
- Track Your Expenses
To best make your budget and allocate your money, you should track your expenses to determine where and when you’re spending too much and how you could cut back. To do this, you might consider creating a spreadsheet or using a smartphone app that helps you plan and stick to a budget. Again, refer to our 5 of the Best Personal Finance Apps article for inspiration.
- Delay Impulse Purchases
A simple way to save money in your 20s is to delay any impulse purchases. When you feel the need to purchase a non-necessity, you can wait a couple of days to evaluate how the purchase fits into your budget and its true value to you. With this strategy, you can avoid making purchases fueled solely by your wants and emotions, and instead save money for purchases that will serve you better in the long run.
- Open A Separate Savings Account
If you’re someone who frequently dips into your savings account to replenish your checking account, consider opening a savings account at a separate bank from that which houses your checking account. It will be more difficult to transfer cash between the two accounts and keeping some savings out of sight will allow your money to generate more interest over time.
- Take Advantage of Cash Back/Reward Credit Cards
If you’re going to have a credit card, you might as well earn something in return for the purchases that you make. Whether it’s cash back, airline miles, or hotel points, there are numerous credit cards that will reward you for spending, so long as you pay off your monthly balance in full. Choose the card and reward that makes the most sense for your lifestyle and interests, but be careful not to rack up more debt than you can repay.
6 Children's Books to Teach Your Kids About Money
It’s never too early to start teaching your kids about money… and it can be fun! Check out these children’s books to help teach your kids money basics such as saving vs. spending, wants vs. needs, and much more.
Bunny Money by Rosemary Wells (3-5 years)
It’s Grandma’s birthday, and Ruby knows exactly what Grandma would love – a beautiful ballerina box. Max also knows what she’d love – a scary pair of ooey-gooey vampire teeth. Ruby has saved up a wallet full of bills, but as unexpected mishap after mishap occurs, money starts running through the bunnies’ fingers. Will they have enough left for the perfect present? Wells’ story is a fun and lively introduction to early math.
The Berenstain Bears, Trouble with Money by Stan and Jan Berenstain (3-7 years)
Come for a visit in Bear Country with this classic First Time Book from Stan and Jan Berenstain. Mama and Papa are worried that Brother and Sister seem to think money grows on trees. To make money of their own, the cubs decide to start their very own businesses, from a lemonade stand to a pet-walking service.
One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent: All About Money by Bonnie Worth (4-8 years)
The Cat in the Hat puts to rest any notion that money grows on trees in this super simple look at numismatics, the study of money and its history. Beginning with the ancient practice of bartering, the Cat explains various forms of money used in different cultures, from shells, feathers, leather, and jade to metal ingots to coins (including the smallest – the BB-like Indian fanam – and the largest – the 8-foot-wide, ship-sinking limestone ones from the Islands of Yap!), to the current king of currency, paper. Also included is a look at banking, from the use of temples as the first banks to the concept of gaining or paying interest, and a step-by-step guide to minting coins.
A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts (5-8 years)
Ruben feels like he is the only kid without a bike. His friend Sergio reminds him that his birthday is coming, but Ruben knows that the kind of birthday gifts he and Sergio receive are not the same. After all, when Ruben’s mom sends him to Sonny’s corner store for groceries, sometimes she doesn’t have enough money for everything on the list. When Ruben sees a dollar bill fall out of someone’s purse, he picks it up and puts it in his pocket. But when he gets home, he discovers it’s not one dollar or even five or ten – it’s a hundred-dollar bill, more than enough for a new bike just like Sergio’s! But what about the crossed-off groceries? And what about the woman who lost her money?
Rock, Brock, and the Savings Shock by Sheila Bair (4-8 years)
Rock and Brock may be twins, but they are as different as two twins can be. One day, their grandpa offers them a plan – for ten straight weeks on Saturday he will given them each one dollar. But there is a catch! “Listen now, for here’s the trick, each buck you save, I’ll match it quick. But spend it, there’s no extra dough, so save your cash, and watch it grow.” Rock is excited – there all sorts of things he can buy for one dollar! Each week he buys something different – an inflatable moose head, green hair goo, white peppermint wax fangs. But while Rock is spending his money, Brock is savings his. And each week when Rock gets just one dollar, Brock’s savings get matched. By the end of summer, Brock has five hundred and twelve dollars, while Rock has none. When Rock sees what his brother has saved, he realizes he has made a mistake. But Brock shows him that it is never too late to start saving.
Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins (3-7 years)
A lemonade stand in winter? Yes, that’s exactly what Pauline and John-John intend to have, selling lemonade and limeade – and lemon-limeade. With a catchy refrain (“Lemon lemon LIME, Lemon LIMEADE! Lemon lemon LIME, Lemon LIMEADE!”), plus simple math concepts throughout, here is a read-aloud that’s great for story time and classroom use.