Financial Advice for College
The idea of college starts with a few dreams: moving away, becoming an adult, and owning my own time. So naturally, I picked a college six hours away from my home town: close enough to make it home for Christmas, but far away enough to ensure no parental surprise visits. I would be totally immersed in the college scene. When my family and I talked about college, I knew it would be my responsibility to pay my way (but loans and scholarships would take care of that, right?).
I also had to find a part time job to pay for the extras in my life--gas for my car, money for food when I’m not feeling like the cafeteria is satisfying, oh yeah, and my cell phone bill.
I didn’t budget anything.
I didn’t sit down with a pen and paper, write down what I pay for myself every month in extras or necessities and figure it out. I went to college with blind faith that it would all work out financially. And it hit me...hard.
Maybe I’ll lay out the specifics of what I wasn’t financially ready for in college in a different post, but in the meantime...
To attempt saving a few more unexpecting underclassmen from the same fate, I put together a list of financial advice I wish I would have done in college.
1. WRITE A BUDGET. It’s not fun, it’s the opposite of what I classify as ‘fun’. Making a budget for what is supposed to be the best four years of your life, so I would suggest inviting your family to help you calculate your monthly bills, what you’d like to save, and extras you would like to spend on yourself.
*If you don’t feel like you have the family support to balance a budget, turn to the financial counselors at your local credit union to help you figure it out.
2. Shop smart. I went to my first flea market freshman year of college with some friends and I fell in love. It also killed me to find amazing vintage deals on items I could decorate my dorm with when I spent $40 on a lamp at Target.
Thrift stores like Goodwill, even your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore have huge deals on clothes, furniture, and decorative pieces for your new space can keep your pockets full while building your personal style.
3. Download helpful money apps. If you’re looking for something just to help track your budgeting goals--with some fantastic color coding for navigational ease--Wally is the app for you.
Your credit union even has an app for money tracking ease! MobileAccess+ provides TouchID capability, allows you to BillPay, connects multiple bank or credit union accounts to your homepage, and utilizes POP Money! in case you need to send or receive money fast. Save your receipts and get alerts to your phone in case there’s any suspicious activity to your account.
4. Locate your financial institution’s closest branch at school. It’s important to know where your credit union or bank is located before making campus grounds your new home. It might be as simple as typing in the same zip code as your new school’s address to find a branch nearby, but did you know credit unions participate in shared branch locations?
Credit unions participate in a co-op shared branch network.
That means you can go anywhere in the country and find a co-op branch that will allow you to perform transactions as if you were at your home branch. Find a co-op branch.
With some of the best rates and lowest offers for savings/checking, student loans, and credit cards, it would be foolish to move your account anywhere else.