Financial Wellness Tips for College Students

Financial Wellness Tips for College Students was originally published on Vault.

Money is one of those necessary evils of life. Sure, it can be fun when we’ve got some extra money to spend on cool stuff, but there will be times when we struggle to make ends meet, which can be very stressful. As a college student it’s worth getting into good habits with your finances, as the stakes aren’t as high and you have some room for error. Here are some great tips to help you get on the path to financial wellness.

Choose a Bank

Now is a great time to open a new bank account. Try to find a bank that is aligned with your values, or that is community-oriented. Even if you’ve had a bank account since you were very young, you might want to consider changing banks in the event you find one that is a better fit for you and your lifestyle.

Be on the lookout for banks that offer special accounts for students. Typically, such accounts offer features that are particularly helpful, such as overdraft protection, no maintenance fees, and no minimum balance requirements. Your bank should offer a series of credit cards, and having one to fall back on is a good idea; however, you must always practice restraint when it comes to credit cards, but we’ll talk more about that later.

Devise a Budget

Now that we’ve got a nice bank account all set up, it’s time to make a plan. First, figure out how much you’ll make this year; it could be income from a part-time job, money sent from your family, or even from grants. Next, break it down by month so you know how much you have to spend. Let’s say you have $400 a month and your groceries cost $100, gas (or transportation) costs $50, and any other bills add up to around $150. This means you’ve got $100 leftover for that month to do as you please.

What should you do with your $100? You could save it, invest it, or go on a shopping spree—the choice is yours. Your budget will ensure that you always have money to pay for the essentials, while having some leftover just in case. As weird as it sounds, budgeting can be fun, and can often feel like a game. Your budget can also be adjusted if you find yourself struggling, or if you’ve recently gotten a raise, so be sure to revisit your current budget from time to time.

Credit Cards

Credit cards can be treacherous; of that, there is no doubt. If you’re going to open a credit card, do your research and make sure you apply for ones that have the lowest interest rates possible, and that don’t have ridiculously high fees in the event you miss a payment. If you have limited credit, or no credit at all, you’ll probably get a smaller limit, which can be a good thing starting out.

On the bright side, a credit card will afford you the opportunity to build up your credit score. A good tactic is to use your credit card to pay for a regular bill, such as gas or public transportation, and then simply pay the entire balance of the card each month. Your credit card can also be helpful during emergencies, but it’s best to be used as a last resort. Always do your best to keep a low balance, this way your credit card is available to you just in case you find yourself in a precarious financial situation.

Look for Deals

Finding good deals can sometimes be fun, similar to how following a budget can feel like a game. Always seek out discounts and coupons, and feel no shame for doing so—your wallet will thank you later. More times than not, companies offer student discounts, so you might be able to save at the movies, at most museums, and even on your cell phone bill.

It’s also worth looking into your school’s facilities and the events it offers. Instead of joining an expensive, off-campus gym, visit your school’s fitness center. Want to make weekend plans? Check out which events are happening on campus. Often, such events are free, or at least inexpensive, and you’ll have the opportunity to meet new people at your school.

A Part-Time Job

It can be tough to take on a part-time job as a student, but it’s not impossible. In fact, working a part-time job while also handling your classes and studies can teach valuable lessons about time management, and how to set priorities. Of course, part-time jobs are also great for making extra money, which is our main focus of the day.

When looking for a part-time job, try to find one that is as close to your school as possible so that you minimize travel costs. Jobs with flexible schedules are best; however, you might be able to find a job that fits nicely around your studies. Always make sure you have plenty of travel time for work, and that you’ve still got all the time you need to tend to your homework and studies. Lastly, secure enough time for rest; if you’re going to class, studying, and working all the time, you’ll burn yourself out very quickly.

After graduating college, you’ll be on your way to a new career, an apartment, bills, and a whole lot of adulting. Learning to deal with your money and its limits now is a great way to prepare for the future. We can’t all be the Monopoly Guy, but we can live comfortably within our means and as stress-free as possible as long as we’re wise with our finances.