Tips to effectively manage your money as a college student

May 19th, 2016 Mark Sandvig
College student

Let’s be honest – creating a budget as a college student probably isn’t at the top of your priority list. The new-found freedom of living on your own coupled with the invigorating college setting means it’s hard to focus on the practical things like money management.

But with greater freedom also comes greater responsibility. And developing good money management skills while you are in school is one of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself for life after college.

Here are some simple tips that will help you make the grade when it comes to forming a strong foundation for money management.

  • Take time to sit down and assess your regular expenses and create a budget for your college years. By properly managing your money and sticking to a budget, you will ensure you have enough for living expenses in college in addition to the costs of tuition and books.
  • Make sure your budget is realistic. Give yourself a little wiggle room here and there. Otherwise you’ll be more likely to overspend or use those emergency credit cards if you don’t leave room for the occasional slice of pizza or any unexpected college costs.
  • Set priorities. It’s up to you to decide if you want to spend your money on a fancy new yoga class or next semester’s books. It can be hard to make choices like that, but being able to identify wants vs needs is an important aspect of managing money.
  • Don’t spend money you don’t have with credit cards, especially when it comes to covering your tuition and fees. Look into loans and stipends to make sure you leave college with a minimum amount of debt.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of opening credit cards that are offered on campuses all the time. Be very careful about opening credit lines as these decisions will impact your credit history for years to come. If you make the decision to open a line of credit, visit your local MidWestOne location to get started.
  • Try to use those unexpected windfalls wisely. Did you just get a birthday check from your grandmother? Receive a refund from overpaying a bill? Don’t spend it on fancy coffee drinks and dinner outings. Consider saving it, or if you’re worried about frivolous spending, put it toward your college tuition and fees.
  • Make a commitment to pay all of your bills on time. Mark down due dates in a calendar if you have to. This will help you avoid late fees and credit score hits. Credit card payments that are 30-60 days late, even just one, can take your credit score down by 100 points.
  • Don’t be too proud to ask for help. If you find yourself in a tough financial situation, talk to your family or financial aid counselor. You should never have to use a credit card to cover your tuition and fees.
  • Shop around – especially for textbooks. Textbooks are one of the biggest college expenses, and bypassing the campus bookstore at the start of each semester is an easy way to save.

If you have questions about managing your money in college, don’t hesitate to stop by your MidWestOne location to learn more.

About the author

Mark Sandvig is Mortgage Banking Officer at MidWestOne Bank. NMLS number: 641615

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