With today’s increasing cost of tuition, housing and food for the average college student, funding the college experience can be challenging. If you’re like most college students, you’ll be turning to financial aid, personal loans and even credit cards to keep up. However, four years of building up those debts can mean years – even decades – of credit issues after graduation.
Saving money before and during college is one of the best strategies for protecting your credit and staying one step ahead of the financial game. Here are some tips on saving money, finding resources for funding and dealing with finances after you graduate:
Tips for Saving Money Before and During College
Most college students don’t even begin to think about saving money during college – until they deplete their savings account completely. Staying ahead of your finances may involve creating a budget and really taking a close look at your expenses. Keeping tabs on your expenses each week can help you manage your money so you don’t become just another ‘broke college student’ as you move through your educational career. After you narrow down your real ‘needs’ versus ‘wants’ you can create a workable plan by:
-Cooking at home vs. eating out
-Carpooling to save on gas
-Sharing a vehicle with a roommate or friend
-Living with roommates to save on rent
-Limiting social activities to the weekends
-Shopping at thrift stores and discount shopping outlets for clothing and accessories
Saving money from a part-time job during high school is one of the easiest ways to build up some financial strength for those college years, and you can set these funds aside in a money market or other high-interest investment account to earn as you go.
Still, even the most frugal budget can leave you short of funds when it comes to paying for books and that upcoming semester. If that’s the case, you’ll need to secure other sources of funding such as scholarships, grants and possibly a part-time job.
Other Sources of Funding for College Students
If you want to avoid interest-bearing student loans and personal loans to get you through college, there are additional resources available. Some of the best ways to fly through college without damaging your finances include:
-Securing local and national scholarships
-Working on the weekends or around your class schedule
-Applying for grants and work-study programs where you earn both college credit and a (modest) wage
-Having your employer sponsor you (if you work full time)
Dealing with Finances After Graduation
Making the shift from the college lifestyle to the ‘real world’ can be tough, and very few college students head to the working world completely debt free. Student loans and credit card debt often accompany that degree in hand, and you will be paying off these debts for years to come. Still, there are ways to take control of your finances as soon as you take off the cap and gown.
-Set up an investment savings account and make monthly deposits.
-Keep up with a monthly budget
-Live with a roommate to save on rent costs
-Take a second job to pay down student loan debt faster
Managing your finances during or after college requires a diligent commitment to stay ahead. It’s easy to fall into the trap of credit cards and overspending when you’re busy studying and socializing, but creating a budget and maximizing your resources can help you enjoy the college experience without the financial burden.