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Financial Tips

Finance tips for college students

You finally got into college and are getting that first taste of freedom. With that opportunity, comes the responsibility of managing your finances in a way you most likely haven’t experienced before, especially if your parents are miles away.

Here are a few tips to help keep you in good financial shape as you face your college career.

1. Track spending and create a budget
It’s nearly impossible to be financially independent without knowing what your expenses are. During the month, write down everything you spend, be it food, rent, weekend trips, etc. to get an idea of how much cash you’re parting with every month. You’ll start to notice plenty of unneeded charges and payments that you didn’t even know you were paying, and now that you know what you’re spending, you can take out whatever is unneeded.

Once you know what you’re spending, you can make your budget. Your budget should include your income (any money coming in, be it allowance, scholarships, paychecks, etc.) and your expenses. Budgeting doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun or get that morning coffee that makes Accounting 101 bearable, rather, it makes sure you can afford that coffee comfortably!

Financial experts suggest following the “50-30-20 Rule” for budgeting where 50% of your income will go to your needs (food, rent, etc.), 30% of your income should go to your wants, and 20% should be put into a savings account to earn interest or be used to pay down debt.

2. Create an emergency fund
Once you know where you stand with expenses, you can start putting some money away for a rainy day. Unexpected expenses always come up, whether it’s a car repair, medical bill, or a required textbook; putting a little money away can keep you financially healthy during tough times. Following the 50-30-20 Rule, putting 20% of your check into an account will start to build up faster than you think, and you will have a nice pile of cash for an emergency.

As your savings grow, look for a higher-yield account like a Certificate or Money Market Account to get the most bang for your buck on your savings!

3. Get a credit card and use it wisely
Credit Cards can be intimidating when you don’t know much about them, but building credit is imperative to your financial wellbeing. Credit is essential to your ability to borrow when you are done with college, from getting a first car to a first home, even some jobs will pull credit during the application process. The more on-time payments and borrowing history you have the better.

Though paying student loans on time also helps your credit score, getting a small credit card like a Student Credit Card or a Secured Credit Card can be a great way to practice making on-time payments and learning how to budget accordingly. Use it to pay for your Spotify and Netflix subscriptions every month to keep the balance low and pay it off every month to ensure you aren’t charged any interest!

4. Plan to attack your debt
Times are tough and going through college doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, so piling up some debt is often inevitable. Whenever you do rack up an abundance of credit card debt or personal/ student loans, start working to reduce your debt as soon as possible to avoid having it get out of control.

Pay at least a bit more than the minimum payment on all your loans every month and focus on paying off smaller debts first to get them taken care of sooner!

Financial health is a vital part of life and the sooner you start nurturing it, the better off you will be in the future. Take advantage of any resources you come across, be it classes and financial planning from your school, or Stanford Federal Credit Union’s Financial Tips or our interactive modules that teach you about everything from checking accounts to retirement planning. By being proactive as a college student, you’re creating a strong foundation to support your post-college career.