How to be a Financial Wizard in your First Year of College
Any new student's entry into the college social sphere is filled with jockeying for friends and status, trying to connect with others who share your interests while also establishing a certain kind of identity.
If your goal is to be one of the few financially savvy students on your campus, you might be happy to learn that achieving such status isn't as hard as you might expect. Many college students struggle managing their personal finances in college, particularly those who are handling money for the first time in their lives. Developing an awareness of your spending habits -- and the potential pitfalls you are facing -- is critical to becoming "financially awesome" while in college and here are a few tips to guide you in your financial wizardry:
Invest in identity theft protection
Community property is a big concept in college, where roommates often end up sharing televisions, books, food, even clothes. Even though the concept of sharing doesn't extend to your financial identity, college is a time when identity theft is a serious threat. To protect yourself from credit card fraud and other forms of identity theft, it could be wise to invest in an identity theft protection service, like the ones offered on Lifelock.com. Agencies, like this one, are set up to keep a vigilant eye on your fiscal information. You can save money when you sign up with this service too, and that allows you to have more money for books and other supplies.
Get a summer job to build up savings
Between your high school graduation and the start of college in the fall, you have a great opportunity to create a financial springboard through the money saved from a summer job. In just one summer you can put away thousands of dollars that can ease your financial burden during school and maybe even allow you to get through the school year without a part-time job.
Even if you do decide you need a part-time job during school, summer income can ease your financial burdens during the school year, allowing you to focus on your education and enjoying the experience. And if you are paying for some or all of your schooling on your own, summer income can go toward your tuition and cut down on the amount of loans you take out.
Set up a monthly budget
Once you have your one-time expenses accounted for and you know what your month-to-month financial situation is going to look like, draft a budget to figure out how much money you can put toward your various expenses, such as entertainment, eating out, supplies, clothes and whatever else you think is important.
Take advantage of your school's offerings
College is filled with cheap and economical resources for its students. If your goal is to be financially brilliant, you'll be wise to take advantage of these opportunities. Purchasing your school's meal plan is often an economical way to pay for food if you are able to eat a majority of your meals in the school's cafeterias. Be mindful of the free entertainment events taking place on campus and familiarize yourself with the resources and offerings of your school's library, student union and other venues to spend less in your day-to-day routine.
By being mindful of your money and the various cheap -- and possibly free -- resources available to you as a college student, it's very possible that you could live beyond your means while making smart financial decisions. It's easy for college students to lose sight of their spending and quickly get buried beneath mounting credit card bills, so greater awareness of your personal finances can be a big boon in avoiding that common trap. And by planning ahead and adding structure to your spending, you should have no trouble impressing others with your financial acumen.
Author: Christine Rivera is fluent in English and Spanish and writes about higher education for several specialty publications and magazines. She holds a master's degree in creative writing.
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