10 Tips For College Students To Ball on A Budget

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Managing your money is the only thing harder than managing your time during finals week. One day Grandma stuffs your pockets with spending money, and the next day you’re collecting quarters from the cracks in your futon and surviving off cereal. Before you know it, you hang dry laundry because you can’t spend $1.30 on the dryer.

Managing money takes extra time and effort, but everyone can learn to pinch pennies and deepen their pockets.

1.Know Your Bank

While it’s important to know where your money goes, you should also know where your money stays when you aren’t spending it. Some students opened bank accounts long before college. Others didn’t think about it until orientation. Regardless of where you fall, research your bank of choice. Do they charge monthly fees? Do they have special accounts for students? “People tend to overlook services they can get for free,” Nassau Educators Federal Credit  Union employee Pamela Williams said. “At some banks, if you need something notarized, you don’t have to pay if you’re a member.” Be sure to understand your intentions with the bank or else you might end up with something you never wanted. “Know what you’re looking for so that they don’t sell you what you don’t need; it’s called cross-selling,” Williams said. “You can go in for a checking account or a savings account, and you walk out of there with a credit card.” Being on top of your bank  keeps you on top of your money.

2. Be Careful With Credit Cards

Credit cards lure you in like the Kardashians. They promise temporary relief from your everyday problems but promptly deliver more stress and disgust than you expected. Credit cards seem like a good idea when you’re finally able to make a few impulse buys, but the reality of credit card debt can plague you for years. “[Credit cards] tend to get [college students] in trouble. They should stick to debit cards,” Williams said. However, all the actual adult-ing you do after graduation–renting an apartment, getting insurance, applying for a mortgage–require a good credit score (which you get from paying off your credit card on time each month). So staying away from credit cards completely won’t help future you. Build good credit and avoid the unpleasant reality of debt by making small purchases that you can easily pay off.

3. Find Scholarships

“I always recommend that students start with search engines–Fastweb, Zinch,” Spring Valley High School counselor Mark Pollard said. “Scholly is pretty good. Students should take advantage of it.”  The Scholly app allows you to create a personal profile that indicates of everything from hours of community service to certificates you’ve earned like a radio license. After bragging about your great accomplishments, the site develops a list of scholarships for you.“The biggest mistake is not submitting the application,” Pollard said. “A lot of students convince themselves that they don’t have a chance, or they’re hesitant to write the essays. Take it on like a part-time job. Allocate a certain number of hours per week,” Pollard advised. “For every 10 applications that you submit, you may receive two or three,” Pollard said. When people offer you free money, accept unapologetically.

4.Apps, Apps, and More Apps

Delete one of the seven photo editing apps you have, and make storage space for Mint, a free app that shows your entire financial life from spending and bills to budgets and credit scores. Along with connecting to your bank accounts and credit cards, Mint suggests budgeting tips according to your current finances and bills. Other apps like Prism and Spending Tracker act like watchdogs for where your money is going. Prism connects directly with your billers, alerting you when you receive new bills and, even more conveniently, allowing you to pay your bills through the app. Spending Tracker displays your income and compartmentalizes your spending on everything from gifts to travel expenses. These apps provide an easy way to both look at and adjust your finances. And even better, they’re just as accessible as Twitter and Facebook.

5. Learn to Budget

Deciding between how much money gets spent on overpriced textbooks and laundry? If you don’t have the phone storage for more apps, use Excel on your laptopBudgeting starts by identifying where the money you have comes from–on-campus jobs, allowances from your family and even your loan money. Then, set aside a specific amount for necessary spending–textbook rentals, to travel expenses and weekly groceries. From there, divvy up the remaining percentage of your budget for pleasure expenses like Netflix, a weekend trip with friends and yes, the rounds drunk you inevitably buys Friday night. “Keep track of what you spend on food, drinks and extra stuff you don’t really need,” senior court clerk Joanne Shea said. “Distinguish your needs from your wants. Just be realistic about what you can and can’t afford,” Shea said. Budgeting takes time to master, but it makes sure that you don’t overspend like Whitley Gilbert stumbling upon the mink coat collection at Saks.

6. Keep Emergency Money

A hidden $20 in your desk drawer or a few dollars in your least worn pair of shoes might come in handy when you get that invite to lunch at Chipotle. Setting aside emergency money ensures that, even if you go broke, you can still scrape some funds together.  But if your hidden money keeps ending up in the deliveryman’s hands, you can always start keeping a piggy bank. Coins usually just collect dust in the bottom of your wallet, and you probably won’t count out $4.75 in nickels and dimes to pay for your late-night cravings. Whether you stash away dollars or collect coins, emergency money might one day save you from a possible crisis.

7. Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft is realer than your chance of getting Hamilton tickets. Stolen identity can lead to someone opening credit cards in your name, purchasing expensive items and ruining your credit score. Especially vulnerable to identity theft because of inexperience and the internet, college students can take several measures to ensure that they’re as protected as possible. Habits like covering the ATM keypad and checking over your shoulder when entering your pin number simply and effectively protect your account from being tapped into. You should also be mindful of phishing emails–those that look like they come from reliable sources, like PayPal or your bank, but ask for personal information as part of an attempted fraud. Use your campus’ public Wi-Fi to turn in that last minute paper from a library computer, but never pay bills or log into your bank account on any Wi-Fi that isn’t secure.

8. Learn About Economics and Finances

Even if you swore to throw out your TI-84 calculator (or sell it because that thing cost a lot) after high school, you need to be able to crunch some numbers to understand the turbulent world of economics and finance. Whether you take advantage of your tuition and fit an economics class into your schedule or learn about finance through YouTube, educating yourself helps you develop an informed approach when it comes to managing your money. “I think if you’re on campus, one of the things you can look for is an investment club,” Pollard said. “Sometimes you’ll find a group of students talking about stocks and bonds and about how to invest money. It’s never too early to get involved in that kind of stuff.” Taking advantage of the education and resources you’re paying for now can help you bank that money in the future.

9. Sign Up for Rewards Programs

Restaurants like Panera and Chick-Fil-A have points systems that allow you to earn free food after a certain number of purchases. Meanwhile services such as Amtrak and Southwest Airlines offer rewards for your travels; the points and miles you earn on your trip home for Thanksgiving might help pay for the ticket home for winter break. Most restaurants have apps to help you keep track of your purchases and points, too. Travel services, on the other hand, tend to use credit cards to provide benefits; so if you’re mindful of your spending, airline miles credit cards offer a more beneficial alternative to developing a good credit score (see tip two if credit cards make your head spin). Let those weeks of morning coffees earn you a free croissant and the hassle of travel knock a few dollars off your next ticket.

10) Start Couponing

Everyone loves getting to the register to find out their purchase is actually on sale. Using those coupon emails stashed somewhere in your spam box may start to save you more money than you think. Beneficial couponing doesn’t take much more than a little organization and basic math. When it comes to actually using coupons, remember their expiration dates and see if you can combine them with in-store sales to increase your savings. $5 off decorative pillows for your dorm and 20 percent off your toiletries add up eventually. Soon enough, you’ll be on par with every suburban house mom with a Ziploc bag full of coupons at Bed, Bath, and Beyond on black Friday.

Kennedy is a freshman at Vassar College studying English and Media Studies. She loves good books, most TV, and all things Beyoncé.

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