When you add up the costs of tuition, housing, food, textbooks, Greek fees, frozen yogurt, tailgating, live shows, bar covers, and whatever else you spend money on in college, you probably want to weep. I know how you feel, and I’ve been there. If you’re worried about finances, there are several things you can do to keep your spending and debt under control, and I’ve highlighted three of the major ones below. Don’t stock up on Ramen just yet!
Going Loan Crazy
Sure, study abroad, graduate school, and clown college all sound awesome until you look at the costs. You might think about taking out a loan, but don’t act hastily. Consider your priorities. Will what you’re paying for be worth the debt when it’s over? For example, would getting an MBA actually benefit your eventual career path?
I know how expensive college can be, especially if you go somewhere out of state. If you’ve already had to take out loans for tuition, there’s nothing you can do about that, but you can definitely try to minimize any other borrowing you do. If you continue to borrow, you’ll have massive debt when you’re out of college, and you’ll start off your career by owing a ton of money that you’ll always be stressed about paying off.
So if you want to take extra classes over the summer or finance some other major expense, don’t pull an iPhone ad and say, “Hey, there’s a loan for that!” Instead, consider looking up scholarship and grant opportunities and apply to everything you qualify for. Many of my friends did this in college and were able to finance all kinds of extra activities, and scholarship money can also help you finance tuition and school expenses.
Not Paying Off Credit Cards
Credit card debt is to your future like pass interference is to your football team — both are missteps that totally wreck your progress. If you miss a payment, you’ll be in all kinds of trouble with additional interest and fees, which will further hinder your ability to pay in full each month. Start the right way and build up your credit. If you’re already burdened by the weight of credit card charges, don’t panic, but start paying every month in full (and even a little extra).
Maintaining good credit card habits is important now because if you end up with a really low credit score, you could be trying to buy a house or car in the future and getting straight-up laughed at. Treat your credit card bills very seriously, and don’t open more than one. You don’t need multiple cards, and they’ll only tempt you to spend more and max out.
Sometimes, though, you might find yourself in an emergency situation and need money immediately. No, I’m not talking about needing the funds to start your own social media website — I’m talking about serious emergencies. These circumstances call for something like payday loans, which are short-term and easily manageable as opposed to opening new credit cards or long-term loans that can lead to debt.
If you’re reading this, rolling your eyes, and saying, “Come on, I don’t do any of this stuff,” then this is your section. Even if you manage to keep debt to a very minimum level and always pay off your credit card bills, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. This might be the first time in your life that you’re responsible for all of your expenses, and it can get pretty overwhelming.
Because of this, it’s important to — I hate using this word, but — budget. Don’t run scared: it doesn’t have to be that difficult. Just figure out how much you generally spend in each major category, like food, entertainment, etc. Think before you purchase! Doing that alone will save you a lot of money. Before you get ready to call and order that extra-large pepperoni pizza at 3 a.m., consider whether you’re actually hungry or if you have food in your dorm or apartment.
While it’s important not to throw money away on needless things, it’s also important to spend wisely on necessary things. For example, you’ll need a bunch of textbooks for your classes, and upon stumbling into the college bookstore, you might faint from the $100 price tags. Buying used books or buying online are great wasy to save money. Of course, your professor could have written the book this year and have made you purchase it at full price, which is, you know, awesome.
College is supposed to be fun. You’re supposed to go to sporting events and pull all-nighters and participate in random protests. But don’t let rash monetary decisions begin to ruin your financial health. It’s a delicate balance, because trust me, you don’t want to be super cheap and let your college years slip by without having fun. Just be responsible and enjoy yourself.