A Crash Course in Money Management for College Students

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Maybe you’re one of those students who has always had the Midas touch when it comes to money – if so, then you’re likely pursuing a degree in finance. But if you’re like many students, traditional or non-traditional, you could probably use a little help with money management. Check out these tips for saving more and spending less:

Put Your Student Status to Work

Some of the nicest perks to being a student are all the discounts that are available. You might be able to find discounts on everyday purchases such as groceries and movie tickets. Student discounts can be even more impactful if you’re considering a larger purchase like a computer or a car. You may have to hunt around a bit to find information about discounts, but the savings could be worthwhile. Always ask about student discounts.

Follow the (Free) Money

Cut the cost of education by having someone else pay for it. There are loads of scholarships out there just waiting to be claimed by students who are willing to do a little research and fill out some applications. If you belong to any community or professional organizations, see if they offer scholarships to members. The College Board’s Scholarship Search, FinAid, and Fastweb are all resources for ferreting out scholarship opportunities.

Be aware, however, that you should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship. If a scholarship application requires a payment of any kind or the scholarship organization contacts you via an unsolicited email, it may be a scam. Do an Internet search of any suspicious scholarship opportunity and see what turns up.

There’s an App for That

The best way to manage your money is with a budget, but many people struggle to adhere to budgets over time. If you’re having trouble creating or sticking to a budget, try using an app. Mint, for example, is a free online personal budgeting app that can help you calculate your net worth, track spending, set savings goals, and more.

Avoid the Plastic

You can’t beat the convenience of credit cards and debit cards, but you might save money if you try to make a habit out of paying with cash for your smaller purchases. It’s a psychological trick, but people tend to be more careful about what they spend when they have to hand over actual dollars and cents to a cashier. Avoiding credit will also force you to break the debt cycle of spending money you don’t currently have. Plus, you’ll never have to pay credit card interest on a cash purchase, and that means more money in your pocket.

No More Automated Payments

Just as the convenience of credit cards can lead to bad money habits, the ease of automated payments can facilitate frivolous purchases. Many services offer an option of having fees and dues automatically charged to your credit card. In theory, this idea sounds great because you never have to worry about missed payments. But maybe you should be pondering those payments. When you have to pay a monthly or annual bill, you will stop and consider if the service is still necessary. Think about that new streaming music service that you were so eager to try out a couple of years ago: are you still using it enough to justify the monthly cost?

Seek Help

If you do find yourself sinking in the quicksand of money problems, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is a nonprofit organization that offers counseling services to consumers. For a fee, the NFCC provides counseling on credit, debt, bankruptcy, housing, reverse mortgages, and student debt.

College is a time for learning many new ideas and life skills, but one of the most valuable skills you can master is how to manage your finances. Develop good money habits now and they will pay off for many years to come.

Written by Erik Siwak, Communications Manager for Bridgepoint Education

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