The terms college student and impoverished are practically listed as synonyms for one another in the thesaurus. According to economic statistics, college students consistently rank near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to income, overall earnings, and spending power. What else can you expect from the group that popularized the ten-cent dorm room feast commonly known as ramen noodles?
But even though your college years will probably represent the lowest point of your life in terms of net worth, that doesnt mean that you should throw all caution to the wind and abandon fiscal responsibility. To the contrary, many experts say that the spending habits you develop during this crucial period can make or break your financial prospects later in life.
So even when you dont have two dimes to rub together, its vital that you take a prudent approach to managing your money. Here are a few helpful tips, tricks, and strategies designed to help see you through the four years of voluntary poverty also known as the college experience.
Save up for large purchases. Sure, its convenient to whip the plastic out of your pocket for big-ticket purchases, but if youre not careful, that $250 game system could end up costing you two or three times that once youve paid off all the interest twenty years from now. Rather than going the credit card route, try to save up for things like electronic gadgets, road trips, and big nights out in advance.
Set up and stick to a basic budget. You dont have to be a master of the spreadsheet and track all of your purchases obsessively to practice basic money management. Instead, at the beginning of every month, sketch out a basic chart that shows how much income youll have and the fixed expenses and bills youll have to pay. Then, set aside a little bit extra for unexpected emergencies and a few big nights out. You dont have to track every penny you spend on midnight munchies runs to be able to stick to a basic budget.
Take advantage of free and low-cost campus resources. Most campuses are a virtual treasure trove of cheap entertainment opportunities. Often, the businesses that surround the campus get in on the act, too, offering specials geared to fit college students tight budgets. Train yourself to be a master of the good deal, always keeping an eye out for bargains and free events.
Dont take on more debt than absolutely necessary. When youre mired in poverty, it can be mighty tempting to take out the maximum student loan amount every semester, even if you dont need them. Try your hardest not to fall into this trap, only taking on as much debt as you need to cover your expenses. It may hurt now, but youll be grateful later on.
Force yourself to think about the future. College students often seem to have an aversion to planning and prudent decision-making. In fact, scientists have shown that the areas of the brain that are needed to engage in these types of behaviors usually arent fully developed until humans reach their mid-twenties. Still, even though college is a time for fun and carefree revelry, its best to force yourself to get into the habit of thinking about the future now, and to try to make your financial decisions accordingly.
If youre a soon-to-be-freshman or a first-year college student, which financial worries or issues are keeping you up at night? Do you have a general idea of the budget youll be working with once you hit campus? Tell us all about it in the comments.
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