College is the start of your adult life, and you'll start to see some changes in your day to day routine. From paying rent, to grocery shopping, to managing your free time and homework schedule, college comes with a lot of responsibilities you've never had to consider. One of these considerations is your personal finances. You might be wondering, "Where do I even start?". We hear you. Here's 5 helpful tips from our friends at Money Under 30 to follow as a college student getting started in your financial journey.
1. Start to build credit
Credit is an incredibly helpful tool to help you accomplish your future goals, like buying a car, renting an apartment, and taking out loans. But credit takes time to build. Apply for a low interest rate, low limit student credit card and use it wisely to start building credit safely. By the time you graduate, you'll have a great credit score that you can continue to build on when you begin to pay your student loans back.
2. Learn how to budget
Budgeting may seem unnecessary when you have what seems like no money to budget. Maybe you aren't paying rent or any other payment that requires monthly monitoring. You should still start to budget even for the little things you do each day. Strat keeping track of how much you spend on your daily Starbucks and set weekly limits for yourself. Pay attention to how much you spend on groceries each month and try setting a budgeting goal for how much you'd like to spend each month. There's even apps you can use to help you out. Even if it seems like you don't need to budget, practice the skill anyways, because someday you'll need it.
3. Student Loans are not the first line of defense
With all of the news coverage surrounding the Student Loan crisis, it may seem like taking out student loans and going into debt is simply inevitable. It doesn't have to be! Finding scholarships, grants from your school for filling out the FAFSA, and work-study or part-time jobs can all reduce the amount you have to borrow in loans.
4. Utilize Student Discounts
Many retailers will offer you discounts on your favorite items, simply for being a student! With apps like UniDays, you can see what retailers are offering just by providing your school email address. Don't like shopping online? There's several websites that list stores that offer discounts with a student ID and if you're ever in doubt, ask! As a USC Student you can even get the tax removed on food purchases at the campus center and other university dining locations with a student ID.
5. Protect your identity
Nowadays everything we do is online, including manage our finances. This is a great way to be efficient and aware of them. However, with everything being online, you always run the risk of sensitive information being vulnerable. Closely monitor your accounts and your credit for any suspicious activity so you can handle it with your financial institution ASAP. Be careful what sensitive information your share. If a website or service is asking for private information like logins or SSN's, be wary and make sure you ask for more clarification and check who your information is going to before you willingly give it out.