The summer between high school graduation and college can be a big transition. If you're like many students, college could be the first time you'll be living on your own and managing your everyday finances. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to help you save money as you get ready to head off to college.
Here are five tips to help you start college off on the right financial foot:
#1: Shop smart for college essentials
Between textbooks, school supplies and dorm room necessities, college costs can add up fast. To help cut down on these expenses, make a “back-to-college" spending plan. Consider buying textbooks at used bookstores or renting them online. Instead of buying brand-new equipment like a mini-fridge, coffee maker, printer or TV for your dorm room, look for something gently used or split the cost with roommates. Rather than purchasing trendy dorm decorations, get creative with DIY photo displays or handmade art. You'll save money and make your dorm room feel like home!
#2: Take advantage of student discounts
Your student ID can help you save big throughout your college years! Many retail stores, restaurants and even subscription services offer special discounts for students. Keep these potential discounts in mind as you're shopping for new college gear like a laptop, clothes and dorm décor. Once you start school, getting good grades may also help you save money. Some insurance and cell phone providers will reward students with special discounts for maintaining a high GPA.
#3: Track your spending
Outside of the classroom, one of the best lessons you can learn in college is how to keep track of your money. A budget helps you plan where your money needs to go each month, so you can avoid unplanned spending.
You can create your own budget using a worksheet, spreadsheet or a digital tool like Money Management, a free service of Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU) Mobile and Online Banking. With Money Management, you can track your spending, create a monthly budget and set savings goals all in one place. It's great for busy college students!
#4: Use credit responsibly
Once you turn 18, you will start to receive a lot of credit card offers. A student credit card can be a great tool to help you build credit history, but it's important to use credit responsibly. Make sure you have enough money set aside to pay off your credit card bill each month. If you miss payments, you could end up creating debt and hurting your credit score.
#5: Start saving now
It's never too early to start saving. Even if you can only save a small amount, building the habit now will make it easier to save when you graduate and start your career. Consider setting up an automatic weekly or monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account. Once you get used to a routine, you may not even miss having the extra money!
Your college years are a great time to build strong money skills. Practice these habits now, and you'll be well-prepared for life in college and beyond!
WPCU is here to help new college students navigate the basics of smart money management. Visit WPCU.StudentChoice.org for financial education tips, tools and resources on everything from student loans to building a budget.