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Simple Tips to Take Some of the Financial Stress Out of Your College Experience

So… you got there!

Freedom; unlimited opportunity; independence.

Adulthood?… not quite.

Beginning ones college experience is exhilarating and liberating, just as much as it is overwhelming and stressful. Gone are the days of having your homework checked each morning to make sure it was completed, or having the school call home because you cut math class. While this new-found independence is new and exciting, it can lead to some bad habits.

As a college freshman, you are expected to come up with a routine that keeps you productive, social, and dedicated to putting in the needed work to complete assignments and attend classes …pretty much on your own.

While you’re busy learning how to become an independent student, it can be difficult to manage your money responsibly. This is potentially your first time ever without a weekly allowance, you may not have time to take on a part-time job, and no one’s there to hand you $20 when you want to go to the movies with your friends. You learn fast, just how quickly money can slip away.

But, don’t fret! Almost every new college student experiences some kind of financial stress–fortunately, there are ways to avoid it.

First, try taking advantage of mobile banking apps so you can track your spending AND your account balance.

For those of you using your first credit card–Do NOT let the power of the unlimited swipe cause you to be careless. Two words you may not have considered before:

  • Debt
  • Interest

These little devils are going to haunt you well after college if you’re not careful. Be smart about spending so you don’t have those financial burdens consume you when you should be enjoying the best of what being a college student is all about!

Whether you use a credit or debit card, create a monthly budget for yourself and be mindly to keep track of overdraft or interest fees.

Most importantly, separate your wants from your needs–make a list if you feel it’ll keep you focused.

Use cash for as many purchases possible so you can physically see the amount of money you’re spending. Guess what? You’ll be happy you did! Spending becomes more realistic when it’s physical exchange of money, and thus, more avoidable. Plus, you’ll avoid the additional anxiety of constantly checking your account balance.

One silver lining of paying an arm and a leg for college tuition, are the many amenities you can take advantage of. You’ll likely have free access to a number of Dining halls, work-out facilities, bookstores, movie theatres, etc… all over campus. Most school’s even supply discounts on textbooks and other necessities–all you need to do is show your student ID card and you’ll save some money.

OK, so, you’ve bargained your way around all the supplies you need for classes. You’ve made smart choices with regards to the money you spend on food and recreation. You’re using all the resources you have to get the most out of your college experience, at the lowest cost.

But WAIT… There’s still one more battle to conquer… or at least level with… FOMO.

The Fear Of Missing Out is a silent killer for all college kids; Freshman, Seniors, Grad students–it affects everyone. Sometimes, you just have to accept that staying home is the better, smarter option than blowing $50 at the bar when you’re running low on money. Seeing your friends go out and have fun without you isn’t easy, be it a roaring night on the town, or just a quick dinner with friends at Buffalo Wild Wings. It stinks!

Spending money you don’t have is a pretty poor option as well, however, so be smart, even if it means missing a couple of nights out here and there. Saving that extra cash will benefit you in the long run. You may be able to buy a new football jersey for tailgates, or save up to get a jean jacket that you’ll wear for years.

It may seem silly, but when you’re learning to manage your money for the first time, the little savings here and there, can teach you the most. You’ll learn the value of the dollar, putting an educated budget together, and reap the financial benefits you gain from taking a rain check on a costly social event every once in a while.

College is a place where you’ll learn to be an independent adult, and a lot about life–including good and bad monetary decisions. You’ll of course make a bunch of mistakes too… especially with money! What’s most important is that you learn from these mis-steps and evolve into a responsible, capable, and well-rounded individual–one who is debt free and understands the value of saving money and spending wisely.

Enjoy the wonderful experience, it’ll be over in the blink of an eye–just make sure you have some cash in your pockets when you graduate!