Remember those days when you were prepping for adulthood or you’re now working with your children on being ready for the ‘real world?’” I think it’s safe to assume that it can certainly be a rocky road trying to get set up on your own and even scary at times. Remembering how to do laundry properly as to not bleach or shrink anything can be daunting at times and Ramen Noodles have the leading role for lunch and dinner. Even more terrifying though, is keeping track of expenses, having to budget, and paying bills all the time. To compound matters, taking all this on while going to school leaves everyone with full plates, therefore, I’ve learned it’s good to know these little nuggets of information as soon as possible!
Let’s start with good old fashioned budgeting. Back in the day, I used to buy my lunch at school. Why? Because I’d rather have the hot lunch of chicken nuggets than a cold sandwich and gummies that I would pack. So my parents each month would stick a month’s worth of lunch money in a cup kept in the pantry and I had to make it last all month. So when I wanted two slices of pizza on Friday instead of one, I had to figure out how to make that happen, only at the time, I didn’t realize my parents were teaching me how to budget. It might’ve taken me two weeks of saving my change before getting that extra slice, but it taught me well! How sneaky of them! It’s served me well as I transitioned into being an adult.
Finances used to be saving all your receipts, hand balancing your checkbook, look at your bank statements in paper form and overall spend a few hours with a calculator. Now, however, you can use any app you want to work it all out for you. Apps like Mint, Check, and Manilla can help you budget, track where you’re spending the most money, notify you when you overspend, help you set saving goals, and focus on balancing your accounts and paying bills. Depending on what you need, there are apps to help and keep the days of old in the past! But it’s good to get into practicing how to budget, how to save and how to pay bills early on so when life gets even crazier after schooling, the learning curve won’t be so steep!
Another thing to look into when first starting out is finding the best bank or credit union for you. Banks like to take advantage of fresh-faced students new to taking on the world of finances, so shopping around is highly recommended in order to find the best fit that isn’t a rip off! Talk with family and friends about who they used when starting out because they’ll definitely know what’s what and be able to help steer you in the right direction. Keep in mind to avoid banking arrangements that charge monthly maintenance, ATM or excessive overdraft fees.
Similarly, credit card companies know when they can profit off the inexperienced student ready to use the card like it’s water. Like shopping for the right bank, look for credit cards that don’t have extra fees, allow a grace period for finance charges and offer things like cash back, discounts and filer miles. Again, talking to family and friends before applying for a credit card will help tremendously! I’ve definitely been guilty of talking to my parents about which ones have worked best for them, which have been money traps, and which really have benefit them in terms of rewards. Just remember to pay it off in full whenever you can to keep your credit good!
On to student loans! Usually when the words ‘student’ and ‘loans’ are mentioned side by side, a groan is usually followed by it and maybe some seizure like spazzing (I am very guilty of that!). However, it tends to be the way people get to go through school, regardless if it’s a private or public institution. With tuition prices all over the country soaring, seemingly at random times and unexpectedly, it’s difficult to go to school without any financial assistance. For example, while I was at Virginia Tech for my four years I lived in the cheapest dorms on campus because they were the oldest and lacked a lot of new amenities. However, they have new dorms now and those lucky students now pay the highest on campus for lodging. Crazy right? Guess I got lucky! On the bright side, though, there are options to keep the loans manageable.
Depending on your own finances, you can look at options such as paying on the interest while still in school, changing the number of years you want to pay on it, to taking on only interest payments while you get on your feet. Or, to lower the amount of financial aid you’ll need, you can apply for every scholarship known to man in existence. High schools offer scholarships, community groups offer them as well as your school of choice and a whole host of other scholarships are on scholarships.com and zinch.com (these websites are a gold mine and I wish I had known about them when I was going to school).
From my own experiences as a recent college graduate, I highly recommend speaking with a financial aid person before starting your first semester. Had I know I could’ve made payments on interest, even if it was a small amount, that would’ve helped me out by graduation. The financial aid people will be able to offer up more insight than the brochures do and can really help you deal with your finances as best you can.
Last but not least, on-campus jobs or work study jobs can be really beneficial. Not only does it give students opportunities to have some pocket change, but they are sometimes tied to financial packages, depending on where you go and what the job is. You can find the options usually on the schools’ website or check in at career and student services. My sister had nearly a full ride at college but to help with the extra that was left over, she did work study through her four years and not only did she really enjoy the financial benefits, but she enjoyed getting work experience and the people she got to work with and become friends with.
Hopefully these little tid bits of information will help you or your future college student in being prepared for the transition and stay turned for an article about college aid planning!