Many U.S. colleges and universities are already back in session, as we approach the Labor Day holiday. If you’re back in school or just beginning college as a freshman, you already know you have a lot more freedom – but there’s also more responsibility. The financial decisions you make now, can often determine whether you can live comfortably in your financial future. Having some guidelines at this stage in your life can help cut down on unnecessary spending, and can also help you save more for your future.
Here are some tips to consider as you are making your own financial decisions:
1. Save for an Emergency Fund – Always have extra finances set aside in case you encounter a sudden emergency. This will help you to avoid debt and can save you from a sudden financial restriction. A good rule of thumb is to save around 10% of the money you get. One easy way to do this is to have another bank account for your emergency funds. That way, your normal expenses will come from your main account and your emergency savings will be kept separate so as to not be tempted to use it.
2. Take Care of Your Credit – Being in college will likely be the first time you will encounter a credit card. Even if you manage to get a card with a high limit, you should never maximize your limit. A good rule here is to keep your credit usage at around 30%. If you end up owing too much, you could incur high-interest charges that can send you into a debt problem.
Another strategy you could follow is to only use the card if you have money to pay for the purchase right away. Save that money for when the payment is due. That way, you don’t overspend and can work toward building a good credit score. Having a high credit score can help you land better loan rates in the future.
3. Start Investing & Saving for Retirement – Starting to invest and save for your future retirement early can make a difference when it comes to your future income. You may consider working on an IRA (Individual Retirement Account), or investing in the stock market – especially once you start working. Whatever your decision, be sure that you are making your money work for you. It is also a good idea to meet with a financial advisor to help you manage any investment or retirement accounts you may have, once you do start your first full-time job.
4. Budget Your Food Expenses – Food can take up most of your budget if you’re not careful. From fast food to splurging on snacks, this can empty your wallet fast. By setting a budget for your food, you’ll think about ways to make the most out of it. You’ll begin looking for cheaper yet more filling options. Another way to approach this is to plan your groceries ahead of time. By knowing exactly what you’re going to buy, you can control the amount you spend on food. Even a bit of research online can give you access to inexpensive yet satisfying meals.
Don’t Fear Mistakes
Part of learning how to be better with money is making a few mistakes along the way. Don’t put yourself down if you made a mistake with the money you spent. Simply take note of the mistake, and try to prevent it from happening again. As long as you keep improving and developing good financial habits, you’ll be setting yourself up for your future financial success.