4 Financial Tips for College Students

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.

Article Sources:

https://www.debt.org/students/financial-tips-college-students/

https://www.meratas.com/blog/how-to-manage-money-as-a-college-student

https://www.moneyunder30.com/financial-tips-for-new-college-students

Going Back to College? What’s Truly Essential for Your Dorm

Back-to-college shopping can get expensive. Besides tuition and books, there’s clothing, class supplies, and dorm essentials. The National Retail Federation’s Back to College survey reports that this year students (or their parents) will spend an average of $969.88 for dorm furnishings and college supplies. Of this spending, the top four categories are projected to be electronics, clothing, food items, and furnishings.

While this might seem like a small dent compared to the cost of tuition and housing, it can take a significant chunk out of a student’s savings or, worse, end up on a credit card. The question then, is how many of these ‘essentials’ are necessary? Regardless of how convincingly retailers market their back to college lists and attractively arrange their mock dorm showrooms, it’s doubtful students really need all of that.

Based on feedback from students and parents who have learned the hard way, here are a few things you do and don’t need as you start getting ready to go back to college.

1. Furniture and Appliances: Be Picky

It sounds plausible that students without full access to a kitchen would want their own microwave, toaster, or mini-fridge, but students often find that these are either redundant (many dorms have a common area that includes these appliances), take up too much space, or don’t get utilized much. Go light on the kitchen appliances, especially if you or your student is on a meal plan. On the other hand, appliances like small fans might be useful (and don’t cost much).

Colleges usually supply basic furniture, but if you need to fill in a few gaps, bring items from home or shop second-hand. After all, you’re shopping for items that will probably only get used a maximum of four years. The one furniture item many students recommend spending a little more on is their bed. Between sleeping and studying, a mattress pad and comfortable blankets and pillows will pay for themselves.

2. Personalize, But Don’t Deck It Out

Another category that eats over $100 of that survey average is dorm décor. It can be easy to get carried away with making a new space into a personal statement, especially if you enjoy decorating. Remember: it’s only temporary. Spending money on how your room looks isn’t something you’ll look back on as a good investment in your education.

On the other hand, saving money doesn’t mean you need to settle for an outdated dorm room. Put up a picture board, bring some personal items from home, hit the thrift shops, and choose décor items that are also functional (like a cushioned footstool that doubles as storage).

3. Don’t Forget Practical Things

If you’re too focused on dorm room aesthetics, you might forget to save some cash for practical items – the things that come in handy when your home consists of a tiny room shared with another person. For instance, things like adhesive hooks and non-mounted shelves for storage, power strips with USB plug-ins for those scarce outlets, and a sewing kit for missing buttons or small tears – are all practical things nearly everyone will find useful. They also happen to be inexpensive.

4. Start Simple and Buy for Your Needs

Despite the lure of sales and beating the long lines at the local department stores on move-in weekend (remember, there’s always online shopping with direct delivery), the best overall strategy for shopping for college dorm supplies is to wait until you’re settled in. It’s better to start with less than you need and shop for specific items than to over-anticipate your needs and be wasteful.

Want to earn cash back on all your back to school purchases this year? Apply for a Visa Signature Credit Card from First Financial! You’ll earn 1% cash back, no restrictions.*

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa® Signature Credit Card. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. APR varies up to 18% for the Visa Signature Card when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date. Visa Signature Card Cash Back: Your First Financial Visa® Signature Credit Card will earn cash back based on your eligible purchase transactions. The cash back will be applied to your current credit card balance on a quarterly basis and be shown cumulatively on your billing statement. Unless you are participating in a limited time promotional offer, you will earn 1% cash back based upon eligible purchases each quarter.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Moneyning.com

How to Get Your Child Financially Prepared for College

college-students-awesomeAfter high school graduation, your teen will probably be spending the summer gathering dorm necessities, picking classes and hunting for the cheapest textbooks.

One major point of focus should also be signing up for the right student financial accounts, specifically checking accounts and credit cards. With so many choices, it can be confusing for parents and students, but there are simple approaches to getting college-bound kids financially prepared.

Pick the Right Checking Account

When looking for a checking account, parents may be quick to sign their children up to their own banks or to a major bank close to home. However, that approach may not be the best for the college student.

Since college students may need cash for spontaneous occasions, it is important to have an in-network ATM at or near the college campus. Constant cash withdrawals at out-of-network ATMs can amount to plenty of fees. At the 10 largest U.S. banks, the average out-of-network ATM fee is $2.45. Furthermore, the operator of the out-of-network ATM has the right to impose a surcharge, which typically ranges from $2 to $3.

Besides location convenience, parents also have to consider their ability to fund their kid’s accounts. Parents and students should research which financial institutions are around campus and near home to find the one with a student checking account that would allow them to stay financially connected. Parents, you should also make sure that the financial institution you choose has instant transfers during the times you have to transfer money into your child’s account electronically – you don’t want a 1-2 day delay period.

First Financial’s has a great Student Checking Account available for 14 to 23 year old students!*

Sign Up for the Right Credit Card

Credit cards are less attainable by college students since the Credit Card Act of 2009 took effect, requiring anyone under age 21 to provide proof of reliable income to qualify for a card. If a student can qualify for a credit card on his or her own, it is crucial to evaluate spending and repayment habits to maximize any rewards and minimize interest paid.

For instance, a student who will be driving around campus may prefer to get a credit card that offers rewards on gas purchases. Or if a student doesn’t expect to be able to pay off their balances every month, he or she may opt for a card that doesn’t have rewards but carries a lower interest rate.

The more likely situation would involve parents adding their children as authorized users on an existing credit card account. Parents can limit how much their children can spend on their authorized cards, and when the occasion calls for it, they can raise or reduce the limits accordingly. As authorized card users, students can also start building their credit profiles, which can increase their chances of qualifying for credit cards and loans in the future.

Keep an Open Line of Communication

Do your children know what to do in the case of a financial emergency? College students may encounter dilemmas that cannot be solved with the financial means available to them.

Parents should keep an open line of communication that would allow their children to contact them in the event of financial distress, regardless of how bad the situation may be. It’s important for parents to continue providing financial and emotional support, so their kids can focus on the most important aspect of college: their education.

Click here to view the article source courtesy of Simon Zhen of US News.

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.