Managing Your Money
College is a whole new time and experience for young adults. Between going to a whole new school, you may be living on your own, starting your first job, managing money on your own for the first time, and so on. This can be a scary thing, but it is very possible to do it correctly!
These five easy tips will help you make the grade when it comes to managing your money:
This is incredibly important. List monthly income sources and then write down estimated expenses for the month. Use the Net Price Calculator to get an idea of what school will cost, but also think about costs such as school supplies, food, personal care items, and laundry into account. Then, try managing your budget and tracking expenses using an online tool like Mint.com, which helps you easily create and stick to a budget.
Is $30 per week for gas a "need" or a "want?" How much should you budget for food? After a few months tracking expenses, it becomes easier to distinguish wants from needs and put a plan into action. Some students give themselves a weekly cash allowance rather than carry a debit card, and when that week's allowance is gone, they wait until next week for more "wants."
Banks usually cater to students by offering free checking and saving accounts, which allows students to avoid fees on withdrawals or fund transfers. Shop around to find a bank with convenient ATMs near campus so you aren’t hit with out-of-network charges. And keep in mind that checks may take a few days to clear, so keep an eye on the account balance before spending against it.
College is a great time to start building credit (which is crucial for leasing an apartment, purchasing a vehicle, and even landing a job post-graduation), but it's easy for many to rack up a large amount of debt while in school. It's important to understand the difference between credit building and overextending. If you don't know, visit a business professor during office hours and ask!
College graduates tend to have a difficult time balancing student loan payments. Understand what the exact size of your student loan debt will be upon graduation, and come up with a plan for how you will pay it back.
Learning the basics when it comes to money management now means you don't have to graduate with massive debt. Laying the groundwork for smart budgeting and spending habits in college will help you in the future. Just remember, YOU’VE GOT THIS!
Student Loans: How Much Will You Really Owe?
** Based on a Standard 10-Year Repayment Plan with 6.8% interest (unsubsidized loan rate prior to 13-14 school year). Income-based payment plans may decrease monthly payment but increase the number of payments and total amount repaid. Go to FinAid.org or FSA Direct Loans to determine your estimated payments.
Alternatives to Student Loans
- Apply for BCTC Scholarships
- Apply to work on-campus with the Federal Work Study program
- Work part-time off-campus during the semester while taking classes full-time
- Save money earned during the summer to spend during the school year
- Reduce expenses during the school year by creating a budget
- Earn your Associate in Arts or Science at BCTC before transferring to a school with higher tuition costs
Remember! What you borrow now is what you will have to repay later. Ask yourself what you need and what you want to still be paying for in ten years.
Protect Your Credit
You can get a free credit report once a year from each of three consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Know what creditors can see and what may be impacting your ability to borrow in the future. Check for errors and signs of identity theft. Also be aware of strategies to Avoid Identity Theft (PDF) and how to report fraud to the credit bureau, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the police
- Read the fine print. Avoid "easy credit" traps like hard sells and freebies for signing up.
- Don t count debt (student loans) as income when applying for credit.
- Don t co-sign for a friend. Don t be responsible for their mistakes in the future.
- Pay attention to the APR (interest rate) and annual fees. Not all credit cards are created equal.
- Keep it simple: carry only one credit card.
- Only apply for credit that you need.
- Pay in full every month and avoid cash advances.
- Watch out for rewards.
- Be cautious with cards advertised to students.
- Know when to ask for an increase in credit. Only ask for what you can repay.
Payday loan and check cashing businesses offer you cash upfront for a check that is postdated to the date of your next payday. You can either wait for the withdrawal, or you can bring cash in exchange for the check. For about a 15% fee, you can quickly and easily get cash when you need it. However, this quick solution can cause more problems if you're not careful.
- First, though a 15% fee may not seem like much, it's a 15% cut in pay in exchange for getting the cash sooner. A $100 cash advance with a $15 fee (15%) is the equivalent of 391% APR interest rate.
- Second, many borrowers end up taking out a new loan to cover the first when they do not have the cash to pay it off. If you are already a paycheck behind in your expenses, how will you be able to catch up? This can quickly turn into a vicious and expensive cycle. Instead, think about ways to reduce your expenses so you can stop living paycheck-to-paycheck.
- Third, if you do not have the funds the date the check is postdated and do not reclaim it, you may be subject to fraud charges in addition to bounced check fines. The bad check law for Kentucky is: Up to $500 fine. One year in penitentiary for a misdemeanor. Felony punishable by imprisonment from one to five years and a fine of not more than $10,000, or double the offender's gain from commission of the crime, whichever is greater. (Learn more at www.ckfraud.org.)