By Joel Johnson
Starting college is exciting, but it’s common for students to accrue thousands in debt on the journey towards graduation. FirstBank, one of the nation’s largest privately held banks with a focus on “banking for good,” aims to help young adults manage their own finances and avoid hefty bills.
Managing money and student loans can cause a lot of stress for college students. By adopting smart money habits early, college students can look forward to a rewarding college career and graduating with as little debt as possible.
As part of its “banking for good” campaign, FirstBank is aiming to help consumers spend less and save more by providing easy-to-follow tips and tricks. They recommend these nine tips to help college students avoid going broke or racking up costly debt.
Keep tabs on your expenses.
More often than not, a student’s financial situation is going to be fluid. Expenses and income will change on a weekly basis. A good way to manage uncertainty is by writing down all expenses, including tuition, fees, books, rent, utilities, food, gas, parking, entertainment and even travel costs for when they head home during breaks. Knowing what has to be paid will cut back on unexpected and unwanted costs. Keep track of every dollar spent using an app like Pennies, and dedicate one day a week to reassess progress.
Determine your needs and wants.
Whether it’s an elaborate Excel sheet or a piece of scratch paper posted on the fridge, put a budget into writing and live by it. Determine what needs to be purchased or paid off—rent, groceries, bills, etc. Then make a “wants list”—a new pair of shoes, going out to dinner with friends, a trip to the neighboring college town. When the needs have been met, indulge in the wants. Anything extra should go to savings.
Know what groceries to buy.
Spending money on food is often the hardest to control, because the lure of fast food is everywhere. Put the brakes on fast-casual meals, and instead, make a list of items you need, price it online, then head to the store to compare costs. Find the cheapest and healthiest ways to eat and learn to resist impulse items at checkout. Buying staples in bulk, purchasing whole produce over pre-cut produce, and steering clear of middle aisles—where the most expensive brand names are strategically placed—will also help cut costs.
Employ money-saving strategies.
Embrace thriftiness and save some cash by brewing coffee at home, carrying a reusable water bottle, renting textbooks, or utilizing free campus transportation. Even walking or biking around campus will not only save money, but help students explore the area and find hidden gems. You may be surprised how quickly small savings can add up.
Make some cash with a side hustle.
If you’re looking to boost your savings or to get some extra spending money, pick up a part-time gig. These five side jobs provide quick and easy ways to make some extra money. Other opportunities include rebate apps or online surveys, which can offer nice cash incentives.
Beware of credit cards.
College students can get bombarded with credit card offers. They may seem enticing to the untrained eye, but many have high interest rates and fees. Before filling out an application, compare cards, and talk to a parent about the responsibilities and potential drawbacks of taking on credit card debt.
Take a personal finance class.
Use electives wisely. Instead of taking bowling, golf or pottery, enroll in a personal finance course. Learning the ins and outs of money management will not only encourage appropriate spending behaviors, but also plant the seeds towards financial freedom.
Nix recurring payments.
Forty-eight percent of consumers sign up for free trials that automatically renew without their knowledge, according to Creditcards.com. These unknown fees or recurring expenses could be money-sucking expenditures you don’t need. Spend time reviewing your subscriptions or recurring payments, such as streaming services and gym memberships, to evaluate if they can be eliminated. Make sure to review these expenses every few months to ensure you’re not enrolled in any unwanted services following a free trial.
Master the 72-hour rule.
The average person spends $450 a month impulsively. Whenever you feel the urge to splurge, force yourself to wait three days before deciding whether or not to buy those items in your Amazon shopping cart. This will help stave off any impulse buys and make you less likely to buy big-ticket items you don’t need.
“Whether you’re just starting college or you’re entering your final semester, it’s never too early or late to adopt sensible money-saving habits,” said Johnson. “We hope that these tips can be useful to students in managing their finances while staying on top of their studies.”
To further jump-start strong savings habits, FirstBank is offering anyone who opens an Anywhere Account a $300 bonus (certain restrictions apply).
For more money-saving and financial health tips, check out FirstBank’s “Smart Cents” blog at www.efirstbankblog.com.
Joel Johnson is the market president of FirstBank’s East Valley Market in Arizona. He is responsible for the management and oversight of six FirstBank branch locations, which includes a group of nine loan officers and over 50 branch operational staff employees. Additionally, he is also part of the Arizona management team that is responsible for all Arizona state-wide marketing efforts, and future growth/branch expansion plans. www.efirstbank.com.