Living On a College Income

Limited Cash, Unlimited Fun

Most students are very excited to enter the college or university that they chose to enroll in and enjoy the newfound independence that comes with this experience. Free from the watchful eyes of their parents and caretakers, students are free to explore many different scenes of culture, entertainment, and social life. This is certainly a liberating experience but living in the United States of America, where things are governed by the free market, means that many of these activities cost money. Independence from family comes with the price of needing to pay your own way and the limited opportunities for employment provided to students necessitate spending money wisely. There are many different things that you can do to ensure that you have enough money to enjoy the college experience without sacrificing significantly.

Keeping a Budget

One of the easiest ways to make sure that you have enough money to finance your lifestyle in college and after graduation is to keep a budget of your finances. Keep a record of the purchases you make and the income you generate to see if you are living within your means.

  • Use your computer to make this process easier. Use a spreadsheet program to itemize your spending and receiving habits regarding money. Set your bank and credit card accounts so that you are able to have online access to them. This way, you can easily track your activity on these financial vehicles.

Maintaining Responsibility with your Credit

The sooner you receive a credit card, the better it is for your long term financial security if managed properly. You can start building a credit history and improving your credit score (a measure of your creditworthiness and ability to handle debt). It is important, however, to manage your credit cards effectively to ensure that you do not have to pay fees or interest.

Pay your balance in full every single month if it is possible. The interest rates on credit cards are usually very high (around 30%) and carrying a balance over from month to month will result in surging mountains of debt for you. The minimum payment may be all that is needed to avoid fees, but it does not stop interest from accruing on your account.

Paying Bills on Time

The same philosophy that is given for credit cards should be applied to paying your bills. Make sure that you pay off your bills (rent, electricity, heat, etc.) on time to avoid late fees or possibly cancelled services. Missing payments on your bills is a sign of poor financial control and may mean that you should part with some expenses.

Finding Supplementary Income

In order to pay for all of these bills, you need to have a job. There are many opportunities available on a college campus for work. There are Federal Work Study programs which are a form of financial aid for students. Private employment opportunities are also available at the many restaurants and stores around your college campus. Take a walk around campus and the surrounding area and inquire about jobs in the area.

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