Five Campus Living Financial Tips
As summer comes winding to an end, many families are preparing to send their children off to college. For a first year college student this is often a very exciting time in their life with the opportunity and freedom to live on their own for the first time. However, with great freedom comes great financial responsibility. Among the many lessons to be learned in the classroom, this time is also a great opportunity for young adults to learn strong personal finance habits. Here are five tips that I (along with the “First Bank of Mom and Dad”) wish someone had told me before going off to college.
Take Full Advantage of Your Campus Meal Plan
This may be the low hanging fruit on the list but its importance cannot be stressed enough. Many colleges offer cafeteria meal plans which are often underutilized by students. While rotating cafeteria menus may become repetitive, fully utilizing your meal plan will help curb off-campus food expenditures.
Don’t Buy New Textbooks Unless you Absolutely Need Them
While textbooks may be a lowly thought of college expense, when you consider all of the textbooks that are required to complete a standard 120 credit hour undergraduate degree, book costs can certainly add up. Thankfully, there are textbook rental services available to help minimize textbook expenses. Companies such as Chegg, Amazon and CampusBooks offer textbook rental services to students at a steep discount compared to new textbook retail rates. Going one step further and sharing rental textbooks with classmates can further reduce costs and provide an opportunity to study collaboratively with classmates.
Consider Building Some Credit
The thought of an 18-year-old having access to a line of credit may be a scary sight for some. However, using credit responsibly throughout college can pay dividends for the financially savvy. One strategy is to set the credit card on auto pay and have the card only pay for monthly subscription services such as Netflix or Spotify. Many credit providers offer student credit cards to those with no credit history. Getting a head start on building credit can be beneficial to students upon graduation and should reduce the chances of needing a co-signer on their first post-grad apartment. Be careful with this one! Credit cards in irresponsible hands could do more harm than good if used in excess.
Become Comfortable Asking “Is there a student discount?”
Many businesses offer thinly advertised student discounts. When shopping off campus or in local college town shops, it’s a good habit to ask if there is a student discount available. Being mindful of potential discounts is a skill many people lack. Getting in the habit of asking for a student discount is an opportunity to start building thrifty spending habits.
Consider Picking up a Part Time Campus Job
Checking your campus’s student job boards is an excellent idea if you’re looking for a little extra cash in your pocket. Universities are often in need of students to help service campus facilities such as libraries, computer labs, dining halls, and rec centers. Adding a source of income while attending school can help in funding the daily expenses of a student. Picking up a job will also show responsibility and time management skills on a student’s resume when applying for internships in their field of study.
Despite all these good intentions, the old saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” comes to mind. Parents strive to instill values and responsibility in their kids that will serve them a lifetime, but taking these lessons to heart is ultimately up to them. Living on campus may be your young adult’s first chance to think independently and make decisions on his/her own. By coaching the guidelines above, your high school grad could be on the right track to a bright, financially-responsible future.