It’s September and college students should be settling into their new routines. For college freshmen this can be both overwhelming and exhilarating at the same time. While it’s great being away from your parents and making decisions on your own, it’s also scary being responsible for your own actions all the time. Financial choices you make now could end up causing you a lot of financial hardships down the road. Here are seven money tips you can use to make sure you don’t fall into the college money trap:
1. Shop for Textbooks: While most schools make it easy to purchase your textbooks right online these days, it may not always be the best value for you. Take some time to look at other options for textbooks. These include finding used books, shopping at online bookstores, renting books, using digital versions, and even sharing certain books.
2. Learn to Budget: There is one great lesson you can learn on your own without attending a single class, and that is how to live on a budget. Learn to estimate your income and expenses, and budget your spending wisely so you’re not creating a load of debt for yourself.
3. Make Sure You’re Maximizing Your Financial Aid: Keep in touch with the financial aid office at your school to make sure you have maximized the amount of financial aid you receive. Find out if you are eligible for work-study programs, and let the advisors know if anything has changed in your family life.
4. Be Careful About Student Loan Borrowing: You might hear other students say that they take out student loans and use that money for living expenses, but this can be a bad long-term strategy. Try to use your student loans only to pay for college expenses, and then get a job to earn money for your living expenses.
5. Keep Looking for Scholarships: Searching for college scholarships is not a one-time event. They come out at different times of the year, and there are some that require you to have completed at least one year of college. Ask your professors if there are any scholarships for students with your major.
6. Take Advantage of Student Discounts: Most businesses and entertainment venues around a college campus will offer some type of student discount. Always ask and take advantage of these cost-saving opportunities.
7. Use Credit Carefully: Having credit available for certain expenses is handy, but you can quickly get in over your head if you pull out a credit card every time you buy a coffee. Interest accumulates quickly and that coffee can end up costing an awful lot more if you don’t pay your bill in full every month.
Consult with a Financial Aid Professional
It’s okay if you still need some advice. If you need more ideas about maximizing financial aid or controlling costs while in college, contact College Financial Aid Advisors (CFAA) or visit my About.com website, Paying for College.