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Navigating College

4 Tips for Financial Success

Ali Hardy Mar 15, 2019

Many high school students find themselves heading into new terrain as they set their sights towards college. From scholarships to student loans — navigating the financial side of higher education can be overwhelming. Consider these four simple tips as you prepare for the road ahead.

Open a Bank Account

Opening your own checking and savings account is a top priority. When comparing your options, look at requirements like minimum monthly balances and maintenance fees. Talk to a banker if you have additional questions.

Because life at college is busy, make sure the account offers digital tools to manage your money, such as:

  • A debit card that supports Apple, Google or Samsung Pay.
  • Online banking to manage your finances from your computer.
  • A mobile banking app to deposit checks from your phone and skip a trip to the bank.
  • ATMs available near you for when you need cash.

Also, look for tools and resources to manage your money, such as overdraft protection or email notifications when your checking account is running low.

Develop a Budget

It may not sound exciting, but sticking to a budget is the most critical element of successful money management. It’s also much easier than you might realize. Websites and apps like Mint, You Need a Budget and Wally are a few free money management tools to create and follow a budget. Features include income and expense tracking, identifying needs versus wants, goal setting and graphic insights about current spending habits. Developing good habits now is key to achieving financial success after you leave college.

Have an Emergency Fund

Life happens. You need a way to handle unanticipated expenses. A $500 emergency fund will save you from going to a payday lender or another high-interest option when an emergency hits. Consider keeping this money in a savings account separate from your checking account, so you don’t spend it by accident. Putting money into savings on a regular basis is a good practice for the future. Everyone should have at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in savings.

Be Careful of Credit Cards

According to a survey by Experian, 30 percent of college students had credit card debt six months prior to graduation. Unfortunately, it can be easy to take the “spend now, pay later” approach. Pay credit cards in full each month to build a good credit score and stay out of debt. If you cannot commit to paying off your card each month, it’s best to avoid them for now.

Remember that financial success as a student is attainable, and although college brings many challenges, there are tools and resources to help along the way. 

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