Congratulations on your high school graduation! Although you’ve learned a ton of information over the last four years, chances are you missed one important lesson. According to the Council for Economic Education, only 17 states require students to take a class on personal finance. This is a big deal considering the fact that millions of Americans are walking around with credit card debt. Before you head off to college, we have 5 tips that will guarantee a bright financial future.
Look for a part time job
As much as your parents love you, they don’t want to be stuck paying your bills forever. Start making strides towards your financial independence by going out and getting a job. Preferably, a part-time position so you can still focus on your schoolwork when you start college in the fall. Earning your own cash teaches you to be responsible, builds your resume and can help lighten your parents financial load. Since you won’t be making a ton of cash, your parents probably won’t expect you to pay rent but there are some smaller bills you can handle. For instance, your monthly cell phone bill, personal care items, clothing and outings with friends.
Use a budgeting app
When the money finally starts rolling in, you’ll need to create a budget and track your spending. This will allow you to see where your money is going, how much you have left and areas where you’re overspending. The easiest way to maintain a good budget is to download a budgeting app on your smartphone. Not sure which one to choose? Our top picks are featured in the “Best apps for keeping your budget in check”.
Get in the habit of saving
At some point, you’re going to want a car or your own place but you can’t get either one without any savings. Aim to set aside at least 10 percent of your check whenever you get paid. If you don’t already have a bank account, we suggest you get one. You’ll need a checking account to pay your bills and a savings account for your financial goals. Before opening either one, do your research and read the fine print. Most banks charge fees if you overdraft your account, if you use an out-of-network ATM, or don’t maintain a minimum balance.
Start building your credit but avoid debt
Once you turn 18, you become fresh meat for credit card companies. They know college students are just starting out and need to build their credit so they have “student credit cards” targeting that audience. Typically, all you’ll need is proof of income or a co-signer. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is free money. Every month, you’ll be expected to pay your statement balance by the due date. Failing to do so will result in late fees and can damage your credit. Always use your card responsibly and only charge what you can afford to pay back.
Be a smart shopper
One thing that gets a lot of people in trouble is impulse shopping. You can save a lot of money by asking yourself if the coveted item is a “need” or “want” and implementing a 24-hour waiting period before making a purchase. Chances are as the time the time passes, you’ll forget what you even wanted. For those attending college in the fall, keeping your student ID handy can also help you stretch your budget. That’s because many businesses offer special discounts to college students. Participants include Apple, Amtrak, J. Crew and a host of others. Even if you don’t see an offer being advertised, it doesn’t hurt to ask anyway. The worst they can say is no.