6 Must-Follow Money Tips to Help You Survive the New School Year

As you settle in for the fall semester it’s a great time to review your cash flow and make a plan so you’ll have enough money to get you through the semester.

Review your financial aid package.

Make sure you understand the difference between grants, which you don’t have to pay back, and loans, which you DO have to pay back—even if you don’t complete your degree. Make sure you are borrowing only what you need to cover tuition, fees and essential living expenses; you are not required to accept all the loan money that your school offers you.

Figure out your income for the semester.

Add up: 1) your savings from summer earnings, 2) any money from financial aid that you may receive as a refund after your required tuition and fee bill has been paid and 3) any earnings you expect to make during the semester. The result is a good estimate of what you have to live on for the semester.

Develop a spending plan.

The very idea of budgeting probably makes your eyes glaze over, but it’s the most important single step you can take to put yourself on a solid financial footing. Creating a simple monthly plan will let you see where your money goes—monthly bills such as rent, car insurance, internet or cell phone—and how much you may have left over for miscellaneous expenses such as food and entertainment. Use a budget worksheet to make the process easier, and be sure to check it often during the semester and make adjustments as needed. If you’re not sure how you have been spending your money, go through your bank statements, bills and other receipts for the last three to four months and tally up the totals in each category (restaurants, entertainment, coffee, bills, etc.). You’ll be amazed at some of things you’re spending money on and how quickly small amounts add up!

Plug the leaks.

As you review your expenses, identify two or three things that you could have done without. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What do I spend money on that I don’t really need?
  • Are there ways to reduce my fixed expenses, such as rent or cell phone charges?
  • Can I reduce the amount I spend on groceries without sacrificing good nutrition?

This will help you understand your priorities and clarify needs versus wants.

Set aside funds for emergencies.

You never know when life is going to get in the way, so it’s important to have some funds on tap for an emergency. Unexpected expenses such as home or car repair can easily crop up, and the last thing you want to do is rely on credit cards or additional loans to bail you out. While most financial planners recommend an amount equal to three to six months of your living expenses, this may not be realistic for most college students. The key is to start small. If you’re receiving a financial aid refund, for example, plan to set aside a few hundred dollars and make a pledge not to spend it.

Be careful with credit!

If you have a credit card (or several), only charge what you know you can pay off each month. Whenever possible, avoid making large purchases—such as a new computer or TV—with credit. Instead, set aside money until you have enough to pay cash.

Remember, it’s about finding the right balance between what you want and what you can reasonably afford. Every small sacrifice will help develop good money habits and pay off big time in the long run!



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  • Dee

    I think taking $10 a week and putting it in your savings (especially if your working can save your money, or in vest in your company stocks