Financial Footing For The New Year

The beginning of a new year is an opportunity for optimism, fresh starts and new ideas. What better time to reassess your finances and get yourself on solid financial footing for the spring semester? Here are few ideas to jumpstart your efforts.

Make A Spending Plan

One of the most basic steps in gaining more control over your finances is to have a good idea of where your money is going. It’s especially important to set up a budget for this next term if you found yourself short on cash at the end of last semester. Assuming your tuition and fees have already been paid, start by writing down all of your other fixed expenses for the semester such as your monthly cell phone bill, essential food items, gas to get to school, daycare expenses (if you have children), or car insurance payments. Then list your other must‑have expenses such as personal care items. Enter these items into a spreadsheet or worksheet. Next, enter all your sources of income including financial aid refunds, any remaining funds from summer earnings, expected help from your parents and estimated income from your job if you have one. Subtract your expenses from your income to determine if you will have enough money to keep things in balance and think carefully about how to spread your money over the course of the semester to make it last. If you find yourself in the red, you will need to cut back on some non‑essential items and/or find ways to make additional income.


Use A Calendar

Calendars are not just for noting your class schedule or social events. They can also be an effective money management tool by helping you set due date reminders for your monthly bills. Also, they can help you manage your time more effectively which may help you avoid those last minute stops to a fast food restaurant when you are running late for class or an appointment.


Keep Better Track Of Your Spending

Set a goal to keep track of and review your spending more often. It’s much easier to do now that many banks offer online access to your account information and mobile apps. Ever wonder where all the cash you withdrew from the ATM went? Try writing down where you spent those funds for a week or two and you may be surprised how much went towards purchases you really didn’t need. Consider taking less cash out next time and using your debit card instead.


Phone A Friend

No, not literally, but consider enlisting your friends and/or family members into a social challenge to help all of you curb your spending impulses. All of us have our weak points when it comes to spending money and sometimes we just need a little help or incentive to keep our longer term goals right in front of us. So make a pledge to send a text message or post a photo to each other before making an impulse purchase over the course of one to two weeks. Ask each other for support or words of advice to resist the urge to spend. Offer a small prize or incentive (e.g. wash their car or do their laundry) for the one who spends the least or who gets the most “likes” for their words of encouragement. We’d love to hear about how it went, so come back and post a comment about your experience here on startwithchange.com.


Start Looking for a Summer Internship

It’s never too early to start to start planning for a summer internship. Visit your school’s career placement office to find out about companies looking for interns and learn about the application process. Many internships pay you a salary or stipend which can help will some of your expenses. They are also a great addition to your resume that may help you land a job after you graduate.


Explore Career Opportunities And Salary Potential

If you haven’t already done so, begin to explore the possible career opportunities associated with the degree you expect to obtain. Explore your interests and research expected employment openings and their average starting salaries by visiting sites like mynextmove.org or bls.gov which provide access to the latest information. Knowing what you can reasonably expect as a starting salary will help you gauge whether you’ll be able to manage your student loans and other living expenses when you graduate.

Using some of these suggestions will hopefully take some of the stress out of your day-to-day routine and let you focus on having a successful spring semester.

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