9 Tips to Tackle your Finances as a College Freshman

Ah the freedom, the parties, the 3 am coffee as you cram for exams…

Being a freshman in college is bound to be a fun-filled and enlightening year, but as you might have learned in school, freedom comes with responsibility—including financial responsibility. This is especially important if you’ve already got student loans looming over your head.

So take a moment to figure out your finances, since your parents aren’t going be there to scold you if you spend $100 on a new sweatshirt.

Here are 9 ways you can keep your finances in check when the parents aren’t around to do it for you:

1. Banking: Open a student checking/savings account, if you don’t have one already. You can speak with a bank rep about a 4 year plan for saving and get some free advice from an expert. However, DON’T be tempted by special offers and free gifts into signing up for the bank’s credit card. Starting a credit card habit in college is one thing you don’t need to learn.

2. Expenses: Figure out your monthly expenses, including cell phone bill, meal plan, eating out, entertainment, etc. Now, set a budget for yourself and stick to it. Share your budget plan with your roommate or friend so you have someone who can hold you accountable.

3. Student Loans: If you have student loan debt, write down the exact number of your debt and post it on your mirror or your desk. Keeping that daunting number in mind will make you that much more motivated to study hard and get good grades, but will also make you very keen on saving the precious cash you do have. Spending your cash effectively and wisely and maybe even earning a bit on the side with a part time job, leads us to the next tip…

4. Part-time Job: Consider part-time work during the semester to boost your student budget. The right kind of job could also be very beneficial to your resume if you can find a gig that’s related to your major or study interest. Or if you don’t want to mix studying and working, start searching for a summer job now.

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5. Financial Aid: Just because you’ve already begun your first year in college doesn’t mean that your chance at paying for the rest of your college career is over. Keep researching grants and scholarships for your major or study interests, especially if you are interested in studying abroad. Speak with your adviser to explore your options.

6. Student Discounts: Use your student ID to get dining, shopping and activity discounts on campus, around the city or anywhere you go (at home or abroad!). With a student ID, you can also get great discounts on bus, train and even air travel.

7. Campus Activities: Take advantage of free campus stuff: peruse the libraries (each residence hall will often have its own) for music and movies to borrow, attend free campus festivals, concerts, activities at the various cultural centers. Many universities also have their own “dollar theater” that screen newly released films and favorite cult classics.

8. Transportation: Bike, walk or take public/campus transport if the city has it (and which should be free or discounted with your student ID). If you need a car to get around, start a carpool with roommates or classmates.

9. Reuse and Recycle: Buy or borrow used textbooks, lab equipment, dorm room furniture and appliances or even clothes. To grab one of these cheap (or free) deals, check out bulletin boards and kiosks around campus, student forums online, or look up local Craigslist ads. A stroll around the residential areas of campus may also reveal a free futon or blender just waiting to be picked up off the sidewalk.

Even on days when you’re wondering how in the world you’re going pay off your student loans, just remember that you’re not alone in your student debts. Be as cheap as you want–you’re a college student now, and no one is going to judge.

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This article was written by staff writer Suchi Rudra. Her mission is to help fight your evil debt blob and get your personal finances in tip top shape.
Copyright © 2013 Suchi Rudra

Photo: uonottingham