10 Steps to Managing Your Money
1. Track your spending
Track your spending for two to four weeks to find out where your money is going. Are four trips to Starbucks a week really necessary? Usually, just by tracking expenses, you'll start to curb expenses.
Consider the Latte Factor: Yes, caffeine can be addictive, but let's say you buy a latte every day on the way to class at $3.75 each. By the end of the school year, you will have spent more than $600!
2. Form a plan
The best way to manage your money over the course of a semester is to sit down and map out a budget. List sources of income such as scholarships, loans, money from summer jobs and cash from your parents, as well as expenses, such as tuition, books and groceries.
3. Good time money
If you know you need to buy a new CD or go to a concert or party every week, make room for that in your budget. You're in college, you need some form of entertainment. Otherwise, you can get burned out if you don't do anything fun. Just plan for it in your budget.
4. Pace yourself
If you spend, spend, spend at the beginning of the semester; you could be tapped out later. Give yourself a spending limit for each week. Stick to it and you won't have to eat mac-and-cheese or McDonald's Value Meals every day in December.
5. Go easy on your credit cards
One quick way to spend beyond your means is to charge it. Use credit cards sparingly. Once you get into the habit of reaching for a Visa or MasterCard, it can be hard to stop. Who wants to pay interest on a bag of Doritos or tacos from Taco Bell you bought during your freshman year, five years after you graduate?
According to a recent study, 74% of undergraduates reported using credit cards for school supplies (paper, notebooks, etc.). This was the No. 1 reported use of cards! The second most common usage of credit cards reported by undergraduates was a tie between textbooks and food, with 71% reporting these as charged expenses. Slightly less than 24% reported using credit cards for tuition.
6. Set your own credit line
Just because you have a credit card with a $2,000 credit line doesn't mean you have to spend $2,000. If you know you can only pay back $500, then just spend that. Afraid you'll spend as long as there's room on the card? Call your credit card company and request your credit limit be lowered. Keep at it. Card companies will try boost up your credit lines so you spend more. Tell them "no" each time they try.
Here's another interesting fact: According to a recent study, as students progress through school, credit card usage swells. In fact, 91% of final-year students have a credit card, compared with 42% of freshmen. What's more, 56% of final-year students carry four or more cards, while only 15% of freshmen carry that many. Final-year students carry an average balance of $2,864 while freshmen carry an average balance of $1,585.
7. Stuff happens
If you bust your budget on something you really, really want to do this week, make up for it next week. If you find that you must go out to dinner and a movie one week, spend the money, be satisfied with the decision and commit to staying in your dorm room, eating at the dining hall (you're already paying for a meal plan, so use it) and not making any other purchases the following week.
8. Look ahead
Whether it's spring break with friends or an auto insurance bill, if you know a big expense is coming, start putting some money aside to pay for it now. It's a lot easier to set aside $50 every month than to come up with $300 when the bill is due.
9. Spread it out
Most of the big expenses are at the beginning of the school year. Buy books as you need them. That will spread out expenses. Don't forget to check out prices from online bookstores. They may give you a better deal than the campus bookstore. Buy used books whenever possible.
10. Ask for help when you need it
It's very difficult to say '"I'm in trouble and I need $2,000" or "I spent my student loan money." If you screw up, get some courage and phone home. The longer you put it off, the worse things get.
The information on this page is provided solely as a guideline and is not intended to serve as professional financial advising.