4 Ways to Get Financially Fit Before College

It’s almost time to go back to school and college freshmen might be getting a surprise when they realize the cost of college doesn’t end with the tuition bill. Whether students are living in the dorms, at home, or renting, they are all transitioning into a new environment with a new lifestyle and new expenses.

College students are notorious for eating out for too many meals, taking out too many loans, and not worrying about their debt until it’s time to start paying it off. However, just a few hints and tips can help shape a more financially secure college experience for students. Since it’s never too early to start planning your finances for college, this list is also great for high school students who plan to attend college in the future.

  • Scholarships and grants: Don’t make the excuse that you won’t qualify for a scholarship or grant. You might be intimidated by merit-based money awards that rely on your impressive grades to qualify, but if you’re an average scoring student, you might still qualify for general or need-based awards. Did you know there is a scholarship for being a male who stands over 6′ 2″? Do your research and try to finance your college with little or no loans.
  • Start saving: Setting aside a dollar amount or percentage of your income for college is a great way to start a college fund. Even if it’s only $100 a month, the money will add up and you’ll be happy you have it when it comes time to pay for books, groceries, gas, or treat yourself to a movie.
  • Cut back on spending: Make a budget so you know how much money you need to live, how many hours you need to work, and how much financial aid assistance you need to cover the difference. Once you make a budget, cut out your unnecessary spending by doing the following:
    • Mark which items are ‘wants’ and which are ‘needs.’
    • Ask yourself: Can I get rid of any of these wants? Am I being honest about which expenses are wants and which are needs?
    • Cut out as many wants as you feel comfortable with cutting out at this time.
    • Hold yourself accountable to sticking with your budget. It’s helpful to have support. Tell those closest to you about your new healthy spending habits.
  • Know where to find help: Do you know where the financial aid office is on campus? Do you have an advisor? Do you know where the closest location of your bank is? Do you know how to speak to a personal banker? Do you know your bank’s customer service line? Don’t wait until financial disaster strikes to look for help. When you sense trouble, get financial help right away.

Getting financially literate before making mistakes like signing a lease with a boyfriend/girlfriend, using a credit card for all your purchases, accepting all the loans the school offers you, or not paying your bills on time is important to your financial security. So is knowing how to get out of a financial bind when you accidentally lose your way. LifeBound’s newest book Dollars and Sense: How to Be Smart About Money is a great resource for teens to learn about their relationship with money, saving, investing, budgeting, and getting financially fit for the future.

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