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Financial Wellness Tips for College Students

Learn how you can stay on top of managing your finances during college in this short guide.

Going to college can be the start of your life as an adult. Maybe you’re living away from mom and dad for the first time. Maybe you’re juggling work, classes, and commuting. Maybe you’re taking those first steps towards the internship and career you want. What you do as a college student can help you to prepare for the working world, a career, marriage, a house – grown-up stuff. OK, maybe not so fast. You might not be thinking that far ahead yet. But at any rate, whether your goals involve the next five years or the next few semesters, there are valuable lessons to learn as a college student. And learning some smart financial tips can be a big part of that. 

What is Financial Wellness?

There’s physical wellness – the health of your body, dealing with things like diet, exercise, and medicine – and you probably know how important that can be. There’s emotional wellness – thoughts and feelings, dealing with challenges – and that’s always important, too. And then there’s financial wellness. Financial wellness has to do with being able to pay your bills, buy the things you need, and attain financial stability and security. Financial wellness can alleviate certain money-related stressors, which can, in turn, boost mental wellness and free up resources to improve physical wellness. Financial wellness can play a part in not only your present life, but in your future life, as well. It can dictate what you are able to afford, what you can do, and it can affect the choices you’ll make in the coming years. 

Just like you want to strive for physical and emotional wellness, financial wellness should be a continuous goal. And the foundation for financial wellness can be established while you’re in college. Keep reading to learn some tips that can keep college students on-track financially. 

Know Your Budget

As a college student, tuition and fees, textbooks and meal plans will be due each semester. Then there’s your monthly budget, with expenses like rent, utilities, internet/streaming/cable, phone, health insurance, car payment/car insurance, groceries, and other miscellaneous expenses. Know which bills you’ll be responsible for. Depending on your housing situation, some utilities and extras may be included in your rent. You may not have a car, and instead use shuttles and public transportation. Your parents may be covering some or all of the bills, you may receive a stipend for necessities, or you may have to pay for all of it yourself. Whatever the case is, knowing what your budget includes and sticking to your budget each month is one way to be financially responsible. 

Debit vs. Credit vs. Apps

How – specifically – do you pay for things? Whether it’s a weekly trip to the grocery store, a daily trip to the coffee shop, or a big unexpected expense at the mechanic or dentist, having the payment method of your choice readily available is a plus. But popular payment methods work a little differently. A debit card and a credit card may look the same, but a debit card draws directly from funds in a bank account. If you spend more than what’s in your account, you can be hit with overdraft fees. A credit card lets you buy things now and pay for them later, but credit cards also come with a credit limit. The balance doesn’t have to be paid off in full every month -- though that can be a good credit-building strategy – but a regular, on-time minimum payment must be made. Digital wallet apps are popular and make transferring money from one person to another easy, but like a real wallet, you’ll need to make sure there’s enough money in it – and make sure that the vendor accepts your payment app of choice. 

Loans, Grants, and Scholarships

If your tuition and other school expenses aren’t fully paid by a parent or other family member – via a pre-planned Trust or Annuity payment, for example – you’ll become familiar with loans, grants, and/or scholarships. Apply for any academic or legacy scholarships you may qualify for, and apply for need-based grants if you are able to. Scholarships and grants can be used to pay for tuition and school and housing costs, and the money you receive through a scholarship or grant doesn’t have to be paid back. Student loans are a popular way to pay for college, and are available to any college student. Loans do need to be paid back, but not until after you graduate. It’s generally a good idea to not borrow more in loans than you need for school in order to avoid huge future loan payments after graduation. 

Start Building Credit

Your credit score will likely affect your future – renting apartments and securing a mortgage, being able to obtain a business loan, qualifying for a higher credit limit -- whatever your future goals include, a good credit score signals to lenders that you are not a loan risk. To begin establishing good credit as a college student, you can make reasonable purchases on a credit card and pay off the balance in full each time, never miss a payment, and make sure that any other bills in your name are paid on time. 

Use Your Student Discount

Whether you’re buying stuff for your dorm or apartment, getting a new laptop, or looking to save a few dollars a month on your subscription services, there are student discounts out there for you. Making use of the many discounts available to college students can help you stay on budget and save a few bucks. 

Know Your Future Job Market

If you’re in college to train for a specific career, research the industry and learn about the job market and starting salaries in your area, and begin networking if you’re able. If you’re in college and undecided about your major or your future career goals, learn about potential career fields and the job market where you want to live. Get a good idea of how much your desired job pays to start, what you can expect to make after several years, and if post-graduate degrees or further certifications are needed. 

Financial Wellness and Estate Planning

Going to college is more than dorm life and football games. It’s an investment in yourself and the first of many choices you’ll make in preparation for your future. Making a Trust or a Will, coming into inheritance through a Trust or Will, and learning more about Estate Planning measures can also help you prepare for your future. 

At Trust & Will, we make planning for the future possible with our easy and affordable online Estate Planning documents. Prepare the Trust or Will you need and have all of your Estate Planning questions answered from Trust & Will online. Get started today!