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Financial to-dos for back to school

By Allison Ross ·
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Posted: 5 pm ET

College students across the U.S. are showing up to campus and starting fall semester classes.

Going to college is the first time many students are dealing with their own finances. Citizens Bank has five simple tips that students can use to help get their finances in order for school. Brendan Coughlin, head of education finance at Citizens Financial Group, has shared those tips with Bankrate.

©  l i g h t p o e t/

"These are common sense tips," Coughlin says. "But these are 18-year-olds who largely have not had to plan their financials in any level of sophistication or detail. It's about getting the basics right."

1. Set a budget for the semester. Coughlin says preparedness is key for college classes and financial success. He says students should identify all their financial needs, including the cost of books, food, dormitory furnishings and other items, as well as figure out where the money for all their needs and wants is coming from.

"Get into the budgeting discipline," Coughlin says. "Make a plan and work through it." (Bankrate has a student budget calculator that can help start the process.)

2. Open a student checking account with a debit card. Coughlin says it is somewhat surprising how many people in their late teens have never had a checking account. He says students should look for features that will keep them more connected to their budget and their account balances, whether that's mobile banking or other features.

3. Put your student ID to use. The college's website should have a list of discounts that students can get using their student IDs, whether that means perks on campus or discounts at neighboring businesses.

"These (discounts) can add up really quickly," Coughlin says. (For more on this, see "3 easy ways for students to save money.")

4. Use a credit card but also be wary. Coughlin says it's a good idea to finish four years of college with not only a degree, but also a strong credit score. However, he says credit cards must be used wisely. He suggests only buying necessities with the card, and paying off the balance every month. He says to also make sure the credit card terms are clear and reasonable. He says some companies that market to college students have unreasonably high fees.

5. Consider an on-campus job. On-campus jobs tend to get filled quickly, so college students looking for one should move just as quickly -- preferably even before arriving on campus, if possible. "It's always a great discipline to have your own income come in," Coughlin says. "People tend to think about their budget a little differently when it's their own sweat equity coming in."

Want more?

Bankrate also has a quiz for college students so they can test their financial IQ. Can you get all 10 questions correct?

Follow me on twitter, and share your college experiences with me there: @allisonsross.

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Sk Finanacial
September 15, 2014 at 9:53 am

Some of the great tips for managing the budget for college are mentioned here. This is very useful for the students who are already facing tight financial conditions.