Before you toss that final suitcase in the SUV and start the drive to college, here’s a dozen tips to help you manage your money so the last two months of the semester aren’t spent munching stale potato chips in the dorm room or scanning the sidewalks for dropped change.
1. Track it
“They don’t realize how much they spend on little things,” says Vickie Hampton, a financial planner and an associate professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbuck, Texas. “That’s the most common revelation.”
Mark Oleson, director of a financial counseling clinic at Iowa State University, adds, “Usually, just by tracking expenses, you’ll start to curb expenses.”
“You need some entertainment,” Hampton says. “A student is going to get really burned out if you don’t do anything fun.”
Use credit cards sparingly. Once you get into the habit of reaching for a Visa, it can be hard to stop.
“I saw a student pick up a bag of chips and charge it,” Tytel says.
Who wants to pay interest on a bag of Doritos?
6. Set your own credit line
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.
7. Get real
“You need to understand you can’t have everything and you have to understand there’s consequences,” Tytel says. “At some point there needs to be a reality check in terms of what things cost. Most kids have no idea.”
8. Stuff happens
If you find that you must go out to dinner and a movie one week, spend the money; be satifisfied with the decision, and commit to staying home, eating at home and not making any other purchases the following week.
9. Look ahead
“It’s a lot easier to set aside $50 every month than to come up with $300 when the bill is due,” Oleson says.
10. Get in touch with your roomie
This way you avoid duplicating purchases and excess spending, but will still have all the conveniences to make college life easier.
11. Spread it out
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.
12. Ask for help when you need it
Screw up some courage and phone home. The longer you put it off, the worse things get.
|— Updated: Aug. 11, 2005|