How to manage your money in college

NYU dorm move-in
New York University freshmen students and their families fill rolling bins with their belongings as they move into their dorm rooms outside Hayden Hall August 29, 2011 in New York City.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Money is a top source of stress for college students, according to a recent report by Inceptia, a financial education advocacy organization. The report also said freshmen may acutely experience stress managing money on their own and working part-time jobs to help pay bills.

How can students, especially freshmen, manage their money well?

Kelli Grant, senior consumer reporter for Smart Money, joined The Daily Circuit Thursday to help prepare college students and their parents for the upcoming school year.

"This is still really the first time that they are on their own without supervision and having to figure out a lot of this on their own," she said.


--Track your bank and credit card accounts via mobile and online sites. Many banks offer cell phone apps; make sure you are checking it regularly. Try sites like that gather all of your accounts in one place so you can do online budgeting. These sites allow you to set up alerts for overdrafts, going over budget and payment due dates.

--Get a part-time job. "You are making money while you work, not spending as much because you are working instead of going out as much, and it looks good to employers if you kept up a job throughout college," said Mark Hastie on Facebook.

--Use your meal plan. "Try to remember you're paying for that anyway," Grant said. Most schools require you to have some sort of meal plan when you live in the dorm, so make sure you take full advantage of the meals you are already paying for.

--Watch for seminars and events on campus about budgeting. They can offer valuable tips to help you in the first months on your own.

--Beware of the campus bookstore. Students spend an average of $700 a year on books for classes. Buy books online and look for e-book and rental options to save money.

--Don't be swayed by special offers. John from Anoka said he signed up for a credit card in college because they were offering a free king-size Snickers bar.

--Monitor your spending abroad. While it might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, keep money in mind when you're studying abroad. It's important to balance the cost of international experiences with how long it will take you to pay off that debt.

--Live frugally. "Freshmen just need to realize they're at the bottom of the totem pole and they need to work their butts off," said Mick Rush on Facebook. "Shop at Aldi, don't eat out, live in squalor, and buy cheap books. Don't live in one of the luxury condos they're putting up near the U."


--Hand off bills to your children so they can practice monthly payments. "If your student is working, the more you can make them responsible for in terms of payments, probably the better that's going to go," Grant said. Paying their car insurance bills and filling their gas tank will make budgeting easier once they are out of school.

--Let them make mistakes. "You've got to let them make some mistakes because they are going to make them on their own one way or another at some point or another," Grant said. "It's better done now when they still have that safety net."

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