It seems that being in college goes hand-in-hand with being perpetually broke. Most of us just assume that for those four (or five, or six…) years, we will rarely have two dimes to rub together.
Part of the reason that has become the norm is that so many college students are bad at budgeting. They have come from a home environment where their parents have paid most of the essentials, leaving them to use their own money for clothes, music, dates, and other recreational choices. If they don’t learn to cover the needs first, they can go broke spending on their wants.
Getting through college in good financial shape requires a good budget from your first day on campus, and it’s even more important near your last day on campus as you begin planning to move for a new job. Take some time away from the library and Frisbee golf on the quad to make a plan for your money.
You May Not Know Exactly What Graduating Will Cost
As tight as it may be toward the end of the semester when last summer’s cash is running low, things can be even tighter after graduation. You’ll be going for job interviews and potentially relocating for work–all at a time when you may not be able to work.
Budget carefully for trips to interviews. If hired in another city, get some idea of what moving will cost. Unload your cool homemade furniture onto friends and family and other bulky, unneeded items to minimize the size of your load. Work with North American Van Lines to get an idea of what a given move of a given size would cost. Start making a plan to get enough money for that.
Last Summer Has to Carry You
If you arrive on campus with money built up from a summer job and don’t plan to work during the semester, you need to look first at the things you’ll have to pay for before you get to the next semester break or other opportunities to make money. If you don’t have enough to cover tuition, books, rent, and so forth, you will probably need to start looking for work during any year, and especially as a senior when a move is ahead.
If you do need to work, don’t just go get a job. Look for opportunities that can help build relevant experience for resumes, and try to structure your schedule to include enough work hours to get you through without requiring too much of your study time (and social time).
And Oh Yeah, Student Loans
For the last four years, you may have been utilizing student loans. Properly managed, they are a great way to fund your education. Like any loan, though, they do have to be repaid eventually.
Student loans typically include deferment, which means you may continue to borrow while you are in school without being required to make payments. Once you graduate, the deferment will end and you’ll need to start paying. It is vital that you borrow only what you need, and that you know what kind of payments you will be looking at after graduation.
A lot changes in your college years. You go from being heavily (or fully) supported by your family to being 100% independent, taking care of your own income and your own bills. The transition is a steep climb for anybody, but the challenge is even greater when you aren’t prepared for it.
As you start college, you can really benefit from building a budget, and it can continue to help you if you update it as you progress through your education. Incorporate the costs that you know will be added each year, and be sure to have a plan in place that can help you cover those costs without undue difficulty.