Starting college is a huge milestone. For many, it’s also the first step toward independence. Along with learning to live on your own, as a first-year college student, you may be handling your own finances for the first time.
Here are six strategies to help you manage your money efficiently, freeing up time for work, study and fun.
Develop a plan for your money – Take time to understand the amount of income you have through part-time work, scholarships or parental support, along with your expected expenses for housing, meals, entertainment and more. Identifying where you need to spend and where you can save can help you build your first budget. Your budget is a powerful tool in creating healthy financial habits that will stay with you in the future.
Find an account that works for you – A checking account is the safest place to keep your funds, but not all checking accounts are created equal. Make sure you understand fees, minimum balances and service charges. Some accounts, like Hancock Whitney Freestyle Checking, offer no minimum balances and several options to waive your service fees. Consider a savings account as well to stash away funds for future goals, such as next year’s tuition, a study abroad semester or an unforeseen emergency.
Use digital money management tools – Between classes, studying and extracurricular activities, life gets busy. Keep an eye on your financial situation with digital tools like mobile banking and online banking. Not only can you bank securely, you can transfer funds with a click, deposit checks in a snap, set up alerts to monitor your account, and pay your bills anytime, anywhere.
Consider Your Credit – Having a credit card to use in case of an emergency is a sound financial move; using credit and paying off the outstanding debt can help you build a strong credit foundation. Do, however, beware of the temptation to swipe for unnecessary purchases. Carrying a large credit card balance can impact your credit utilization ratio which affects your credit score1. Also, the interest that's accrued on unpaid balances will increase your debt.
Safeguard your personal info – College students face an increased risk of identity theft. To help secure your personal information, the Better Business Bureau recommends you store important documents in a safe space, make online purchases on secure networks, never let anyone else use your debit or credit cards, and make sure all passwords are unique2.
Keep an eye open for funds – As long as you meet eligibility criteria, you can continue to apply for scholarships or work study programs throughout your years at school. Check with your college for an available list of scholarships, or use online programs like Fastweb to seek out funding opportunities.
Looking for more money management tips to get your finances in order? Visit Hancock Whitney Financial Cents for Adults.
- "Does Carrying a Balance on a Credit Card Hurt your Credit Score?" Forbes Advisor, April 20, 2022, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/credit-cards/carrying-credit-card-balance-hurt-credit-score/
- "BBB Tip: 9 Tips for college students to avoid ID theft," Better Business Bureau, July 20, 2021, https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/10496-bbb-9-tips-to-avoid-id-theft-on-campus