Many college students don’t think ahead to next week, let alone to “their future.” Creating a budget now can help students avoid money problems later. Unfortunately, the majority of college students don’t have a written budget, possibly one of the most important components to being successful during college.
“When you are in high school, you don’t really have to worry about bills and stuff like that. When you get to college, you have to think about bills and school costs, especially if you live off campus, so making a budget is wise. You obviously don’t want to spend more than you have,” says Ruth Burroughs, a freshman pre-veterinary/biology major.
One of the major causes of debt across America is the unlimited use of credit cards. College students especially use credit cards to pay for anything and everything. It often leads to unforeseen problems. If people cannot pay off their card balances in a timely fashion, the interest adds up and becomes overwhelming. Some people even have multiple cards, which they use to pay off other credit card balances.
“Credit cards can cause big problems for students. I don’t think that many realize that they have to pay off balances by the end of the month or they will accumulate interest,” says Jaime Borchert, a junior sociology/criminal justice major.
This interest can be up to 12 percent and it may be compounded often. The interest rate and compounding schedule are determined by the individual card companies, so it is important to read the fine print carefully before signing anything. Creating a budget can help keep you on track by holding you accountable for your money.
To build your budget, calculate monthly income including money from jobs, allowance, and stipends from grants and scholarships. Next, consider living costs, including fixed costs (those bills that come monthly), school expense, and personal or entertainment expenses. Subtract your costs from total income, making sure that it’s a positive amount. If cost of living exceeds income, re-evaluate expenses and try to find ways to save money, even if it means giving up Saturday rituals of eating at Taco John’s.
Another obvious way to save money is to get a job if you don’t already have one. If you are confused as to how to obtain a job, the CAP Center is a great place to start. It is located on the second floor of the Medary Commons building.
“If students want to cover all their bases, they should register with us and with the One-Stop Career Center; we work with students looking for internships, part-time, and summer jobs, while the Career Center deals more with full-time opportunities in a broader area,” says Susan Fredrikson, the Employment Development Director for the CAP Center.
Looking for job openings early is a good idea because it gives you time to talk to potential employers, build a network, and find the best job for you. They can sometimes be completed for credits, but it is up to the discretion of your department.
Getting involved in your school and community is also important. This could be as simple as being active in an organization or a community service project that you are passionate about. The activities you participate in throughout college can be used to pump up your resume.
“It’s a good idea to have a resume ready. Some employers require them; others do not, but it is a way to show that you are prepared either way” says Fredrikson.
There is no better time than the present to learn to manage your money or to increase your skills and experience. Preparation in college will allow you to enjoy life after college, when you are doing what you have always wanted to do.