Money and College

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Heading off to college can be a big change. For a lot of people, it's the closest they've ever been to living on their own and having to be self-sufficient. One of the things required to be self-sufficient in this world is, of course, money. Before you get to school, there are a few things you are going to want to get straightened out so that you don't find yourself without the necessary funds in case of an emergency (or late-night pizza run).

Banks

It may seem obvious, but anyone going away to school should have a bank account that he or she can have easy access to. Look for the following things when choosing a bank for school.
  • Many banks have student checking accounts available that have features like no minimum balance and free checks.
  • Make sure to pick a bank that has a branch near your school. If you are going to another state for school, keep in mind that certain banks are specific to their region. You may want or need to switch to a bank that services the location of your school.
  • ATM/debit cards are incredibly useful, and most campuses will have a few machines around. This is safer than carrying cash on you all the time.

Credit Card

Many people approach credit cards with a certain wariness, and with good reason. It is easy to abuse the ability to charge something you want but don't really need, especially when you are only responsible for yourself. On the other hand, having a credit card in case of an emergency can be extremely helpful and comforting to you and your parents or guardians.

If you feel you can demonstrate the self-control necessary, opt for a card with a small line of credit and a low interest rate. Many banks offer credit cards to their members, so you can inquire about one at whichever bank you use. This can make bill paying a lot simpler, as it is simply an account transfer. A lot of stores also offer cards to their shoppers, which can be beneficial if you tend to make a lot of purchases there. Do your research to see which will be the most headache-free option.

Work

Having your own source of income is a definite must for anyone living on his or her own. Working while going to school can be tough and time-consuming, but there are a huge number of jobs out there that work with a college student's non-traditional schedule. Here are a few ideas:
  • Restaurant work pays pretty well and can be scheduled flexibly. You can work on the weekends and nights when you don't have class, or pick up a few lunch shifts. If you are a server or a bartender, most of your pay will be immediate and in cash, which is extremely advantageous.

  • Your school probably has a wealth of jobs available to students. Some of them are needs-based and can be obtained through your financial aid department, while others can play to your particular academic strengths (such as tutoring a certain subject). And, of course, your university will understand that you need to schedule work around your classes.

  • Internships can give you valuable experience. Some of these are for college credit only, but others will pay you for your work. If you find one in your chosen field, it will add a lot to your college experience as well.
Just walking around your town and seeing who is close by and hiring is always an option, as well. Many of the local businesses are probably used to having student employees, and may be more open to being flexible with you.

Having a job, your own money, and your own place to live is liberating and rewarding. It's unlikely you'll ever have this much freedom or disposable income again, so squeeze every last drop you can out of your college days. They're over sooner than you think!



Patrick Hanan  Posted by Patrick Hanan on June 29, 2010

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