Empower Blog

October 06, 2022

4 Financial Tips for College Students

College-Career Planning
It’s that time of year again; college students are settling into their daily routines now that they have been back in the classroom for a few weeks, all with the hopes of a successful school year ahead. Finding that recipe for success is no easy task, though. As a college student, you must balance everything from exams and homework to extracurriculars, jobs, and a social life. On top of that, you also need to focus on your financial future by building healthy money habits that will lay a solid foundation for years to come.

Here are four tips to help your finances thrive this school year.

Tip 1: Keep Your Budget on Track

Creating and sticking to a budget is one simple way to keep your finances on track. A great place to start is by consulting your parents to see who is going to pay for what. If there are any gaps in your budget, plan accordingly for how you will cover those costs.

Staying on budget can be difficult, especially when you have the peer pressure from your friends to go out to eat or grab coffee in the morning. This type of spending is considered a budget leak.

Budget leaks are repetitive spending habits that may seem minor or insignificant at the time of purchase but can add up to a considerable monthly expense. Take-out food and beverages are a prime example of this kind of spending. Awareness, along with forward thinking about this kind of spending, can keep your budget on track.

Your financial institution should have tools that can help you manage your budget. Here are a few resources CommunityAmerica offers to help you:

Mobile App
Downloading and utilizing this app will give you several accessible resources. In addition to tracking your finances at any time, it is packed with resources and tools to transfer money, pay friends, and make mobile check deposits.

Digital Payments
Never miss a payment again by using this tool to pay one-time expenses or set up recurring monthly payments.

Balance Alerts
This function alerts you when your account drops to a predetermined amount to help you avoid overdraft penalties by overspending.

Card Valet
Utilize this tool to get real-time alerts for spending on your card, restrict where your card can be used, set a purchase amount limit for yourself, and even turn your card on or off instantly. Temporarily freezing your accounts or credit cards is an excellent way to temper impulse buying.

Tip 2: Money Making Ideas

Sometimes the money you saved over the summer just isn’t enough to last you through the entire school year. You may need a little extra cash in your pocket to keep your budget on track. Outside of finding a part-time job that complements your interests and schedule; these are a few other options.

Side Hustle
Think of a side hustle as a way to use your talents to earn extra income. Even small payouts here and there give you more flexibility in your budget. Some examples might be flipping shoes, selling clothes, finding freelance work, becoming a tutor, taking online surveys, or monetizing your social media or blog.

Work Study
Work-study programs are designed to help students earn money through part-time jobs in their field of study or community-service positions. Positions are typically available on and off campus. Visit the Federal Student Aid website to learn what options may be available at your school.

Tip 3: Building Your Credit While in School

Learning to build your credit is a valuable way to invest in your future. When you are done with school and want to make a large purchase, such as a car or a home, having a good credit score will help enable you to do so.

While maintaining a checking account balance is a healthy habit, it will not build your credit score. However, making on-time credit card payments is an excellent way to build your credit. Consider opening a credit card and paying it off regularly with your checking account! It's essential to add to your credit mix by using different kinds of credit or loans when building your credit. CommunityAmerica has some key products to help make credit work for you.

The Starter Credit Card was developed specifically for students and offers excellent options like low-interest rates, no annual fees, and opportunities to earn cash back.

Once you open a line of credit, it’s vital to make on-time payments. The SavvyMoney credit monitoring program makes it easy to set alerts, check your card, and track payment due dates.

As your make these on-time payments, your credit score will improve. The Score More Loan can help boost your credit score up to 60 points while also building your savings. It works by choosing a loan amount and making on-time payments. Each payment is added to a savings account and once you make your last payment, the savings account is unlocked and made available for you to use as you see fit.

Building your credit now is an excellent way to develop healthy habits and expand your opportunities for future purchases.

Tip 4: Build Your Savings

It may seem difficult to save money while working hard as a student, but saving doesn't have to be significant while you are operating on a lower income. Simply building the foundation of saving will create healthy habits that will set you up for success when you are making and managing more dollars. Anything you can put away in savings now will better prepare you to save more in the future. Here are three good options CommunityAmerica offers students to build their savings.

Certificates of Deposit (CDs) make your savings go farther. Unlike a savings account, your funds are locked away for an agreed upon amount of time and when it matures, your funds will be available to you with added interest. A Saver CD can be started with as little as $30. Typically, the longer the term, the higher the payout. To start, a 12-month term is manageable for students and introduces you to the value of compound interest and time.

If you are not ready for a CD and are looking to keep your funds liquid, a High Interest Savings account1 is a good option. These accounts will give you 4% back on your money on balances up to $1,500, growing your savings account faster than a traditional savings would. Take advantage of our savings account calculators to make reaching your savings goals easier.

It's time to take control of your budget and finances this school year instead of relying on your parents to do it for you. This will not only put you in a better financial situation now but will ensure you are prepared to manage your finances once your college career is over. Now is a great time as ever to start building your credit and savings accounts, and our Financial Well-Being Coaches are available to help you develop a plan you can stick to this school year. Get started today by stopping by your nearest branch or visiting our Community Access Centers page for more info, including making an appointment with a Well-Being coach.
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About the Author
Essence Yancey
Essence Yancey

Financial Well-Being Coach

Essence Yancey is a Financial Well-Being Coach at our Hickman Mills Peace of Mind Access Center. She is an advocate for all things that strengthen her community. She believes that teaching financial literacy and helping the community reach financial peace of mind is her way of giving back and fulfilling her personal mission.