As you well know, college years are full of independence and personal growth. They also bring several new challenges and responsibilities. Of course these obviously vary from family to family, but this new season of life often begins the transition from financial dependence on mom and dad to independence. No matter where you are in this transition, there are several habits you can develop now to help you realize long-term financial success and there's no better time than now to get started.
Create and stick to a budget.
You have probably been hearing the "budget your money" tip since you started your first job. Being disciplined in your daily purchases and budget will help you achieve long term goals. Understand your spending habits (and change them if necessary), over-estimate your bills to make sure you have enough money to cover them, incorporate savings into your budget, and ask for help if you don't know where to start. There are resources everywhere to aid you in creating and sticking to a budget that works for you while you are in college. (Check out our Pinterest board for ideas and resources.)
Discern wants versus needs.
This habit will serve you and your finances well throughout your life. It is all too easy to justify purchases while you're in college. Being financially responsible doesn't mean you can't ever have your favorite latte again. What it means is that you set your budget and don't splurge on wants when you can't afford it. If you need to, make a list of your wants and your needs to help you make decisions on what purchases to make. Also, refer back to habit number one: stick to your budget.
Research loans before accepting them.
Furthering your education is a great investment, but it's important to understand the "fine print" of the investment. Rather than taking out any and all of the loans that are available to you, ask some questions first. What types of aid do you qualify for? Is the loan subsidized or unsubsidized? How much do you actually need to cover your expenses? Not all student loans are created equal and it's important for you to understand what you're signing up for. Whether you are a freshman taking out your first loan or in graduate school taking out your tenth, before taking out your next loan make sure to do your research. If you don't know where to begin, The Department of Education has developed a great resource for you to use.
You have a great opportunity in college to begin your adult life with great financial habits. Taking control of your finances now will set you up for a lifetime of financial success. What other habits do you think are important to develop during college? Leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts!