Financial tips for students

Amanda Garrett

Credit: Beth Rankin




Whatever they call it, college students don’t have a lot of money.

Keeping track of the precious green stuff can be an even bigger challenge with instant credit and “free” checking available to most students today.

What students do with their finances now affects them for the rest of their lives, said Judy Booth, program manager for Consumer Credit Counseling in Kent.

“There are so many benefits in learning how to manage money at a young age,” Booth said. “Many people learn to manage their funds by experience, but if they learn to be financially disciplined from the very beginning, in the long run they can save a lot of money.”

Checking accounts

One of the first financial hurdles students may encounter is finding a checking account.

A good option for students is to establish an account through their local credit union, said Rafael Casas, certified credit counselor for Christian Credit Counselors, Inc.

“Credit unions have a feel that is not so intimidating,” he said. “They also don’t have a lot of hidden charges like the large national banks.”

If students choose to go through a bank, they should be sure to research their options.

Make sure the checking account does not have hidden fees if the account falls below a minimum amount, Booth said.

When using ATM cards, plan ahead, Booth said.

“Map out where you’re going and what you’re going to purchase before you leave the house,” she said. “By planning ahead, you save on unexpected fees from using ATMs from different banks.”

Credit Cards

Credit cards are a necessary evil in today’s society, Casas said.

“In order to get credit, you need to have credit,” he said.

However, there are ways to use credit cards without abusing them.

Never accept a credit card that has a yearly or monthly fee, and never accept an interest rate of more than 14 or 15 percent, Casas said.

Students should also look for a 20 to 25 day grace period on their credit cards, Booth said. The grace period allows students to pay off purchases they make on the card without being charged interest.

Planning ahead

The first thing students can do is sit down and make a monthly budget.

“It’s difficult and it’s tedious, but it’s absolutely necessary,” Casas said. “Students need to write down everything: what they spend for lunch, the cash they use at the vending machines, etc. By keeping a budget, they can separate the essential spending from the nonessential spending.”

Research is another necessary part of financial planning, Casas said. Students should get in the habit of reading the fine print on all their financial transactions.

“It’s a good thing for people, especially younger people, to get in the habit of researching everything involving their finances,” he said. “You need to know what you’re getting into before you get into anything.”

Contact on-campus reporter Amanda Garrett at [email protected].