Money Management Tips for College StudentsBy Dr. Richard Boyum
Money and time are two things that college students need to learn to manage. While money and time both have something in common, they have one very significant difference. Time, for the most part, is infinite. It is a resource that gets renewed every day. Each day you get another twenty-four hours. Money on the other hand is finite. It is a rare individual who is able to replenish or add to their financial assets on a daily basis. We generally run out of time more quickly than we run out of money. For that reason the following pointers are provided to help you manage money more effectively.
1. Ask yourself the question, "What do I expect my total level of assets or income to be over the academic year. Add up sources that come from your work, your financial aid package and gifts from family and or friends.
2. Determine what your expenses will be over the year. You will need to budget for tuition, room and board, and a variety or miscellaneous expenses.
3. Differentiate between what you want and what you truly need. It is easy to confuse the two. How many pairs of jeans do you really need? How many sweaters? How many CD's? Many individuals can develop significant cost savings by focusing on their needs and spending only a small amount on things they want but don't have to have. Be careful of sales - half off a $200 item means you still spend $100.
4. Remember time is money. The more things that you buy that you truly don't need may require you to spend more time earning money to pay for those things. Ask yourself why you are in college and what you hope to do with your college experience. By buying less you may have more time to study, consequently getting better grades and learning more so that you can get a better job. Realize that most college students are working for between five and ten dollars an hour. And that most college graduates are working for between fifteen and twenty-five dollars an hour. The simple math will tell you to study now. Earn more and you can spend more later on.
5. Be extremely careful with credit cards. This again is an area to distinguish between wants and needs. There was a time when people actually lived without credit cards and did quite well. Being able to defer gratification is an extremely important aspect in money management. Do not buy on impulse. Consider putting your credit card in places where you have to literally retrieve it to take it with you. Some individuals will wrap their credit card so that it has to be unwrapped before it can be used, even when they are carrying it. This gives you time to think about whether you really want to use the card for a purchase. Whenever possible, pay the balance immediately. A bad credit rating will come to haunt you in many ways.
6. If you are paying for food on your mealplan and you prepay, be sure and use that plan appropriately. Spending money in other places for food may be like charging yourself twice. Be very selective about when and where you go out to eat.
7. Keep track of how much you spend for items such as alcohol, tobacco products, CD's and other items that you basically purchase for pleasure and enjoyment. These items can add up very quickly. Think about what you would do if you could cut your expenses in these areas. Remember that we have access to so much in our culture. Perhaps listening to music, a radio or stereo can replace purchasing CD's and save you hundreds of dollars in a year. If you are a smoker it may be a good time to stop and utilize that money elsewhere. Intoxication or frequent drinking does not correlate well with good grades in college. Drinking responsibly and reasonably not only helps you be a better student, but can help pad your pocket book as well.
8. When you feel it necessary to provide a gift to someone else such a friend, a family member or someone you're dating, consider gifts of time rather than economic purchases. Or consider something inexpensive that may have some special personal meaning. Doing a task for someone or just being with them may be the gift in itself in these busy, busy times we live in. Giving a backrub, going on a walk, or doing somebody's laundry, may be as important as a more expensive gift.
Remember that really money management is about resource management. Also, know that money usually operates with us on at least two different levels. There is the practical dimension from which we make purchases. There is also the symbolic level. Money can buy us pleasure, friendships, or give us the feeling of power. We need to be careful not to let money substitute for emotional needs we need to address in other ways. One final note, as crazy as it may seem, because college is a time of money shortages, consider the idea of putting a little money away on a weekly basis. One dollar a week at the end of the year is still fifty-two dollars. Then do something extraordinarily nice for yourself or with someone else. Saving is really a part of spending too. See if these brief money-managing tips might not help you achieve your goals and objectives in college. We often say, "If you manage your time, you manage your life. If you waste your time, you waste your life." With money, perhaps we are saying, "Manage it, don't let it manage you."