Managing money usually isn't at the top of your to-do list as a college student. You've got enough to do already, with class, homework, work, friends, church, etc. etc. etc.
And while having money is fun, managing it isn't. It's not all that easy, either. And, hey, isn't that something you don't need to worry about till you have a "real job," anyway?
Knowing some things about money at this point in your life is no guarantee of present or future financial success, but ignorance about money is a recipe for trouble; being overcharged or ripped off, really truly not knowing where your money is going, creating debt that will slow you down later, spending too much on things you don't really care about (and then not having any left to spend on things you do)...
So here are a few basics about how to do it better, followed by some resources about money:
- Build a budget. A budget is just a plan for spending; it's how much money you have (or will have, if you have a student job), minus how much you're planning to spend. The goal, of course, is to make sure that your expenses do not exceed your income sources. We have more resources below on how to build a budget.
- Track your spending (from cash, credit, all of it). For this to work, you have to be kind of compulsive about it; track it down to the dollar. Review it at the end of the month; you'll probably be really really surprised what you spent money on.
- Be smart with credit cards. As you know, they're not free money. Using a credit card wisely (like paying it in full each month) can help you build a credit score, which will help when it comes to big post-college purchases; but overusing it (which is easy to do) can really cause problems both sooner and later. As one grad said, "I spent five years after graduation dealing with the credit card debt I racked up in college buying stupid stuff; don’t let the same thing happen to you." And be sure you understand things like APR and late fees and the like.
- Educate yourself; know the difference between debit and credit cards, between checking and savings accounts, etc. The flip side of this is being careful about who you trust; don't sign an agreement or contract if you're not confident that you understand it fully...a warm smile and friendly manner doesn't mean the other person is honest.
- Be willing to downgrade your expectations. It's okay to live like a broke college student; it's a season of your life, and hopefully it's preparing you for something better. But that's later, not now; for now, go to Savers. Use all the meals on your meal plan. Look for free stuff (including going to campus events that have free food!). Share things with friends (instead of everybody having to buy their own). Don't tell yourself you need the newest/best/fastest/biggest. And maybe, if you learn to do without it now... well, you just might be able to live without it, period.
From GreatLakes.org: Everybody talks about budgeting, but how do you really do it, and do it well? [read time 4 min, plus 7:30 in videos]
Do I Need a Budget?
Don't think you have enough money to need a budget? Rick Bee's Faith & Money class discusses how budgets are always important [video 41:28].
Living With Money
Biblical Stewardship: Getting the Foundation Right
Chapel speaker Randy Alcorn says that having Biblical financial habits is foundational to an effective Christian life [video 29:59].
When it comes to Christians and money, Shane Claiborne has something to say. But unlike many outspoken voices on these issues, Claiborne actually practices what he preaches [read time 15 min].
Rick Langer of Talbot blogs about how contentment ("enough") is on a whole different road than achievement and acquisition ("more") [read time 3 min].
College students are a favorite target for identity thieves. There are ways to protect yourself [read time 6 min].
Your After-Biola Life
From Forbes Magazine: Some skills you probably didn't know you had, and how to use them post-Biola [read time 9 min].
Student Loan Repayment: What to Expect
Unsure about the loan repayment process, or wondering when you need to begin making payments? Here's what to expect when your federal student loan enters repayment [video 2:20].
From The Chimes: Heading towards graduation and it's all a blur? Rick Bee offers 7 financial 'first steps' to take when your Biola time is over [read time 3 min].