College can be very financially stressful, but you don’t have to acquire major debt. There are a number of ways to save money in college. The two most important are putting money into savings accounts, and not racking up major credit card debt.
Check our our tips for how to start saving money.
Finding the Best Savings Account for You
Many college students struggle with personal finance and have a hard time saving money. On top of that, many banks don’t offer a savings account that is conducive to a college student’s savings plan and budget. To get a decent interest rate, most banks require a large balance in the tens of thousands, which isn’t an easy feat for most students.
Decide on a Savings Plan
Most college students don’t think saving money is important. While it’s true you don’t necessarily have to start saving for retirement while in college, you do need a savings account. You need to plan for unexpected events and emergencies. It also helps to save money if a great opportunity, like a trip to Europe, comes up. Having the financial freedom to join your friends on a vacation is a much better choice than having to beg your parents for the funds.
If you’re saving up for something specific, like a $10,000 car, figure out how much you need to put away per month. If you’re just saving money, put away as much as you can per month. Even small savings can add up over time to large amounts of money. An extra $5 per month over a few years makes a huge difference, especially if you get a good interest rate.
Finding a Bank
The first step is finding a bank that offers what you need. You can start locally by visiting banks and credit unions in your area or you can start online by searching. Credit unions will be friendlier to smaller accounts, but you will be limited by their smaller network. While a large network is more important for checking accounts than savings accounts, this may still matter to you if you live far from home or plan on moving soon.
Choosing the Best Account
Once you find a bank that you think will work best for you, look carefully at their types of savings accounts. You want to find the best savings account for you. Look at minimum deposit amounts, monthly balances and any fees associated with the accounts. U.S. federal law only allows you to withdraw money a maximum of six times per month for an account to be considered a savings account. Most banks will turn your account into a checking account if you go over the withdraw limit, and sometimes they will charge you a fee.
Educate yourself on credit
Credit is essential. Most people can’t buy a television without it, let alone a car or a house. Credit scores are even looked at during the employment process. No credit is worse than bad credit, but you can avoid both by applying for small credit cards and using them wisely.
Tips to build your credit without hurting it first
- Don’t apply for too much credit at once – this will hurt your score
- If you take advantage of 0% APR grace periods, which is okay to do, be careful of the fees you’ll incur afterward. Sometimes they’re awful.
- Don’t take out cash advances. If you really need cash for something, use the money you’d otherwise spend on food, CDs, etc. that’s in your bank account and put those purchases on your card. Regular interest is better than cash advance interest no matter how you look at it.
- Don’t simply apply for a card just because they’re giving away free t-shirts. You might miss a $50 yearly fee because you’re distracted with presents.
- If you can’t get credit anywhere else, try a in-store credit card at a store you frequent, but only after carefully looking over the terms. Put a small amount on the card, pay it off at the end of the month to avoid interest. Do it again each month for the next six months and apply for a better card somewhere else.
- Remember, that if your score is low, there’s nowhere else to go but up. If you play the game right, you can have great credit without paying too much to the companies.