Looking toward what comes after college can be quite daunting. That transition from college to career causes major culture shock for many students. This is due to the fact that college can become its own little universe, not much of the world can touch you. However, when you venture out into adult life, your financial responsibilities can be overwhelming. You have to pay for housing, a vehicle, insurance, a work appropriate wardrobe and the list goes on. One specific focus many student have is paying back their student loans.
Here are 5 things you can do to prepare for the financial responsibilities that you will have after graduation.
1. Manage and monitor your checking account.
Banks are notorious for nickel and diming you to death with their fees for everything – funds transfers, using checks, withdrawing from ATMs, you name it. Instead, look for a bank that offers a free checking account, especially if they target college students specifically. Read all the fine print to make sure that you will have free online banking and bill pay – and that you won’t have any fees attached to management of your account.
Once you have your account, monitor it to avoid any overdrafts. Those fees can be brutal. Build your financial responsibility by checking your account balance regularly to avoid overdrafts. One overdraft can spiral into several and, before you know it, you have several hundred dollars in overdraft fees. Also, don’t count on your debit card being declined if you don’t have enough money in your account to cover the purchase. That is how the overdraft avalanche begins.
2. Use credit cards wisely.
If you choose to use a credit card, get one with an interest rate that is as low as possible. Avoid any cards with annual fees. By keeping your limit low, you’ll have enough money to cover emergencies if you get in a pinch. Keep in mind a credit card should be used wisely and for true emergencies only. Make sure not to go over your limit. Additionally, when you get your bill, pay it on time. Paying your card late will pile on the late fees.
3. Consolidate your student loans.
Yes, you can consolidate student loans while you’re still in college. Doing so will usually give you a lower payment and a lower interest rate. Refinancing your student loans will also help you get a jump on some of the financial responsibilities that you will be facing after graduation. By getting a handle on your student loans now, you will be ahead of the game and able to pay your loans off faster.
4. Analyze your spending habits.
If you really want to get a handle on your finances, you need to know where you are spending your money. For a month, document every instance that you spend money, whether you are paying a bill, buying dinner, or getting a pack of gum. Save your receipts and make notes if you need to jog your memory. At the end of the month take a look at where your money is going. You will see distinct patterns in your spending habits and this will allow you to make necessary adjustments to maximize saving.
5. Make a budget (and stick to it).
Once you know where your money is going, you need to take control of it and create a budget. Keeping track of how much you make each month will help you put aside the necessary funds to pay for monthly expenses. Additionally, you’ll be able to put money aside and grow your savings. Keep it flexible, but try to stick to your budget as closely as you can each month. You will be amazed at how much you can save when you hold yourself accountable and practice financial responsibility.