Be smart about money to save headaches later
Okay, financial responsibility isn't the most exciting topic. You're probably more psyched about starting your classes or decking out your dorm room than you are about saving for the future or planning a monthly budget. However, making good decisions now will really pay off later. If you're used to paying bills and balancing your checkbook, you're on the right track, but if you're a little rusty, it's worthwhile to think about how to get your finances under control - and keep them there.
From student loans to your credit card, building and maintaining a good credit score can really pay off. Even if you're not thinking about taking out a mortgage right now, that doesn't mean you won't be in the future. With this in mind, one of the most important aspects of good financial management is to borrow responsibly.
You've probably received those handy letters from the major credit card companies, offering you unconditional cards, lower rates, pre-approved spending limits and the like. But before you throw caution to the wind and sign up for yet another card, ask yourself if you really need to. Sure, credit cards can be an excellent way to build your credit score, but miss a few payments and you'll be sorry later.
Similarly, when you're applying for student loans, only apply to borrow what you need. It's tempting to borrow a few thousand extra to splurge on a new laptop or invest in a back-to-school wardrobe, but the more you borrow, the more you'll have to pay back later. Try to exercise a little restraint when it comes to taking on credit - you'll be glad you did further down the road.
Calendars are your best friend
You don't need to hang a tacky wall planner in your dorm room to keep track of your finances - but it doesn't hurt. However you stay on top of important dates, like when your monthly credit card balance is due, keeping a financial calendar is one of the easiest and most effective ways to stay out of the red.
If you've got a smartphone, set reminders to alert you on important dates. If you don't, write them down on a calendar (or tacky wall planner). Use whatever method works for you, but make sure you plan accordingly to avoid nasty surprises like overdrawn fees, late charges, bounced checks and missed repayments.
Before you start class, you'll probably need a few things: equipment, stationery, books, electronics - the list goes on. However, as convenient as online shopping can be, it doesn't always offer you the best deal.
When it comes to buying back-to-school supplies, shop around. Things like textbooks can often be bought second-hand, or even rented. Many online retailers offer textbook rental programs, and these initiatives can save you a ton of money in the long run. The same goes for laptops, e-readers and just about anything else - why pay more? Shop around and make sure you're getting the best deal you can before you hand over your cash.
You're a student now, so take advantage of it. Most retailers offer generous student discounts on everything from clothes to computers, so make sure you carry your student ID when you go shopping. Sure, 10 percent might not seem like a big deal at the time, but if you're something of a shopaholic, you'll really notice it at the end of the year.