How to Manage Your Money in Preparation for College
You are planning on going on to pursue higher education. You have a goal. You have the drive. You have support but do you have the ability to manage your money while you follow your dream?
This is a question that every student should consider before he or she signs up to attend the college, university or trade school of his or her choice. It is essential that you understand what is involved in attending school. This means looking at everything from tuition costs to housing to food to parking to all those overlooked essentials that make life so much easier.
Start with your school choice
When preparing for higher education, you need to look at the schools available to you. You need to consider the risks associated with agreeing to attend an expensive or even exclusive university before you sign on. This may be the very first decision you make where the consequences of being unprepared could significantly impact your adult life. When looking at your choices, make sure you know the true cost.
The true cost for any school requires you know the specifics. You need to consider such elements as:
- The stated tuition per semester or year, depending upon the system as well as the estimated total cost of your diploma or graduation (Estimated because tuition usually rises).
- The hidden costs including those fees that are required including building funds, school councils and other related and even obscure costs. Make sure you know which ones you are obligated to pay and others that you may get your money back on.
- Any other fees that you may incur including the costs for your diploma, graduation ceremonies, extracurricular activities, and club memberships.
- Books can increase the cost of education substantially. Consider sharing but also be sure to check out used books, photocopied editions and even book rentals available online. These can help reduce the high cost of textbooks.
Be sure to compare the true costs at a variety of colleges and universities. Do not ignore those that are closer to your home. They can help you in managing your money in other ways, specifically the cost of your residence, transportation and other elements.
Your field of study
Managing your money can also include your future income. It is fine to follow your passion, but can you live off of it? When looking at what subjects you plan to take or what courses you intend to follow be sure to weigh the pros and cons of pursuing your possible field of study. You can work in topics you enjoy and are passionate about if you plan carefully.
While you may not want to live at home, consider it if it is a possible option. If you can, talk to your parents, guardians or other individuals about living at home. If this is not possible, see if you can board or stay with a relative that is close to the school of your choice. This will help you save on such things as:
- The cost of living in a campus residence
- The potentially higher cost of living off campus
- The price for parking on campus or close to campus
- The cost of gas, insurance and other related items to simply get you to and from class
Transit passes are another way of keeping commuting costs down if you live further from campus.
Living away from home
If you have to or choose to live away from home, make sure you arrange for affordable residents. Share with responsible people who will to pay their share of the various costs of living. Be sure they can pay on time such things as rent, electricity or gas, internet and other necessities. While having roommates can be annoying, it can lower the cost of certain extras such as cable. It may also mean you can split food, sundries and even transportation costs. It does not mean, however, that you can ignore the need to prepare a budget.
Create a budget
The best way to keep your expenses under control is to prepare a budget and stick to it. Make certain you know exactly how much money you have, how much is coming in and how much has to go toward certain things. Do the budget every month or every other week, whichever makes the most sense for you.
If you are going to school in the United States, the chances are high that you will have to take out a student loan. Make sure you understand the terms. See if you can reduce the interest and amount you need to borrow in whatever ways possible. Be sure to look into scholarships and work towards any possible grants. Do whatever you can to make sure the debt is not or will not seem insurmountable when you graduate. In other words – have a solid financial plan for debt reduction and repayment.
If you take into account these different factors, you should be able to manage your money. You might even be able to consider a part-time job – preferably one relating to your studies while you study. If you are truly as tight with your dollars as you can be, you may even be able to graduate if not debt free, at least with a less heavy burden than many other students.