The fundamental financial lessons you need to know in college

Karoline Gore, Energy Consultant

Editor’s note: This story was written by Karoline Gore, a freelance writer specializing in energy consulting.

The American financial literacy crisis is not affecting older consumers; the nation’s college population are just as unprepared financially. AIG Retirement Services’ Money Matters On-Campus report showed that students are financially unprepared for all that comes with college finances, including keeping on track with their student loans. While college is generally seen as a time of self-exploration and development, from deciding what majors appeal to you to answering those all-important life goals questions, it also comes with the financial obligations of adulthood. As a student, freshman or seasoned, it is you to arm yourself with basic financial habits in college and kickstart your financial life on a positive note.

Become Familiar With The Financial Aid Process

Each year, around $2.6 billion in financial aid is unclaimed due to college students simply being unaware of the process. Over 33 percent of students were even unaware of the need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. Knowing the workings and options available for the financial side of college means you don’t miss out on potential funding opportunities and even risk mismanagement of your funding. Simply completing a FAFSA application can net you around $8,500. Most high school and colleges have a finance office or student representative that can walk you through the process while state resources such as The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau allows you to compare financial aid packages offered by different schools.

If You Have Credit Facilities, Then You Have A Credit History And Score

Seven in 10 college students graduate with a student loan. This means many of you have a credit file before you have graduated. With current college students carrying 5 credit cards, becoming educated about good credit habits is more important than ever. Start with basic credit habits like sticking to the 30 percent credit utilization rule, avoiding late payments and refraining from the frequent opening of credit accounts. Going by the credit card average for college students ($1,453) and the average credit card rates (17.73 percent), skipping the late payments can save you $258. These credit habits do not just apply to students just starting out either but also helps those looking to rebuild their credit past to improve their chances at securing future credit.  A more favorable credit file means any future loans you apply for (including further student finance and consumer credit) is more likely to be approved at a lower rate, saving you money on finance costs.

Make Budgeting Your Second Nature

Learning the art of budgeting not only serves you well in college but will form a cornerstone of your financial success throughout the rest of your life and serves as a launching point for many other financial goals including meeting your savings goals. Budgeting teaches you a fundamental lesson: Are you spending more than you have? The cost of the 2018-19 year averages $24, 980 for moderate spenders, according to the College Board. However, if you are able to budget successfully and stick your spending limits, you can get this amount to as little as $16,730.

Start with determining your monthly income, regular bills and your discretionary income that is left. Simply keeping track of your spending for one month can help you pinpoint areas where you may be being financially wasteful like your food budget or even textbook costs. The cost of textbooks averages $105 while private transport costs (loan payments and insurance) is $282. However, opting for second-hand versions can save you hundreds each month.

Heading off to college is a great adventure and a time to build on your knowledge base, financial included. These tips are just the beginning but there are many more out there. Therefore don’t stop here but continue to build on the financial foundation you have created. The benefits will be seen not only in your immediate future but also in the resulting ripples later on in life.