Heading off to college brings newfound independence. But that freedom can be costly.
Dulce Arroyo, member services representative and Hispanic outreach coordinator at Dupaco Community Credit Union, says she gained more than a college education when she graduated three years ago. Through trial and error, she learned how to be smart with her money.
“Your family will be there to support you, but a big part of the journey is learning to become an adult and gaining that financial independence,” Arroyo says. “You start to realize that Mom and Dad can’t always be there.”
Here are seven healthy money habits Arroyo learned along the way:
- Find the free money.
There are plenty of grants and scholarships available to college students. Take a weekend off from hanging out with friends, and do some research to find out how you can get a piece of that free money.
- Don’t waste those meal-plan dollars.
If you have a college meal plan, use it! It’s already been paid for, so why pay even more to go out to eat?
- New isn’t always better.
Find out whether you can buy your textbooks used, share or borrow them from a friend, or rent them. “I found out my senior year of college that there was a place to rent textbooks,” Arroyo says. “I wish I would have known that sooner so I wouldn’t have had to buy books and struggle to sell them back to the bookstore.”
- Use that student discount.
Keep your student ID handy, because many local businesses offer discounts for students. Watch for advertised discounts near the store register. Every dollar adds up!
- Weigh it: Want vs. need.
As the oldest of three children, Arroyo quickly learned that she couldn’t constantly ask her parents for more spending cash. “After a while, you have to look at it this way: Do you really need it, or do you want it? The majority of the time it’s probably a want,” she says.
- Seek out employment opportunities.
Many employers – especially on-campus gigs – are willing to work around class schedules. Arroyo worked both on- and off-campus, which helped her get into a routine of saving. “I used my restaurant tips as my spending money, and my campus and restaurant checks went into savings for my rainy-day fund,” she says. “But I shouldn’t have dipped into it as much as I did!”
- Take advantage of your credit union membership.
Dupaco is all about improving its members’ financial positions. Here are just two great ways college students can lean on Dupaco for financial guidance:
• Get a free Money Makeover to develop a budgeting and savings plan.
• Request a free Credit History Lesson to find out what credit is and how to establish good credit.
“I wish I would have known more in regards to credit and budgeting when I was in college,” Arroyo says. “Once you graduate, the real world hits you pretty hard.”