Generic advice for college students to make wise financial decisions and stay out of debt can be challenging since there is no “one size fits all” solution. Each college student comes from a different financial situation, whether they are putting themselves through school while working, or whether they are receiving financial assistance or support from family. With that in mind, some broad advice we like to give college students is to use the acronym HIVE:
H – Have fun!
This may sound like odd financial advice, but enjoy your time in college. College is expensive and you should feel passionate about what you are studying and you should also take the opportunity to connect with new people- even volunteering some time or (if your budget allows) donating a few dollars to support a charity or cause that resonates with you.
I—Intentional money management
Create a budget with less than 10 categories and use apps to keep it in check (there are several free budgeting apps like Mint.com). Linking your debit card means you will always know where your money is going (cash can sometimes be invisible in a system like this).
V—Values based buying
Try to find creative ways to reuse, recycle, repurpose. It will be great for your budget! When it is necessary to buy new, find companies that match your values. Review options of Benefit Corporations (“B Corps”) for products and services.
E—Empowerment through understanding debt
If you need student loans, try to keep them to a minimum and make sure you understand the long-term ramification of the amount of debt you take on. Also, be aware that credit cards can be money traps. Although they can be helpful in building up your personal credit score, try to only use them when you know you can pay off the balance monthly. This can prepare you for independence and help set you up for success after college. Look for local nonprofits that offer free or low-cost classes on understanding credit and money management. Financial independence is the most empowering force to allow choices in life. Harness money to support self-reliance, dream fulfillment and flexibility—make money work FOR you instead of the other way around!
If your parents are working with a financial advisor, you may want to schedule a time to discuss financial questions specific to your situation. By honing your money skills now, you can enjoy today AND build for the future.