Financial Life Hacks for Students
Managing your money can be a lot. There’s no perfect way to budget and the goal should be to find a system that works best for you. For some people, it’s an app. Others keep a spreadsheet. Some folks use envelopes with cash meant for different things. There are some life hacks that can help keep you in top financial fitness and make life easier overall.
You’re probably going to take on debt at some point in life. It’s how you build credit and how you can afford cars and homes. Learning about the dangers of debt before you have any debt is a good start.
Not only will you know what you’re getting into when it comes to debt, but you’ll also be able to make smarter choices when it comes to what debt you’re willing to take on. Trying to learn how to handle debt when you’re eyeballs deep in debt is like learning to swim while you’re mid-air when jumping in.
• Life hack: Pay off high-interest debt first. If you have credit card debt and a low-interest personal loan, paying off the credit card first limits how much more you’d pay over time in interest.
Related to understanding debt is understanding credit cards. They are given a bad rap by a lot of financial gurus out there. Like many things that people try to make sound scary, they’re really only bad if they’re misused. If you budget and track everything you spend on your credit card and don’t exceed what your budget can afford, you’ll be fine.
• Life hack: Pay off your credit cards every month. There is no penalty for paying off a credit card every month. You still get all your rewards points if that’s part of your card program. There’s actually no downside; you avoid paying interest and you get the things you paid for.
• Life hack: Never max out your credit. Try to minimize your credit use to 30% of your credit limit. If you have an emergency, you’ll have the bandwidth to cover the costs.
Besides a car loan, student loans are probably the first loans you’ll take out. There are two kinds of student loans: subsidized and unsubsidized.
On subsidized loans, the Department of Education pays your interest while you’re in school and during the post-graduation grace period.
With unsubsidized loans, you don’t have to pay while in school, but the interest is accruing the whole time.
• Life hack: Start making payments on unsubsidized loans as soon as you take them out. The interest payments won’t be ridiculous if you start paying them early.
• Life hack: If you’re struggling with student loans, you can contact your lender; most will work with you to find a plan that works.
Staying on top of your credit score in the early years will help you stay ahead in the later years. Right now you don’t need much credit. Staying focused on building good credit now will help you get the credit you need when you do take out big loans.
There are plenty of programs that allow you to know your credit score at any given time. Most likely your credit union will keep you up to date in relation to your checking or savings account.
• Life hack: Don’t co-sign a loan. This is different than not having a co-signer. You’re young; you’re going to need a parent to cosign most loans you take out. That’s your credit to build and your co-signer is there to assure you pay.
Being the co-signer is what you’ll want to avoid. Even though you’re just building your credit, after a few years, you could potentially co-sign for someone else. Don’t do it. Friend or family, if they’re coming to you, they don’t have a lot of options and that is a risky person to sign with. And their mistakes are now tied to you and your carefully protected credit score.
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