For many college students, heading off to school is the first time they take on financial responsibilities. Having the freedom to choose when and how you spend money can be exciting. It can also be a slippery slope if you have poor spending habits and no financial literacy. Becoming financially independent requires a basic understanding of personal finances and how to make smart money choices in college.
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Create a budget.
The first step of building your personal finances is to earn more than you spend. The best way to track your cash flow is to create and follow a budget. You can use a free budgeting app to automatically track and record your expenses. Understanding where your money goes is a great way to take control of your finances so they don’t control you.
Use credit cards wisely.
You have a limited credit history as a college student. Building credit takes time and requires responsible spending habits and on-time payments. Opening a credit card account is a great way to establish a credit history, especially a starter credit card designed for college students. Student cards don’t require long credit history, and most don’t have annual fees. Some offer perks such as student cash-back on everyday purchases.
It’s important to understand how credit cards work before applying for your first credit card. All card issuers have eligibility requirements, and they do run a credit check. You may also need a minimum income and have a minimum credit score to be considered. Applicants with good credit are better suited to open unsecured credit cards, while those with poor credit are better suited for secured credit cards with credit limits determined by a security deposit.
There’s more than one type of credit card to apply for. It’s a good idea to consider the fees and annual percentage rates (APRs) of each type of card. You should also think about whether you prefer cash back or a rewards card.
Wealth Rocket breaks down their choices of the best credit cards for students in Canada. The personal finance site looks at the welcome bonus, rewards programs, annual fee, interest rate, and minimum income requirements of each card. Their list of the best credit cards includes the Tangerine Money-Back credit card, the BMO CashBack Mastercard, and the HSBC+Rewards Mastercard. Responsible use of your card, making the minimum payment, avoiding cashing advances, and being smart with everyday purchases will help you build a strong credit history.
Earn extra spending money.
It’s a good idea to find a way to earn independent income as a college student. Take advantage of a work-study job, get hired somewhere off-campus, or find a lucrative side hustle. Earning extra money not only funds your social life, but the work experience is a great way to build a diverse professional network. The more professional experience you can gain in school, the better your chances of finding employment are soon after graduation.
Breaking into the IT field, for example, requires specific technical skills and certifications. Professional development is key to advancing your career, standing out from the competition, and increasing your earning potential. A smart way to get a head start on your network engineering career is to learn technical skills and fundamentals on your own time and budget. With affordable network engineer training from NexGenT, you can become network engineer job-ready in eight months.
Network engineers must know fundamentals such as subnetting, IPv4 and IPv6, and how routers, switches, packets, and frames work. You’ll need to gain relevant hands-on experience and find work as a network technician or in technical sales. You can really advance your career by becoming a Full Stack Network Engineer (FSNE). Earning professional certifications on your own learning schedule and budget is a great way to advance your career in the IT field or other field of your choice.
Learning how to become financially responsible as a college student will set you up for financial success. Track your cash flow with a budget, use credit cards wisely, and find ways to earn an independent income.