Get money smart with these easy financial wellness tips

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It’s no secret—college is expensive. Tuition and fees might be covered by your Florida Prepaid Scholarship, but we know that rent, room/board, books, and other life expenses can really add up. That’s why it is so important that you are managing your money in the best way and making the most of all the financial aid opportunities you can. Even if you don’t have $100 in your bank account, there are still ways to spend and save wisely. Check out these 8 great financial wellness tips to get your bank account looking healthy.

1. Fill out your FAFSA
As a college student there is absolutely no reason not to fill out your FAFSA each year. By submitting this form, you put your name in the running for grants, scholarships, loan-interest federal loans, and even work-study opportunities. The FAFSA for 2019-2020 was released last week on October 1, so if you haven’t already, apply now! Many of these opportunities are first come, first served. Maximize your rewards by applying early each year! Check out last week’s post on the FAFSA for some handy tips on filling yours out!

2. Keep an eye on your account balance
Now that you are in college, it is very important you open a checking account. Unbanked students pay higher fees to cash checks and are more likely to fall prey to payday loan scams! Be warned: it is very easy to blow through cash when all you are doing is swiping a card. Consider taking out all the cash you are allowing yourself to spend each week. Seeing your money visibly disappear from your wallet helps you weed out any unnecessary purchases!

If you would rather keep things electronic, be sure to download your bank or credit union’s mobile app on your phone and check your balance daily. You can even sign up for daily reminders of your account balance and notifications of when your account balance is low. If you are having a lot of trouble keeping your spending in check, you can sign up for overdraft protection to keep yourself from accruing mountains of overdraft fees. However, be careful there; studies show that overdraft protection actually incentivizes overspending!

3. Put important financial dates down in your calendar
Your calendar or agenda is not just for keeping track of assignment due dates and your work schedule, you should also be tracking key financial dates. If you use a smart phone as your personal agenda, you can even set reminders to notify you when these key dates are approaching. Jot down your paydays, when your bills are due, reminders to check your credit, or even scholarship due dates. Remember, a big part of staying in the black (have money in the bank) comes down to organization! Don’t let your bills get past due simply by forgetting about them.

4. Write down everything you spend for the week
Many first-time college students struggle to keep their bank account healthy simply from a lack of self-awareness. One great way to identify the truth about your spending is by having a strong idea of what you actually spend your money on. By writing down how much you spend in a week, you may see it’s probably not all bills, gas, and groceries. You might notice those daily Starbucks runs are costing you as much as $35 a week. That’s $140 bucks a month—more than enough to help you pay one or more of your bills! Listing out exactly what you’re spending on each week is a great first step to spending less next time.

 5. Build up your credit
When borrowing money, signing a lease, applying for jobs, or obtaining insurance, agencies look at your credit score or FICO score to learn your financial “G.P.A.” if you will. Your credit score informs the world how well you pay off your debts. While it is important to have good, high credit, there is a difference between having bad credit and no credit. If you have never opened up a credit card or taken out a loan on your own, you do not have any credit, so it is important for you to build some.

Fair warning: credit cards can be dangerous if you have never had one before. It’s easy to rack up a lot of debt pretty quickly if you aren’t on top of your payments. Credit cards are not free money—you have to pay them back, and often times come with interest on what you still owe. If you have bad/no credit, get a secured credit card that will keep you from overspending! These cards require a cash collateral to open, and have a firm credit limit. This will help you to avoid racking up debt whilst encouraging regular payment habits and building good credit!

6. If you have to get a loan, choose a federal one
Our hope is that you can apply for enough scholarships to avoid getting any loans. However, we know that students often find taking out a loan is the only way to cover what you need for the school year. If you do take out a loan to fund your living expenses, experts recommend taking out federal loans rather than private loans. The interest rates are lower and FedhLoan tends to be more willing to negotiate loan repayments based on your income and employment status. Check out this interesting article on repaying student loans to learn more about this process.

7. Do not open your savings account at the same bank as your checking account

Listen, we know many of you are living paycheck to paycheck and aren’t in a place to start making major contributions to your savings account. Don’t underestimate how far a few dollars a day can go; consider downloading Digit. This handy app links safely to your bank account and squirrels away very small amounts of money for savings or for a customizable goal you want to meet. A buck-fifty here, $3.12 there, this app helps you save money passively. You can also consider joining a credit union to save your money. Credit unions usually offer better interest rates on your savings account than standard banks!

8. Take advantage of online financial literacy
This article is just a jumping off point into the vast topic of financial wellness. There is a lot you can learn about budgeting, creating additional revenue streams, and avoiding bad money-managing habits through blogs, podcasts and videos online. To get started, we recommend spending some time pursuing this handy online guide to learn about financial wellness, scholarships, financial aid, and more. Invest some time in growing your financial know-how. It will pay dividends to your future!

If you have any additional questions about money management, contact your College Completion Coach. We can help get you in touch with the right resources for you to grow your financial wellness practices!

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