High school seniors are now in the final stretch. They have mastered the college application and college financial aid processes, attended their last prom, and are anxiously awaiting their graduation day. This is definitely a time to celebrate the achievements of the past, and to also look forward to attending college in the fall. While making plans to have some fun during the summer, it is also important to start laying a solid foundation for your financial future. Here are some steps high school seniors can take now which will help make the dream of financial security come true:
Find Out How to Budget Your Money: Talk with your parents and older relatives about how to budget your money properly. Many college freshmen are overwhelmed when faced by handling their own finances for the first time. Don’t let this happen to you. Figure out how much money you have available to use, and compare that to
- how much you will have to spend. If there is not enough, you have to take some action over the summer. Once you get to campus, you’ll have a head start on knowing your spending limits.
- Learn About Your Student Loans: You may have taken out some federal or private student loans so you could afford to attend the college of your choice, but it is a mistake to ignore their implications until your graduation. Find out how much you will owe in principle and interest, and talk to your parents about what their expectations are regarding payment responsibilities. This will help you keep a handle on how much you borrow, so there will be no surprises in the future.
- Be Conservative About Credit: Your parents may give you a credit card, but learn to use it sparingly. Unless you have the money available to pay the full balance every month, you seriously need to consider the value of every purchase you make. Interest rates on credit cards are quite high. Revolving balances mean that interest charges build on interest, making the balance grow very quickly. Before you know it, you could owe more money in interest charges or fees than your actual purchases every month.
- Save Some Money: If you can, try to get a job over the summer or find a part-time job while you are attending college. These extra funds can really come in handy for meeting your everyday expenses while you are away. If you want to go out with friends, rent a movie, or buy an extra book, you will have the cash available and won’t have to worry about adding credit charges you can’t afford.
- Seek Out Scholarships: This isn’t something you just need to do during your high school years. Some scholarships look for students pursuing specific majors or those with at least one year of college. Keep up the scholarship search, as this “free” money can really make the difference in being able to afford attending college and encountering financial difficulties at every step of the way.
Yes, managing your own finances can be a challenge, but just think about all of the challenges you have already overcome to get to this point. The one thing you have on your side is that you are pretty much starting with a clean credit slate. You are not overwhelmed yet with credit bills for a house, cars and monthly living expenses. Make smart financial moves now, and you’ll be learning money management skills that you can use for a lifetime!