By Sierra Tishgart
The good news about starting college: you have more control over your life! But this power also comes with responsibility, especially when it comes to your finances. Even if you're not supporting yourself (thanks, Mom and Dad!), you need to be smart about managing money while you experience your newfound independence. The monetary behaviors you instate now will carry through to your adult life. According to financial expert Alexa von Tobel, the average college senior graduates with $4,000 in credit card debt, not to mention $30,000 in student debt.
We asked her and other experts about what you can do to establish an easy, practical plan for spending and saving. Click through the slideshow below for their top tips!
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Create A Budget
"No matter how little your budget is, it's never too early to start a budget or spending plan," says Galia Gichon, the founder of Down-to-Earth Finance, a financial resource for women. "Money from your parents, financial aid, and your job are the three main sources. Start setting up a regular savings account around those few line items. For example: if you have $400 month, put $50 towards your cell phone bill, $50 towards spring break savings, and $50 towards going out at night. Take those few minutes at the beginning of the month or week to plan. I like to do things on a weekly basis because if you deviate one week, you can start over the next."
"Now is the time to decide what is important to you and what you can go without," says Nicole Lapin, the founder of Recessionista.com. "Can't live without your weekly Bikram class? That's fine! Need a monthly manicure? That's fine, too! These small indulgences will keep you on track from splurging on other unnecessary expenses."
Consider Opening A Credit Card In Your Own Name
"You should have a credit card that you only use to buy small things like a coffee or lunch so that you can establish really good credit," says Alexa von Tobel, the founder of LearnVest, a financial website that aims to empower women. "Your credit score is the only grade that matters after you graduate from college. Scores range from 300 to 850. If your score is above 760, that's fabulous. By having a good credit score, it means anytime you need to borrow money--like when you buy a home or car--it's a big signal of your responsibility. The more responsible you are, the less risky you are to the bank, so you'll get a much lower interest rate on the loan that you're borrowing. Your credit starts the second you have your first credit card in your own name. You need to pay your bills on time and in full every single month."
But Don't Open Multiple Credit Cards
"In college, you can open a credit card and get a discount on pizza," says von Tobel. "Opening a card is a big thing for your finances, and it shouldn't be something you do freely for a 15 percent discount."
Buy Gently Used Textbooks
"Your college bookstore will typically mark-up textbooks for convenience," says Lapin. It's just as convenient -- if not more so -- to buy your books online and save money. TextbookRecycling.com even donates a portion of each sale to charity, and BookRenter.com lets you rent expensive textbooks a semester or entire year."
"A lot of students want to travel, whether it's for spring break or a semester abroad," says Galia. "If you save $50 a month towards that, it shows your parents that you're taking on responsibility towards planning towards a future goal. You're communicating about money with your parents, which is something that students often don't do."