As a new college student at BYU, the options are endless. Students can go to parties, stay out late and do whatever they want with no supervision. Although all these activities are fun, students should be aware of their spending habits before it becomes a problem.
Being financially responsible at school can help students save money in the long run and learn long-lasting habits.
Kay Stice, an award-winning accounting professor at BYU, said students have a difficult time saving money because they aren’t looking ahead or using lifelong financial habits.
“Most students cannot save the future down payment on a house while they are going to school,” Stice said in an email. “However, all students can develop prudent spending and saving practices now that will make it much easier for them to save that down payment once they leave school and get a job.”
Stice said another reason students may have a difficult time saving money is they need to learn they can’t buy everything they want.
“Some of us make all of our purchases with credit and debit cards,” Stice said, “and never really make the connection that buying one desirable thing means I now don’t have the money to buy another desirable thing.”
To make purchases, students may feel that finding a job is necessary, but Stice said it might not be the easiest option.
“It is important to remember that in a student’s busy life it is much easier to find time to spend less money than it is to find time to get a job to make more money,” Stice said.
If new students are looking to find a job, Kiplinger.com and thestreet.com said the best part-time jobs for college students are restaurant server, tutor, retail sales, cashier, virtual jobs, campus positions, caregiver, paid intern and low-level jobs in a future profession.
To save money without getting a job, Stice suggested six simple steps to increasing a student’s bottom line. The first is to cook meals at home.
“Don’t eat out so much,” Stice said. “Eating at home has many benefits. First, it is usually more healthy. Second, it costs a lot less. A meal that costs you $2 at home costs you $8 if you eat out. If you pack your own lunch and bring it to campus, you can eat for much less and more healthy. A person who eats out an average of once a day can easily save $150 to $200 per month by resolving to eat at home.”
Other suggestions Stice gave were: cut spending on new clothes to a minimum, re-examine cell phone plans, reconsider what is being spent on Internet or cable, decide if having a car is necessary and find a less expensive place to live.
Regarding spending on new clothes, Stice said that in-the-moment purchases are unwise.
“You should start your clothes budget at $0 per month and only increase it if you have extra cash,” Stice said. “Buying clothes on the spur of the moment is a disastrous financial move. For those of us on a disciplined budget, clothes purchases should only be made after careful consideration and planning.”
Stice said budgeting may sound complex and scary, but it can be effective in helping save money.
“Simply stated, budgeting is merely planning your spending and then periodically measuring how much you have spent,” Stice said. “I guarantee that the simple acts of making a plan and measuring your spending will cause you to spend less and be more wise about how you spend your money.”
At About.com under Financial Planning, there is a budget worksheet designed for college students. Incomes and expenses are split into subcategories such as income from parents, income from scholarships, utilities expenses and grocery expenses. The worksheet breaks down the budget by month, semester and school year. Other students use mint.com or Quicken to manage their expenses. As a new student, this may be helpful to start tracking where money is being spent.
Students also are welcome to take finance classes to help them become more aware of their spending habits.
BYU’s business school, The Marriott School, has a personal finance page with several options available to help students with their personal finances. There are free lessons offered on the site with difficulty level from beginning to advanced. The beginning lessons touch on the basics of finance like understanding and managing credit and setting goals. The intermediate lessons include topics such as cash management and debt reduction. The advanced lessons cover taxes, investments and retirement. The lessons are found online and are also in a written format.
To access these and other financial planning resources visit personalfinance.byu.edu.