Personal Finance Tools You Should Be Using
College students, as a general rule, are striving for autonomy. We all want to be independent of our parents, but when it comes to money, sometimes it’s easier to ask mom for cash or get dad to do your taxes. If you’re ready to get better at managing your money on your own, check out the tools below.
The first step in managing money is knowing how much you have, what’s coming in and what you can spend. You need a budget even if you don’t have a regular income to keep you from overspending or forgetting to save.
Two well-regarded budgeting tools are mint.com and YNAB.com (You Need a Budget). These tools use your bank, loan and credit card information to automatically track every penny you receive and spend. You can customize a monthly budget and then track your spending using an app.
While credit cards can certainly be a debt trap for those who tend to spend everything in their wallet, when used in conjunction with a budget they are extremely useful tools. Building credit will immediately impact your ability to get a loan, buy a home or even get a job after graduation.
For those without a credit score and full-time income, there are a few options when it comes to getting a card: choose one targeted at students and those without credit, ask your parents to cosign on a regular card or go with a secured credit card. Whatever card you choose, you want to pay in full every month and avoid using your full limit for maximum credit score and rewards benefits.
Speaking of credit scores, you should check (or at least know how to check) yours so that you know what kind of loans and credit cards you are eligible for and to catch identity theft.
HowStuffWorks has a good rundown of how credit and credit scores operate, but the basics that you need to know are that you can check your credit score for free and it won’t impact your score, but if multiple loan or credit card companies check your score in a short amount of time (because you’re applying for multiple loans or credit cards), your score will go down.
Peer Payment Tool
When you’re out with friends, it’s often convenient to have one person pay and then split the check. But how often have you found yourself in a situation where your friend “can’t pay you back” because they don’t have any cash? Eliminate that worry with a peer payment system. You can use Gmail, Square, PayPal, Facebook or even Snapchat–just use something.
Every American student should be able to operate FAFSA for the simple reason that FAFSA is the foundation of financial aid in American universities. Filling out the FAFSA is also somewhat similar to filing taxes, so it lets you practice tracking your financial information.
Student Loan Tools
If you rely on student loans, you should diligently observe the interest and policies of each one. A good student loan calculator and debt repayment plan can make a huge difference in how much you pay long-term.
The most important financial tool in your arsenal is financial education. Check out Cash Course or Money 101 to brush up on basics and find the answers to your most pressing money questions.
Whether you were practically raised by Dave Ramsey or have never considered planning your finances, it is important to be intentional with your money now that you are an adult.