College life exposes young adults to countless temptations – one of those being financial.
You’re finally free to spend your time and allowance as you please, and credit card offers are coming at you from all directions.
It’s easy to succumb to overspending and getting in over your head, and students with bad credit often go on to struggle with their finances throughout adulthood.
Use these four tips to avoid bad credit if you’re a college student.
1. Don’t apply for credit cards for freebies
Credit card companies love tempting college students to sign up for their cards in exchange for free goodies, often in booths at fun campus events.
Don’t sell your soul for a free T-shirt you’ll never wear or pizza you don’t need!
You don’t want to apply for one on a whim. Review your credit card options carefully and choose the right one for you — not just because you get a free Koozie.
2. Stick to your meal plan
Most students have a meal plan at their dorm that provides a set amount of weekly meals.
Where many college students get off their budgets and start living on credit cards is when they get tired of the dorm food or never want to miss an opportunity to go out with friends for a meal. Going out for food and drinks adds up quickly.
While it’s not always fun or cool, actually use your meal plan so you’re not wasting money on meals that are already paid for. Worried you’ll be eating alone? Tell a couple of your dorm friends you’re on a budget and ask if they’ll be regular cafeteria eaters with you.
You may be surprised by how many people are in the same financial boat but didn’t want to admit it! You can still go out with your friends, but eat at the dorm beforehand and join them for company only.
“If you put expenses on your credit card,
you have to make one of two choices.”
3. Work with roommates to make sure bills are paid
Not paying your utility bills, like phone, electricity, water, gas, Internet and TV, will damage your credit. This can be tricky when you’re in college and may be splitting bills with roommates.
Rather than having both or all of your names on every account, consider having only your name on a few of the bills and only their names on the others.
This divides the duties and puts you each in charge of specific bills, so if one of them doesn’t pay their bill, your name and credit isn’t damaged.
If any of them are forgetful, put a shared calendar with bill due dates on the fridge to keep each other accountable. After all, you don’t want your Internet to go out the night an assignment is due.
If you must have all your names on the bills, you can set up automatic payments so they can never be missed.
If you must do it manually, just be ruthless about due dates. It’s unfortunate the responsibility may fall on you, but some folks just aren’t mature enough to handle paying bills on time in college.
Everyone’s credit will be better if there’s someone smart like you to ensure the bills are paid on time each month.
4. Find a part-time job
If you find yourself living above your means and are having to regularly put expenses on your credit card, you have to make one of two choices: start spending less or start earning more.
If you want to live more comfortably and be less reliant on credit, it may be time to find a part-time job.
All colleges and universities employ students in various programs and facilities, or you can find a job working in a restaurant, retail store, local business or even babysitting.
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