Financial tips for college students going off to school

By Eric Tegethoff
Washington News Service

SEATTLE — It’s an exciting time of year for students heading off to college for the first time, but with that independence comes new responsibilities. One of the most important is financial responsibilities.

Every student — whether they are living off student loans, a part-time job, or checks from their parents — has to budget their resources wisely and should track their spending. Lynn Heider, vice president for public relations with the Northwest Credit Union Association, said credit cards can be a tempting way to stretch the budget.

“You as a college student are going to go to the mailbox in your dorm every week and there will be a new credit card offer there,” Heider said. “Be careful about how much credit and debt you take on. Beware of those offers.”

Heider said because credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives, they offer lower interest rates on credit cards than other financial institutions. Heider also noted that it’s best to establish good habits and pay off the card each month. Mobile apps can make this easier and can also help people detect fraudulent activity in their accounts more quickly.

Students also should keep their eyes open for discounts. Computer manufacturers often offer students deals, and college campuses usually have discounts for their restaurants and markets.

Then there is time spent off-campus. Heider said everybody needs to get away from their studies and enjoy themselves, but that doesn’t have to mean footing the bill for friends.

“Don’t get stuck picking up the tab for everybody else’s pizza and beers. Pay only your share,” she suggested. “And the best way to do this is to take cash and have in mind an amount that you’re going to spend for the evening of entertainment and then stick to that.”

Finally and most importantly, Heider said students should enjoy college life.

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