Budgeting for the last year of college and beyond…

Students around the country head back to their respective universities and colleges to complete their degree and graduate this year.  It’s a year filled with joy and sadness all wrapped tightly together.  Joy for finishing a degree and the dread of having to find a “real” job.

For many, this year will not only mark an end to “the best years of their lives”, but it may also mark the end of being able to tap on mom or dad for a few extra bucks.

If you’re this college student and haven’t already done so, now is the time to seriously start thinking, not only about your current expenses, but about the expenses you may have in the time frame immediately following college. The budgeting decisions you make today will impact the position you could be in after graduation.

Consider what your post collegiate plans will be and if you will be financially prepared to step into the next phase of your life. Will you do an internship after you graduate or maybe move back in with mom and dad? Do you need to purchase a car? When do you have to begin repaying student loans?

Here are a few things to consider tweaking in your budget this year, to help you save money, in preparation for your jump into the post collegiate life.

  • Download and use a free budget calculator to see exactly where you stand financially. Set a budget and stay on track with it. Here’s a link to some budget and savings tools.
  • Open a savings account that earns interest with a credit union or bank. Set a weekly amount that you will contribute to the account and stick with it. (Skip the coffee shop for a few days each week and deposit the amount you would have spent- this could be $5 to $10 a week. If you work, consider saving $10-$25 a paycheck.)
  • If you have to pay the utilities at your apartment, switch to budget billing with your provider. This will stabilize your bills each month at a fixed rate with no surprises.
  • Buy groceries and make your own meals. Or, better yet, see if your roommates want to share grocery costs and cooking duties.
  • Only eat out on the most important of special occasions. If you do eat out, choose an establishment that issues coupons or discounts. (Many restaurants offer coupons on their websites that are downloadable.)
  • Walk or ride your bike to class. Leave the car parked at your apartment. This will save you money on gas.
  • Do side jobs that are flexible and fit your schedule like house sitting, tutoring, baby sitting, or pet sitting. Put this extra income in your savings account.
  • Re-evaluate cell phone, cable and internet expenses to see if there are any costs that can be trimmed in these areas.
  • File your income tax return this year. According to the IRS, even if you do not have to file, you should file a federal income tax return. You can get money back, for example, if you had federal income tax withheld from your pay or you qualify for the earned income tax credit. (See who should file in Publication 501, for more details.)  If you do get money back, add this to your savings account.
  • Don’t use the credit card unless you have an emergency. Now is not the time to accumulate debt. Try and pay down any outstanding credit card balances before you graduate.

These recommendations can help get your budget on track so that when you graduate you will have some money saved to help cushion you during that transition into your post collegiate life. If you would like help reviewing your budget and creating a plan of action, Apprisen offers free comprehensive financial counseling sessions. To schedule a counseling session, call 800-355-2227 or visit www.apprisen.com to chat with a Financial Services Specialist.

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