College Student’s Guide to Financial Success
Here’s how to financially plan for college and beyond.
Planning Like a Pro for College
Follow these simple tips, so you can take charge of your college finances.
- List your monthly income sources and savings, as well as allowances from your parents or guardians.
- Track your expenses (books, supplies, food, etc.).
- Balance your income and expenses. Set aside money for savings, too.
- Start an emergency fund that’s separate from your daily debit account; consider using monthly automatic fund transfers into this separate account. That way, you’ll have a safety net that can help if the unexpected happens.
Smart Tip: UW Credit Union’s Web Branch offers convenient Money Management Tools, with features like Categories, Notes and Labels, and more.
Getting an Account That’s a Good Fit
Low Fees, Free Checking and Online Options Are Key
Look for accounts with minimal maintenance and overdraft fees, free checking, convenient ATMs with no out-of-network charges, and a good mix of online in-person banking options.
At UW Credit Union, our personal checking/debit accounts are packed with perks, including paperless accounts, free debit cards and more.
Developing Smart Money Habits
Live Comfortably and Keep Your Finances Under Control with These Strategies
Save on Books You can save big by renting books. Just make sure you avoid those late fees and damage penalties! Used books can help you save, too.
Be a Frugal Foodie Try stretching your meal plan by cooking at home every once in awhile. Getting snacks and beverages at local supermarkets also helps.
Wait a Week Prevent impulse buys by waiting a week. If you’ve forgotten about those jeans after a few days, they probably weren’t worth it.
Take Advantage of Student Discounts Your student ID can open doors to discounts at local businesses, online retailers, fast-food chains and more.
Smart Tip: Find out if businesses offer college student discounts by calling ahead or visiting their website first.
Explore Your Income Options
Offset College Costs with a Mix of Income Sources
Apply for Scholarships If you haven’t already done so, explore scholarship opportunities, from the bigger full-ride variety, to the smaller types.
Smart Tip: Each academic year, UW Credit Union offers five $3,000 Community Values Scholarships to new and returning undergraduate students.
Explore On-Campus Work Opportunities Universities offer a variety of part-time jobs. It’s a great way to earn money while getting extra work experience.
Side Hustles Can Help Lining up side jobs that fit your schedule can make college more affordable. Tutoring, dog walking, delivering food, house cleaning or doing yard work … the possibilities are seemingly endless.
Be Credit Card-Savvy
Getting a Credit Card Is an Important First Step Toward Building Credit
Check Out Fees and Rates Carefully compare the rates and fees of different cards. Consider those with no annual fee, a low interest rate and a reasonable credit limit.
Smart Tip: UW Credit Union’s budget-friendly credit cards are worth exploring.
Pay Your Balance in Full Every Month Make a habit of paying off your balance on time when you get credit card bills. That way, you can avoid debt and extra fees.
Only Charge What You Can Afford Use credit cards for purchases within your means. If you buy things you can’t afford with your credit card, you’ll risk taking on too much debt.
Smart Tip: Consider setting up automatic payments for monthly costs, like phone bills or streaming subscriptions.
Building Healthy Credit
Building Good Credit While You’re in College Can Positively Impact Your Life in Many Ways!
Know Your Credit Score Your credit score is a snapshot of your creditworthiness. It’s important to track you credit score’s progress over time.
Smart Tip: As a UW Credit Union member, you can check your score for free in Web Branch anytime or set up a free credit consultation with one one of our branches.
Improve Your Credit Score Higher credit scores can lead to easier approvals for renting apartments, landing a nice job and more. These savvy habits can help your credit score:
- Pay bills on time (credit cards, rent, utility bills, etc.).
- Pay off your balance in full each month, as previously noted.
- If you have to carry a credit card balance, keep it about 30 percent below your credit limit.
- Stay on top of loan payments; set up automatic payments when possible.
Don’t Hurt Your Credit Score Do yourself a favor by avoiding these missteps:
- Missing payments, or making late payments
- Having a high balance; the closer you are to your credit limits, the greater the negative impact
- Too much new credit (rapidly opening new accounts)
- Limited or no credit experience
Avoiding Common Fraud and Scams
Gain the Confidence and Knowledge to Avoid Scams
Fake Check Scams The most common check scams begin with one of these situations:
- You sold an item online and the buyer overpays.
- You “won” a prize, and are told to send back taxes and fees.
- You’re overpaid as a “secret shopper."
- You do small, short-term jobs, like dog walking, and are paid too much.
In most cases cases, you receive a check, and are asked to send back money or buy gift cards covering the amount you were overpaid, or to cover extra "fees." After that, the check you received bounces. As a result, you lose money.
Government Scams In most cases, someone claiming to be from a tax or law enforcement agency contacts you. They say you’ll be punished for not paying fees or fines, and tell you to transfer money elsewhere. In these situations, you’re ultimately tricked into giving away money.
Sublet Scams Let’s say you’re subletting your apartment, and an “interested renter” sends you a check for more than the security deposit and first month of rent. Next, they ask you to send the overpayment back to them. This is a scam, as their check to you will not clear the bank.
What to Watch For
- Someone overpaying when they send you a check
- People asking you to provide access to your account
- Individuals asking you to act immediately or keep their request for money “secret”
- Phone calls, text messages or emails requesting personal information, or to click a link
What to Do
- Stop and ask questions.
- Don’t send funds.
- Never provide your online banking user ID or password, or your debit card PIN.
- Seek financial advice/support from someone your trust.
Planning for Student Loan Payments
Get Ahead of the Game by Starting While You're Still In School
Even though student loan payments typically aren’t due until six months after you finish college, you’ll thank yourself in the long run if you start while you’re still in school.
Create a Game Plan Understand your loan terms, and how long it will take to pay them off. If you’ve already created a spending plan for managing your money, include a line item for student loan payments.
Make Interest Payments Right Away Interest accrues on most student loans. When you make payments on the interest you’ve accrued while you’re in school, you can save money over the life of your loan.
Smart Tip: Most lenders, including UW Credit Union, offer a 0.25% interest rate reduction when you set up automatic payments for student loan repayments. 1
Be Strategic In case you have more than one student loan, determine which one has the higher interest rate, and focus on paying it down first. Or, pay down the one with the highest balance first. The choice is yours!
Return Funds If it turns out that your student loan includes funds you don’t need, contact your bursar’s office to find out how you can return the funds. This could help you save money on repayments.