Personal Finance Crash Course

Personal Finance for College Students

Maybe up until now you've been living at home without a financial care in the world. But if you're off to college, reality will soon set in. Sure, your parents might be there to fall back on in a pinch, but it's up to you to become financially responsible. Luckily, it doesn't have to be as hard as it may seem. Of course, the financial experts at First Financial are also here for any additional questions you might have as you take the journey to financial freedom.

It can be tough with new technology, new friends, and new pressures on your time. If you happen to have saved some cash before starting college, great! Guard that money and limit frivolous spending on things like eating out or expensive coffee fixes--especially if you don't plan to work.

If you can squeeze in a part-time job, you'll generate an income stream and take some of the focus off that dwindling bank account. A job will put money in your pocket and, ideally, a little into your savings account each month, although learning to save can be more difficult than some of your classes! Follow these simple suggestions to build healthy financial habits to help get you started on the right track. 

Banking: Find a bank with a branch near campus and sign up for a checking account and a savings account. If you get a debit card, keep track of what you spend and be sure to turn on low account balance alerts. If you plan to use a bank that is not close to campus, online and mobile banking is a great option. With First Financial online and mobile banking, you can deposit checks, make transfers, send money to friends and family, monitor accounts and more from anywhere at any time.

Credit Cards: When the credit card companies line up to offer you a credit card, make sure you are smart about purchases. If this is your first credit card, a low credit limit may be a good idea. For many college students, a few hundred dollars is all you need. That way, you are building credit in a responsible way, but also staying realistic on what you can pay off each month. If possible, use it only in emergencies -- not for indulgent splurges -- and pay the balance in full to avoid accruing interest. 

Bill Pay: We know you're busy juggling classes, a social life, and perhaps a job, so develop a system for making sure you pay your bills on time. Mark the due dates on a calendar. Late payments will not only result in late fees but can make your interest rates skyrocket. Take your bill pay habits one step further by using First Financial Bank's online bill pay platform. Bill pay is complimentary with all checking accounts, and makes paying bill on time easy.

Budget: Create a budget to cover the essentials -- books, food, gas, monthly bills -- and stick to it. Your friends are probably all in the same boat, so find ways to have fun within budget. Cook at home or enroll in the college meal plan, scout out free events, and take advantage of student discounts when you decide to splurge.

By staying on top of your finances, you avoid the stress associated with money and credit woes, and you can focus on what matters most -- your education. If you ever feel overwhelmed about your financial situation, many universities and colleges have resources available to all students. We are also here to help with any questions you might have about your new financial freedom!

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