So, you’ve graduated high school and are embarking upon your wide open future. Going to college is an exciting time for most. But, it can also be a huge stepping stone with your financial future. College is the time that most people are first on their own financially, at least partially, and get their first credit card. So what is the best way to handle all of this newfound freedom and secure your financial future at the same time?
I know that the saying is “Cash is King,” and it still is for the most part. The reason for this saying is because when you are paying for something with cash, it doesn’t affect your credit and therefore your financial future in any way, shape or form. If you pay for things with cash, you don’t have to worry about getting authorization from a bank. You just pull out your wallet and call it a day.
Cash is one of those things that is pretty easy for a college student to make because there are plenty of jobs, and side hustles, that pay straight cash. Here are a few examples, some that I personally embarked upon to make some cash during college:
- Waiting tables
- Delivering Pizza
- Washing Cars
- Cleaning Houses
- Doing Yard Work
- Grocery Shopping
Having cash on hand makes it easier to breathe because you know that you can pay for what you need. Just so long as you don’t spend it all at once or on things that you really don’t need. This is an ongoing lesson in college. Overall though, cash is great to have on hand to use on those wants, such as:
- Movies with friends
- Drinks (alcoholic or not)
- Fast food lunches and/or dinners
- Ramen! (regular full of gluten kind or the newer gluten free versions)
- Fun activities like bowling, skating, arcades, etc.
Now this form of payment is the most embarked upon during college. The reason for this is because students are now officially adults and can be solicited by credit card companies. However, due to the Credit Card Act of 2009, they are solicited much less than I was as a new student in the 90’s. This Act says that if you are a student under the age of 21, you must have an adult co-signer that says you make enough income to qualify for the card. The most recent study showed that approximately 56% of college students owned a credit card as opposed to 85% who own a debit card.
If you are one of the 56% who is able to get a credit card before the age of 21, then use it wisely. Credit cards make it SO much easier to spend money that we don’t have and think about it later. But this can be the dreaded beginning of credit card debt!
You should use your credit card on larger purchases to assist with establishing good credit, such as:
- Furniture (The first thing that I ever bought on credit was my first dining room table for my first apartment on credit. It helped establish positive credit for me, I paid it off and I had the table for 10 years. It was a great first purchase!)
- Medical (if your health insurance doesn’t cover all of it)
- Trips with friends, such as Spring Break (IF you can afford to pay off the amount when you get your credit card statement.)
Having a credit card is a big responsibility and one that should not be taken lightly. It can make or break your financial future. This is because of two reasons. If you use the card frivolously, it can create lasting debt that could take quite awhile to pay off. Every month that you have credit card debt you have interest charges increasing and credit score points decreasing.
Deciding whether or not to get credit in the first place is a big decision, especially when you are first entering into adulthood. So choose wisely! Just remember when it can be appropriate to use credit and when you should use cash. No matter which method you choose, you should always be able to pay off the full amount of the credit line on the next billing cycle or it can begin to negatively affect your credit.
We will get into that with the next post where we discuss credit scores and debit.
Did you make the leap into a credit card as soon as you got to college? If so, what was your experience with it?