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Student Finance

You need textbooks, but you can't afford them because you need to pay tuition and, you know, eat. You're working as many shifts as you can handle, but you're working so hard that you're worried you can't study enough to get that scholarship you desperately need.

Yep, those are the realities of being a student.

School is expensive—there's no two ways about it.

The Costs of Being a Student

What's so expensive? Here are just a few of the things you're going to pay for as a student:

  • Basic items that the average person needs (toothbrush, toothpaste, makeup, soap, a subscription to Netflix)
  • Entertainment costs (to help you deal with the boredom of your early-morning Statistics class, you may need to pay for movies, music, magazines, games, and other stuff)
  • Clothes
  • School supplies (highlighters, rulers, that calendar that you don't use past September)
  • Textbooks
  • Educational technology (tablets, computers, the phone you're going to use to call your best friend at 2:00 AM when you can't finish your term paper)
  • Housing (if you're at a boarding school or in college)
  • Transportation (your own car or bus pass)
  • Memberships (gym, phone bill, your secret subscription to Anonymous Mongoose Supporters)
  • Basic services (haircuts, manicures, spa dates to maintain a shred of your sanity during exam week)
  • Walking around money for coffee and the cute novelty keychain you couldn't resist
  • All the costs of your sport or favorite hobbies
  • Food, including basic groceries and heading out to a restaurant every once in a while

It probably costs at least $20,000 per year to roll out of bed in the mornings—and the actual cost is likely even higher. And that's on top of the $20,000+ you're paying for tuition and student fees.

Better get a really nice frame for that diploma—it costs as much as a nice sports car.

Financial Moves to Make: Money 101

There are a few ways to make sure that your finances are in decent shape by the time you graduate.

(1) Get a credit card.

Are we telling you to go into debt? Not exactly.

What we want you to do is to snag a good deal on a credit card and then pay that sucker off every month. Getting a credit card now can be easier: credit card companies love teenagers and twentysomethings. You may be able to get a card with a lower rate and an easier application process than if you waited until after you graduated. And if you spend three or four years paying your credit card off every month, you'll be creating a good credit history, which can help you land everything from a good job to a nice apartment to a decent car loan.

(2) Start building your credit score.

Just as having bad credit can hurt you, having no credit history can bite you when it's time to look for a job or an apartment. On top of getting your own credit card, ask your parents to sign over one of the bills of the house to you. May not sound great in the short term, but it'll pay off.

(3) Get a job.

A part-time job (or even an internship or volunteer work if you're the nurturing sort) shows that you have a good work ethic and provides the potential for a recommendation letter down the road. Both of those things will be helpful if and when you apply for a job after you graduate…and you probably will, since you're going to get used to the whole eating and having a place to live thing.

A part-time job even gives you some extra spending money if you do it right.

(4) Start thinking about your career.

You may have a passion for making papier-mâché bees with hand-twined antennae—and maybe you'll make a fortune out of them—but you want a backup plan.

Think about how you're going to earn money throughout your life and start launching your career right out of the gate. Talk to people who are already in your dream job. What do they wish they had known early on? How did they get to where they are now? Start making connections in the industry where you want to work and take on volunteer or internship work so you have some work experience saved up.

(5) Set up a savings account.

You may not think that you have any money to save if you're diving between the couch cushions for change to pay for pizza, but even a tiny savings account can help you if you suddenly get a flat tire or you decide you want to invest.

Even if you can only put aside a couple bucks a month, it's a good habit to get into.

(6) Do well in school.

You've heard this a zillion times. But does anyone ever tell you why?

Doing well now means that you can get those talent- and academic-based scholarships that help you pay for school. It's also more impressive when you start working, so you can snag a better paying job to keep the lights on.

Head over to College 101 for more.

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