Our Inceptia Institute contributor, Christina Carroll, is a senior at the State University of New York at Geneseo, currently studying for her Bachelor’s in Personal and Professional Communication. Originally from Utica, NY, her aspirations include pursuing a career in Advertising or Public Relations, traveling the world, and successfully paying off her student loans with minimal headaches.
I’ll be honest: I am horrible with finances in general. I find budgeting difficult and confusing, I cannot file my own taxes, and I still do not know how a 401k works. The Financial Avenue online courses are a series of presentations designed for a student like me who needs to start at the beginning of the subject and be walked through it. I took the courses about college financing and credit cards, two subjects that I have been hoping to learn a bit more about considering my stage in life. The college financing course discussed different types of loans, repayment options, and offered tips on avoiding an insurmountable amount of debt (which sounds good to me!), while the credit card course looked at what a credit card really does, pitfalls to avoid, and the pros and cons of using a card.
Though I had the opportunity to attend community college free of charge while earning my Associate’s degree, I still needed to take out small loans for items like transportation, books, and living expenses. Now that I’m at a four-year institution, my loans are considerably higher, and the perils of college financing are more of a daily reality for me. Between room and board, tuition, and all the other bits that come along with being a college student, money is often tight.
The Financial Avenue program put many potential financial scenarios into simple terms; for example, it explained how interest can accrue. Luckily I am granted governmental loans and have not needed to seek out private lenders, which I now know often have far higher interest rates and complicated stipulations that can be difficult to understand. The trick is to pay off your loans as steadily as possible to avoid excessive interest that can add up very quickly.
Another common pitfall for college students is credit card debt. Having never actually used a credit card, I initially did not know much about them aside from how many people get into plenty of debt because of their use. Although I understand the usefulness of a credit card, I prefer not to use one unless absolutely necessary. This particular Financial Avenue course discussed common credit issues, as well as giving tips for successful credit card usage. If you miscalculate your spending and end up short for the month, you can easily dig yourself into a financial hole that is difficult to dig out of, potentially ruining your credit for the future. Rather than relying on credit cards, I’m going to stick with my debit card and only purchase what I have the money for at that moment, just to avoid mistakes like that. If you have a steady income and solid budget, credit cards can be a great resource. Just be sure you know what you’re getting into. With a little research it is possible to find your smartest option.
Debt is a crippling force if it gets out of hand, and it’s imperative that a student keeps up with his or her financial obligations. Loans and lines of credit can be great tools to get you through school or a difficult time, but they must be used in moderation. Never take more than you need, keep track of your spending, and be diligent with your bills. Like many other students, I find that it’s not always easy, but I also understand how important it is to stay on top of my finances in order to live comfortably later on. Making smart budgeting and spending a habit from the start is the real key to financial security for the rest of your life.