Budgeting may never have been a priority for some lucky students arriving on campuses, but even if they do not have to stretch financial aid checks and work-study paychecks, they will have to make their dining hall money last. The same goes for money they have for books, travel and socializing.
Unfortunately, only 39 percent of freshmen at four-year colleges have a budget, according to a 2015 survey of 42,000 first year students by education technology company EverFi on behalf of Higher One, which provides payment, refund disbursement and data analytics to colleges and universities. (Students at two-year colleges, who are more likely to be older, attending part time, and holding down a job, display more adult financial habits, with 60 percent having a budget.) (Tweet This)
There are plenty of online resources from organizations like the National Endowment for Financial Education to help students develop money management habits. Students can also use apps like Lefttospend to track how much they have, and others, like Mint, a product from Intuit, for more elaborate budgeting.
Sollinger, who works with parents more than students, recommends that parents who are helping their children with college expenses break down the budgeting process: Dole out money month by month rather than handing them a check to last a semester.
Credit cards, which too often are hazardous to novices' budgeting health, have become rarer on campus since the passage of the Card Act, which restricted marketing to minors without incomes. But prepaid cards are ubiquitous, not least because a number of colleges have their student ID cards double as prepaid cards, and they can trip up students who are not careful about monitoring their balances.
But the EverFi/Higher One survey found that only 25 percent of first-year students at four-year colleges, and 53 percent of those at two-year colleges, keep their receipts. Students may want to shop for bank accounts and cards that limit the fees they charge for overdrafts and cash withdrawals.