Category Archives: Paying for College

Student Loan Repayment Plans Might Be Costlier Than Expected

It’s hard to argue against making student loan payments more affordable.

Millions of people who struggle to pay their loans have found relief by signing up for student loan repayment plans that allow them to reduce their monthly bill based on a percentage of their income.

The program is now getting new scrutiny after a Government Accountability Office report found that the cost of the program was more than double the amount the Department of Education had budgeted. As a result, taxpayers are now on the hook to forgive at least $108 billion in student loans, the GAO estimates.

Many borrowers are also paying more than they expected. The appeal of these plans is that they cap your monthly payment to 10 percent of your income. If you haven’t paid the loan off after 20 to 25 years (depending on when you took it out and the kind of loan you have) the remaining balance is canceled.

But there’s a downside. Even though you reduce the amount that you pay, interest continues to accrue on the balance. That means you could end up owing more than if you were on the standard 10-year student loan repayment plan. And if the loan is forgiven, you’ll owe income taxes on that balance.

There are exceptions. If you’re in a public service loan forgiveness program and make 10 years of qualifying payments, you won’t owe taxes. And if you’re insolvent at the end of a 20- or 25-year forgiveness period, the tax bill may be waived.

Choose Carefully

If you’re in a student loan repayment plan like this now or think you’ll need one, here’s what you should know to ensure it doesn’t cost you more than you expected.

There are five income-driven student loan repayment plans. The one you choose can have a big impact on how much you end up paying in total. If you can qualify (you have to prove financial need), the optimal plans for lowering your monthly payment are the Pay As Your Earn (PAYE) and Revise Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plans.

Most recent borrowers who demonstrate financial need can use PAYE. This plan limits your payments to 10 percent of your discretionary income, caps your payments, and has a 20-year forgiveness period. The REPAYE plan is even more generous because it’s available to all direct federal loan borrowers regardless of when they took out their loans. You don’t have to prove financial hardship. It also reduces payments to 10 percent of your discretionary income, and there’s no cap on payments. As your income rises, so do your payments.

Not all loans are eligible. Income-based student loan repayment plans are available only to people who borrowed directly from the federal government. Before 2010, private banks made loans that were guaranteed by the federal government—Federal Family Education Loans. Those borrowers can qualify for income-based repayment, but they can access the other income-driven plans only if they consolidate their loans. If you have a Parent PLUS loan, you can do income-contingent repayment, which caps your payments at 20 percent of income. But there’s no limit to how much your monthly payments can grow. Private loans aren’t covered, though you can ask your lender whether you can work something out.

There’s lots of paperwork. Qualification depends on your income, and you have to be certified every year. Fill out a student loan repayment plan request with the DOE’s Office of Federal Student Aid and submit it to your loan servicer. He or she will review the paperwork and let you know whether you qualify. Once you are enrolled in a student loan repayment plan, you need to submit new paperwork to your servicer every year to show your expected income.

You must make steady payments. You have to make regular payments for the loan to be eligible for forgiveness. They don’t have to be consecutive, but if you stop paying—say for a deferment for grad school or a forbearance—you’ll need to resume the number of payments until they equal 20 (240 payments) or 25 years (300 payments).

Don’t Leave Payments on Autopilot

If you are struggling to pay your loans, getting into an income-based program is the smart thing to do, says Persis Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project. But once you get back on track, don’t leave your payments on autopilot. There’s no penalty for prepaying, so step up your payments as your income grows.

Use the DOE’s repayment estimator to see what you’ll owe over time based on the student loan repayment plan you choose. Also check our interactive tool, which shows you how different payments options affect the amount you owe.

And lastly, stay on top of your paperwork. To take advantage of the forgiveness option, you’ll need documentation to show that you’ve made all of your qualifying payments. If you work in public service (teaching, or working at a nonprofit or for the government, for example) and are seeking debt cancellation through the public service loan forgiveness program, you need to file forms with your servicer showing you work for an eligible employer. We recommend doing it once per year.

Don’t depend on your student loan servicer to be on top of things. The DOE and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have been cracking down on servicing problems, an issue that Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, has been trying to resolve, too.

Consumer Reports and other student loan advocates are also pushing to simplify the programs by creating one universal income-driven repayment plan.

“Now that the various plans are better known to the public, people are finally using these in higher numbers, and in the short term, this can be a good thing because it will prevent borrowers from falling behind on payments,” says Suzanne Martindale, staff attorney at Consumer Reports who specializes in student debt issues. “But this is a Band-Aid solution. Policymakers have created an expensive and complex loan system that fails to address the larger goal of reducing the cost of education so that all students have greater opportunities to contribute to our society and economy.”

Income-based plans aren’t likely to go away. The Obama administration has been pushing to expand the program. And in October, president-elect Donald Trump proposed a similar plan, capping monthly payments at 12.5 percent of the borrower’s income instead of 10 percent, and forgiving balances left after 15 years of payments instead of 20 to 25 years.

Income-based repayment plans “are an incredibly valuable resource for people who are having difficulty paying,” says Yu.

SOURCE: Consumer Reports, http://finance.yahoo.com/news/student-loan-repayment-plans-might-183107708.html

7 Smart Ways to Repay Your Student Loans

By Lynn O’Shaughnessy

For new college graduates who borrowed to help pay for their bachelor’s degrees, the clock is ticking. These grads have six months before the federal government expects them to start repaying their student loans. Here are seven tips to make sure that these young borrowers avoid any trouble as they begin paying down their debt:

1. Identify outstanding loans
The first step for borrowers is to know what they’ve borrowed. Debtors can access all their federal loans by logging into the National Student Loan Data System. Keeping track of these loans can be harder than you think. Students could have eight federal loans (one for every semester) or more after graduating from college.

2. Consider the federal repayment options.
There are a variety of ways to repay student debt. The standard method is to make monthly payments over 10 years. Borrowers, however, can be eligible for other repayments plans. The graduated repayment option requires lower payments in the early years with the payments usually growing every two years. Individuals who have borrowed at least $30,000 can qualify for an extended repayment plan, which will stretch the payments to 25 years.

3. Check eligibility for income-based repayment.
One of the big benefits of borrowing through federal student loans is that the federal government provides a safety net for those whose salaries can’t realistically cover their debt obligations. Eligible borrowers can essentially repay their student loans based on what they are making rather than what they owe. These programs can be a godsend for students who graduate without a job or are underemployed.

Pay As You Earn is the newest repayment program and the one with the most favorable terms. Under the plan, participants pay no more than 10 percent of their discretionary income each month to cover their student loans. The federal government will forgive any debt still remaining after 20 years.

Keep in mind that these repayment programs won’t always be the cheapest solution because the interest keeps accruing throughout the repayment period. If a person loses eligibility for the plan by earning a higher salary, he or she could end up paying more over the life of the loan.

4. Use the Repayment Estimator
It can be confusing for individuals when faced with various repayment options. Before choosing, borrowers should use the federal Repayment Estimator to see which would be the ideal plan for them. The estimator will calculate a person’s monthly payments and the potential lifetime cost of the loans.

5. Check out the loan forgiveness program.
Individuals should also check to see if they might qualify for the federal public service loan forgiveness program. Americans who work for a government entity or a nonprofit can have their loans forgiven after 10 years of payments. Those eligible for the program work in such fields as public education, public libraries, law enforcement, public interest law, early childhood education and public health services.

Borrowers can find out if they are eligible for this loan forgiveness program by completing the Employment Certification form on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

6. Repay loans automatically.
The best way to avoid missing payments is to make them automatic.

7. Consider emergency options.
With all the safety nets, there is no reason for troubled debtors to just stop paying. It can lead to tough late fees and ultimately default, which will ruin a person’s credit score and can lead to wage garnishments. Defaulting can also shrink the chances of getting an apartment, obtaining a cell phone plan and even finding a job.

To avoid default, borrowers should explore requesting a deferment or a forbearance from their loan servicer.

With a deferment, a borrower temporarily stops making payments and the government will pay interest during this period on federal direct subsidized loans and federal Perkins loans.

A second, less desirable alternative is obtaining a forbearance that allows a person to stop or shrink payments for up to a year. The borrower is responsible for all interest that accrues during this period.

SOURCE: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/7-smart-ways-to-repay-your-student-loans/

Avoid 4 Common Scams Aimed at Students

By Scholarship America

As a newly independent young adult attending and paying for college, you’ll experience many new and exciting things. But there’s one thing we hope you’ll never experience: being targeted by con artists looking to take advantage of inexperienced college students who are struggling to support themselves.

International students are especially vulnerable to scholarship scams, as they must juggle starting college with becoming familiar with a new country and culture.

Here are some tips and resources to help students avoid falling for some of the most common scams:

1. Don’t fall victim to telephone or Internet scams: If you are an international student in the U.S., you could be seen as an easy target for scammers.

In spring 2013, Cornell University alerted international students to a scam in which someone claiming to be an immigration officer called students and told them they had not completed their paperwork correctly. These students were asked to send money via Western Union to purchase a temporary visa in order to stay in the country. In some cases, students were told there were criminal cases pending against them for visa violations as a way to scare them into sending money.

Stanford University alerted their international students to the same type of scam, as did the University of Massachusetts and Purdue.

Remember to never share personal information over the telephone, especially your Social Security or passport number. Government officials will never call and ask for money over the phone, so if this happens to you, make sure you report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

2. Don’t pay to apply for scholarships: When it comes to financial aid, be wary of scholarship programs that require an application fee or sound too good to be true. Legitimate scholarship programs will include selection parameters, which might include a high GPA, participation in clubs and activities or volunteer experience.

If a scholarship claims to be guaranteed to all applicants or does not require an essay or application asking for information about your education or experiences, it might be fraudulent.

Do some research to make sure the sponsor of any scholarship you apply for is legitimate. If you are unsure about the sponsor of a scholarship program, you can contact the Better Business Bureau in the city where the scholarship service is located, or the FTC.

3. Be suspicious of banks that charge large upfront fees in exchange for low interest rate loans: Besides scholarships, other forms of financial aid generally come from the government in the form of grants or loans you receive in your financial aid package after filling out the FAFSA.

If you plan to take out private bank loans, make sure you deal with a trusted bank and understand any fees and interest charges you will incur. If you are asked to pay a large fee upfront in exchange for a very low interest rate or are asked to abide by an extensive list of regulations, you are right to be suspicious. There are trustworthy sources of funding for college, but student loans from U.S. banks can be difficult for international students to obtain.

Most legitimate and reputable banks won’t ask you to pay large fees to get a loan. Always remember — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

4. Don’t send a deposit for an apartment before visiting in person: If you’re not planning to live in your college’s dorms, it can be a challenge to arrange housing for school — even more so when you live in a different state or country. Many international and out-of-state students will search for apartments online and might be tempted to send a deposit without actually seeing the place firsthand, especially if it seems to be an amazing deal.

But students must beware of a common housing scam. Not wanting to miss out on a great price, students might reply to an advertisement and wire a housing deposit, only to arrive in the U.S. and discover the apartment was fake and their money is gone.

If you’re not living in your school’s residence halls, avoid making a payment on a rental property until you know it’s the real deal. It might be worth your time to stay in a hotel for a few days and finish your apartment hunting after your arrival. You can also have a trusted friend visit the space for you to verify that everything checks out.

If you think you might be caught in a scam, your state department of consumer protection and state attorney general’s office are trusted institutions you can turn to. The National Consumer League’s Fraud Center will also investigate and advocate on your behalf.

If you receive a strange email or phone call, write down the contact information of the organization contacting you and talk to an adviser at your school before you give out any financial or personal information.

Don’t be afraid to report a scam if you think you might have been victimized. You might be able to help other students avoid falling into the same situation.

Angela Frisk holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and is a former scholarship recipient. She joined Scholarship America in 2012.

CFPB Oversees Student Loan Practices

CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU TO OVERSEE STUDENT LOAN SERVICERS

Rule Brings New Oversight to Rapidly Growing Market Affecting Tens of Millions of Consumers

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a rule today that allows the Bureau to supervise certain nonbank student loan servicers for the first time. The rule brings new oversight to the nation’s second largest consumer debt market – student loans – which have seen a rise in borrower delinquency in recent years.

 “Student loan borrowers should be able to rest assured that when they make a payment toward their loans, the company that takes their money is playing by the rules,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “This rule brings new oversight to those large student loan servicers that touch tens of millions of borrowers.”

 More than 40 million Americans with student debt depend on student loan servicers to serve as their primary point of contact about their loans. Student loan servicers’ duties typically include managing borrowers’ accounts, processing monthly payments, and communicating directly with borrowers. When facing unemployment or other financial hardship, borrowers contact student loan servicers in order to enroll in alternative repayment plans, obtain deferments or forbearances, or request a modification of loan terms.

 A servicer is often different than the lender itself, and a borrower typically has no control or choice over which company services a loan. When problems arise because of servicing concerns, student loan borrowers may end up in trouble. They may miss a payment, owe more money because of additional interest on principal, or face future difficulties with credit because of a poor payment history.

 The Bureau currently oversees student loan servicing at the largest banks. Today’s rule expands that supervision to any nonbank student loan servicer that handles more than one million borrower accounts, regardless of whether they service federal or private loans. Under the rule, those servicers will be considered “larger participants,” and the Bureau may oversee their activity to ensure they are complying with federal consumer financial laws. To coincide with this new authority, the Bureau has also updated its Supervisory and Examination Manual to provide guidance on how the Bureau will monitor bank and nonbank servicers of private and federal student loans.

Under today’s final rule, which was proposed in March, the Bureau estimates that it will have authority to supervise the seven largest student loan servicers. Combined, those seven service the loans of more than 49 million borrower accounts, representing most of the activity in the student loan servicing market.

Many student loan servicers perform their functions well. But the recent annual report by the Bureau’s Student Loan Ombudsman identified a broad range of concerns voiced by student loan borrowers in complaints to the CFPB. Borrowers submitted complaints to the Bureau highlighting:

  • Prepayment Stumbling Blocks: Since options to refinance high-rate private student loans are limited, many consumers attempt to pay off their loans in order to reduce the amount of interest owed over the life of the loan. But many consumers express confusion about how to pay off their loans early. For example, borrowers complained that servicers applied their payments in excess of the amount due across all their loans, not to the highest-interest rate loan that they would prefer to pay off first.
  • Partial Payment Snags: When borrowers have multiple loans with one servicer and are unable to pay their bill in full, many servicers instruct borrowers to make whatever payment they can afford. Many complaints described how servicers often divide up the partial payment and apply it evenly across all of the loans in their account. This maximizes the late fees charged to the consumer, and it can exacerbate the negative credit impact of a single late payment.
  • Servicing Transfer Surprises: When borrowers’ loans are transferred between servicers, borrowers say they experience lost paperwork, processing errors that result in late fees, and interruptions of routine communication, such as billing statements. Consumers complained that payment-processing policies can vary depending on the servicer. And, consumers said when they make decisions on the previous servicer’s practices, they can get penalized.

 Through supervision, the CFPB will be better able to evaluate the extent and scope of problems consumers face when dealing with larger nonbank student loan servicers. The student loan market has grown rapidly in the last decade and is now facing the stress of increasing numbers of borrowers who are struggling to stay current on their loans. This rule gives the Bureau visibility into the complete cycle of private student loan debt, from origination through servicing to debt collection and credit reporting.

 The Bureau will ensure that bank and nonbank student loan servicers are playing by the same rules. The Bureau already has supervisory authority over other nonbanks such as mortgage originators and servicers, payday lenders, larger debt collectors, larger consumer reporting agencies, and private student loan originators. Nonbank student loan servicers, regardless of size, continue to be subject to the Bureau’s enforcement jurisdiction. Servicers who are not considered “larger participants” may still be subject to the Bureau’s supervisory authority if the Bureau has reasonable cause to determine the servicer poses risk to consumers.

 Federal student loan programs comprise more than 85 percent of the total volume of outstanding student loans. These loans are serviced by private financial institutions who must comply with Federal consumer financial laws. The CFPB will continue to coordinate closely with the U.S. Department of Education, which now directly originates the vast majority of federal student loans in accordance with the program requirements in the Higher Education Act.

 Earlier this year, the CFPB announced that outstanding student debt totals approximately $1.2 trillion. The Bureau also estimates that 7 million student loan borrowers are now in default on their debt. In May, the CFPB published a report on Student Loan Affordability that discussed the potential impacts of high student debt burdens on consumers when it comes to homeownership, retirement security, entrepreneurship, and career choice, as well as potential options for policymakers.

Today’s rule also follows from CFPB efforts on a number of fronts to help make the student loan market work better for consumers. Student loan borrowers can use Repay Student Debt, an interactive web tool designed to help consumers navigate their repayment options, or they can use Ask CFPB to find answers to common questions, like whether to refinance a student loan. The CFPB recently issued a consumer advisory, including sample instructions to a servicer telling them to always direct any extra payments toward the highest-rate loan, saving consumers the most money. Last week, the CFPB asked borrowers to share their experiences about the processing of their student loan payments and asked several servicers to voluntarily provide information about their policies.

 Borrowers that have trouble with their servicers can submit a complaint. For more information, visit: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/students/.  

 A copy of the rule available at:  http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201312_cfpb_student-servicing-rule.pdf

 A factsheet on the student loan servicing rule is available here: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201312_cfpb_factsheet_student-servicing-rule.pdf

 The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.ConsumerFinance.gov.

Toolkit Helps Teachers and Other Public Servants Tackle Student Debt

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that more than 25 percent of the U.S. labor force is in public service. This includes teachers, librarians, firefighters, military personnel, law enforcement, first responders, nurses, and social workers. There are a number of special loan programs to assist these workers. For example, in 2007, Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for public servants who pay their federal loans on time for ten years. People working at a nonprofit or those working for a federal, state, or local government are eligible for the program.

Many public service fields face major workforce shortages in the coming years. For many new employees in these professions, low starting salaries and low wage growth make repaying student debt a daunting obstacle. For example:

•Teachers: The United States will need more than 425,000 new teachers by the end of this decade to make up for the wave of retiring baby boomers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The average starting salary for a teacher is $35,672, according to the National Education Association.

•Nurses and other healthcare workers: The Health Resources and Services Administration projected that the nation’s nursing shortage would grow to more than one million nurses by 2020. The demand for nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses –professions that typically require graduate degrees – is projected to outpace supply by more than 25 percent by 2025.

•Police officers: Prior to the start of the recession, starting salaries for entry-level local police officers were as low as $26,600 per year in the smallest jurisdictions and the average overall salary was $40,500, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Since 2008, state and local budget cuts have led to staffing reductions in law enforcement agencies across the country, contributing to the financial strain for new and aspiring police officers with student debt.

•Social workers: As baby boomers get older, the demand for social workers is expected to increase, requiring 161,000 new positions by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because social workers often have advanced degrees, the prospect of rising student debt may be particularly challenging. Recipients of graduate degrees in social work graduated with an average of $35,516 in student loan debt, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, pursuing an occupation with an average starting salary of just $32,000.

•Firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics: As a growing share of new firefighters enter the workforce with post-secondary education, the median salary for firefighters and other protective service workers is $29,205 and $31,900 for EMTs and paramedics, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

•Servicemembers: The average cumulative amount of student loan debt for active-duty servicemembers graduating from college in 2008 was $25,566, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. There are approximately 1.4 million people on active duty in the armed forces, according to the Department of Defense.

A Toolkit to Help
To help employers provide information about loan forgiveness programs to their employees, the CFPB is unveiling a toolkit – the Employer’s Guide to Assisting Employees with Student Loan Repayment. The toolkit offers practical advice to public sector employers and employees, advising that an early start can make the difference of thousands of dollars. It includes:

•An action guide for employers that details the steps they should take in providing information to their employees, such as helping employees certify and checking in with them annually about their repayments;

•An action guide for borrowers that tells them how to qualify for benefits, what their options are, and important things they should consider;

•A sample letter from public service employers to employees that says they are a qualified employer under the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program; and

•A set of frequently asked questions, like how an employer can help his workers know whether they are in the best repayment plan.

Tips that the toolkit mentions:
•Taking advantage of the Income-Based Repayment plan, a federal student loan program that allows all federal loan borrowers to set their monthly payments at a fixed percentage of their income;

•Checking out Repay Student Debt, a web tool that can help borrowers understand all of their repayment options for both private and federal loans; and

•Including student loan forgiveness programs in benefits packages when employees commence work, during open season for benefits enrollment, and when sending out IRS W-2 forms.

The toolkit is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201308_cfpb_public-service-toolkit.pdf

An action guide for employees is at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201308_cfpb_pledge-action-guide-for-employees.pdf

Staying in Financial Control While You are in College

Going to college can be exciting, fun…and expensive, and we are not just talking about tuition, room and board. There can be a lot of unexpected, small expenses that can add up. New clothes, school supplies, books, furniture, a computer, and spending money can quickly add up to alot more money you will need than you might originally think.

Get a good start on your higher education by learning some personal finance skills while you’re hitting the books.

Here are a few tips to help you stay on top of your expenses and be financially fit come graduation day:

  • List all your sources of money, the amounts, and all the categories of expenses that the money has to pay for (i.e. tuition, room and board, books, phone bill, food, transportation).
  • Remember to note how long each source of money has to last. For example, a loan may have to pay for more than just one year’s worth of expenses. You don’t want to think you can spend money now, when in reality it has to be used for future expenses.
  • Don’t let debt “sneak” up on you. You don’t want to arrive at graduation day and suddenly realize how much income you will need in order to pay back your student loans and credit card debt.
  • Keep track not only of what regular expenses you have (rent, car insurance, gas, tuition, food, etc.) but also of your large debts such as financing for school (student loans, private loans, financial assistance from family members, etc.).
  • Be very careful about using credit cards. It can be easy to start school with student loans, take a job or get some financial assistance from your family for regular expenses, and still feel like you’d like a little more financial “breathing room.” It can also be hard when new friends – some of whom have more spending money than you – want you to go out and do things with them. Things that cost money. That’s when it gets hard to ignore those credit card applications filling your mailbox.

It can seem like an easy answer to get a credit card to help make ends meet, finance small or “fun” purchases, or a night out with friends, but it doesn’t take long using a credit car card becomes a habit to finance your lifestyle.  Once you are living and spending above what your financial situation can sustain, credit cards are a hard habit to break.

The first thing to remember is an offer of a pre-approved credit card does not mean you have the income to pay for the bills you ring up.  If you do apply for and receive a credit card, get a clear picture of how much you are charging by subtracting your charges from your checkbook (if you have a checking account).  When the bill comes in the mail you will already have the money set aside to pay the full amount.

If you find yourself not paying the full amount after three or four months, consider cutting up your credit card and instead using a charge card (that requires payment in full every month) or using a debit card that withdraws money directly from your designated (checking/savings) account for each purchase or charge.

There’s something about actually taking the money out of your wallet that can quickly put spending into perspective. Instead of paying with a credit card or by check, try paying for all of your expenses (or at least your day-to-day miscellaneous and entertainment expenses) with cash. Decide in advance how much miscellaneous spending money you need for a week and take out only that much cash at the beginning of the week (or for each pay period). Having to pay cash for items or services will make you much less likely to overspend.

Be wise. Identity theft is on the rise. Identity theft can be more than a nuisance. If someone obtains your personal or financial information, they can create serious problems that can take you years to resolve. Protect your personal and financial information — and that includes your account numbers, your ATM pin number, your Social Security number and your on line passwords — by keeping a close eye on your wallet or purse at all times, shredding receipts or bill statements, and safeguarding your online and bankcard passwords…even from your friends.

Balance your checkbook before you “bounce.” If you’ve never had, or used, a checking account, it’s a very good idea to learn how to balance your checkbook before writing a flurry of checks and finding you don’t have the money to cover them all. Take a minute to ask a clerk at your bank for help, or family or friends.

If you’ve had problems bouncing checks in the past, get overdraft protection to avoid costly “insufficient funds” fees. Make sure you understand and agree with the terms of your bank’s policy. Often the protection is considered a “loan” that a bank extends to you to cover the amount of the check. You will pay interest on that loan until you pay it back by putting enough money into your account to cover the check and the loan.

If you’re wondering where the money is going and how you can cut back on costs, first keep a journal of how you spend your money for a few weeks. You might find some easy ways to save right off the bat, such as:

  • Make coffee instead of paying a premium price at coffee shops.
  • Make your own lunch or dinner instead of eating out.
  • Shop at discount stores or online for used items like furniture.
  • Buy used textbooks and sell your textbooks at the end of the semester.
  • Look for people to share a ride home over weekends.
  • Consider taking on an additional roommate.
  • Check to see how much you’re spending monthly on long-distance phone calls. Shop around for a better rate with a different long-distance carrier, cell phone service or pre-paid calling cards.
  • Consider your skills or talents to “swap” with friends: typing term papers, cooking meals, etc.
  • Look for on-campus jobs.
  • Park your car and try walking more or using campus or public transportation.

Stay focused on your future…not someone else’s bank account.You’re always going to meet people who have more money than you and people who have less. You can take control of your own financial future by taking steps now to establish how you’ll handle your finances responsibly.

When you are starting college, meeting new friends, and paying for things you haven’t had to before, it can be easy to take more notice of other people’s financial situations than planning your own. Take responsibility for your own financial well being in the context of your own financial picture, not someone else’s.

YOU will have to pay back the debt you incur, not the person who encourages you to spend money you don’t have.  Remember this is about your future.  Getting an apartment, a job, or loans for a car or house can be affected by how you handle money now.
College is a great time to discover what you want your future to look like. Begin charting a course to financial security by developing some basic personal financial habits now…you’ll be glad you did.

SOURCE: http://www.tomorrowsmoney.org/section.cfm/more_about/control_in_college