College Guide To Financial Success
By: Tishawna Williams
Tishawna is a part of the TLC College Ambassador Program and attends North Carolina A&T University.
In addition to the hype of returning to school to start or continue their academic career, many students are excited to receive their refund checks. Most of the time the excitement is for the wrong reasons. Often students forget that receiving a check from the financial aid office is not a gift. The refund check consist of excess money left over after tuition fees have been paid. This means the money comes from loans that will need to be paid back in the future after graduating and could be accumulating interest rates as soon as it hits your checking accounts. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend the money if you really need it. The refund check comes in handy when purchasing textbooks, class essentials, rent or maybe even a laptop. However, these items are what the refund is intended for.
Unfortunately, there are cases where students blow all of their refund money on unnecessary things. These non-essentials have absolutely nothing to do with your academic success and should be limited. Students often use their refund on their spring break trips, clothes and other things that possibly contribute to the “college experience”. Although these things are nice to have, none of them are a stepping stone to get you closer to your degree.
Being a college student, I sympathize with you on the struggles of trying to manage your refund check. However, I have some tips that might be beneficial to you and your pockets.
Living Expenses: If you are living off campus, your lifestyle can be utterly expensive. I suggest you handle all of your living expenses first. What works for me is paying my rent up for at least a semester so worrying how you will manage to pay your rent each month will not be an issue. After rent is taken care of, other living needs can be taken care of like groceries.
Transportation: In addition to paying rent if you live off campus, transportation can be pricey as well. Try to budget your refund for gas expenses. You can also pay your car payments and insurance up. If you do not own a vehicle, you would need money for the bus or an Uber. Set a certain amount aside for transportation alone.
School Supplies: I personally feel the refund is meant to cover school-related expenses that were not included in the tuition fees. This may include notebooks, writing utensils, textbooks and more. Many students avoid buying books to have more money in their checks. Remember, the goal is to get that degree. Using your refund for school-related items is always a step towards the main goal.
Save it: Everyone has a rainy day. Holding onto your refund gives you a sense of safety in case random expenses arise. I suggest saving the refund for at least a semester. When the semester is over, use the refund to pay off any accumulating interest.
Accept What You Need: Being that you are in charge of the amount of aid you will receive, I suggest only accepting however much you need to borrow. You do not have to accept every loan awarded to you. In doing this, you are avoiding temptation by only accepting however much you may need for the semester.
Return it: Since the money will eventually have to be paid back, the best thing to do is to give it back. If you do not need the extra money, do yourself a favor and not take it. This will give you a head start on paying off your debt. Trust me, there is no better feeling then knowing you have paid off your student loans.
Do not feel bad if you blow your refund check. It is never too late to start budgeting your money. The school gives you the extra cash because they think you need it. They want you to get your degree and be successful. Oftentimes, the refund contributes to that by helping with the expenses of books and other school-related items. Remember, if you do not need the extra money, do not keep it. Learning how to budget your refund can teach you money management skills that can be used for the rest of your life. Every dollar you borrow today could be a dollar missing in your future.