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Creating A College Budget

Many young Kentuckians are getting ready to enter college, so it’s a good time for the student-to-be to develop a budget together with your parents.

You’ll need to estimate how much money will be needed for everything from school supplies to transportation, says a spokesman for the Lutheran Brotherhood, a financial-services organization in Minneapolis.

“A budget helps kids think carefully before they spend and gives them a sense of control,” the spokesman adds.

Categorize expenses
Much time and energy has already been focused on meeting the financial needs of college, such as tuition and room and board. But once the school year is under way, miscellaneous expenses, from shampoo to snacks, can strain the pocketbook.

The number-one downfall in money management for new collegians is that there’s no specific plan for income and outgo, says the National Center for Financial Education in San Diego. Sit down with someone who’s been to college before to learn what kinds of unexpected expenses can come up.

To simplify the budgeting process, break down expenses into categories, such as books, lab fees and supplies, meals, clothing, transportation, and entertainment. Be sure to include both fixed expenses, such as rent if living off campus, and variable expenses, such as insurance and auto repair if you’re taking the car to campus.

Try to estimate expenses realistically and, as a safeguard, increase the total by 10 percent. You won’t be sure the estimate is accurate until you’ve tested it for a few weeks, so jot down every dime spent.

Get financially connected
When you get to college, set up a bank account nearby, taking into consideration such factors as hours of operation and automated teller machines.

If you don’t already have a credit card, apply for one at the bank where you’ve established the checking account. But be aware that late credit card payments or delinquencies can mar a student’s credit report, which can affect his or her ability to land a job or go to graduate school.

Also, be aware that paying only the minimum each month results in so much interest that you could “end up spending $10 for a gallon of milk,” explains an official with the National Endowment for Financial Education in Englewood, Colorado.

Experts advise resisting the urge to get multiple cards, and to keep a record of all purchases.

How to SUCCEED at college
Want to improve your chances for success on that costly college education?
• Turn the vision of your goal into written objectives, such as “By 2007, I will have finished my degree.”
• Keep the vision in front of you. Picture yourself walking across the stage at commencement, or securing a new job.
• Share your vision with other people. Involving them in your efforts will motivate them to want you to succeed.
• Develop more flexible standards. Don’t criticize yourself for not doing everything perfectly.
• Manage your time. Schedule a 9 a.m. class. This eliminates the temptation to sleep the day away if you are living on campus. Study between classes and before dinner, which experts call the most wasted time of day.
• Pace your studying. Get enough sleep before exams and start the review process at least a week in advance.
• Get involved in on-campus activities. Write for the school paper, join the debate club, or pledge a sorority or fraternity. Outside activities help make friends and develop organizational skills impressive to future employers.
• Keep in mind this advice from Progressive Farmer magazine while struggling with the costs of college: “If you think education is expensive, wait till you see what ignorance costs you.”

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