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Jun 07, 2021

College Readiness Checklist

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Whether you are starting your senior year of high school, are heading off to campus, or maybe going straight into the workforce, it’s likely your financial needs and how you manage your money is changing. Review our helpful checklist as you prepare for what’s next:


MAKE SURE YOUR FINANCES ARE IN ORDER

  • Open a checking account that helps you earn dividends
As your financial responsibility grows, it may no longer make sense to keep your spending money in cash, or be limited to the number of monthly withdrawals allowed with a savings account. When looking for a checking account to fit your needs, make sure it includes no monthly fees, a debit card, and the potential to earn dividends. With a checking account and debit card, you’ll also be able to use common money transfer apps like Venmo – or even options available through your credit union or bank (eliminating the need for an extra app).
 
  • Utilize smart savings options
With what seems like endless savings accounts to choose from, it can sometimes be hard to know which option is best. Look for options with dividend-earning potential (also referred to as interest if you’re using a bank) and no fees. Some financial institutions charge fees if your balance goes under a certain amount, so review the account details before opening to avoid surprises! A certificate is also a great option if you don’t need immediate access to your funds—with terms typically ranging from 90 days to 60 months. It’s a great way to earn even more money on what you’ve received from graduation, birthdays, or holidays. But be aware a certificate locks your money in for a set period, usually 12 months minimuim, and there may be penalties for withdrawing that money early.
 
  • Set up direct deposit to streamline depositing checks
If you have a steady income from a job, setting up direct deposit is a great way to ensure your paycheck makes it into your account as soon as possible. Plus, you can set up your direct deposit to filter into specific accounts each paycheck to help keep your finances organized.
 
  • Consider opening a credit card for emergencies and credit building
Credit cards are a great payment option – if used responsibly. Historically, some credit card companies have been predatory to college students – hoping they will jump on limited-time opening offers. However, chasing the best offers and opening and closing multiple cards can get you in a tough spot. Rather, consider opening a single credit card with a limit that works for you and plan to use only for emergencies and small, recurring expenses (like gas for your vehicle or your Netflix subscription). Paying off your balance each month is a great way to steadily grow your credit score and establish a solid credit history. If you can’t pay it off every month, then be sure to at least pay the minimum balance due monthly and try to pay more if possible, which can also help grow your credit score.
 
  • Take advantage of rewards you can earn from everyday spending
See if your credit and debit cards have a rewards program. Depending on the program, you may be able to earn points toward cash back, gift cards, travel expenses, and more, just from making your everyday purchases. While it may take time to rack up points, your reward options could come in handy for trips home (discounts on fuel or flights), extra money toward holiday gifts, groceries, last-minute class materials, etc. If you have a TruStone rewards card – check out our rewards program here.
 


STAY CONNECTED WHILE ON-THE-GO 

  • Utilize your financials digital banking solution
With today’s technology, you can stay connected to your finances without even stepping into a branch location. With digital banking, you can transfer money, pay off bills, deposit checks, and more at any time of the day, and from anywhere, right from your phone! Learn more about TruStone’s digital banking solution.
 
  • Update contact information with TruStone
Keeping us (and all of your financial institutions, service providers, etc.) up-to-date is important. It ensures that mail is routed to you – not someone else or an address that you may not be at as frequently. Keeping your email and phone number up-to-date also helps ensure that you are notified in a timely fashion if fraud is suspected, scholarship opportunities are available, etc.
 
  • Find a branch location near you
A benefit of using a credit union is that it may be a part of a Shared Branch network, which allows you to visit any credit union location across the nation that is a part of that network to complete certain transactions (cash checks, make loan payments, transfer funds). This is a great option if your credit union does not have a branch near you.
 
  • Locate your nearest surcharge-free ATM
When you take cash out at an ATM, you may be charged both usage fees and fees from your financial institution. One way to get around at least one of these fees is to use ATMs that are noted as surcharge-free by your bank or credit union. For example, TruStone is part of the CO-OP ATM network. Ask your banking provider if there are any fees associated with ATM transactions (or making over a certain number of ATM transactions in a calendar month) or if they are a part of a surcharge-free ATM network.
 
  • Add cards to your phone’s mobile wallet
Using a mobile wallet is generally a more secure, and more convenient, payment method than using your actual card. Mobile wallets use something called tokenization, replacing your credit card information with another unique identifier that a retailer cannot trace back to your card. In the age where data breaches are becoming more frequent, this additional level of security could help protect your card number from being stolen. Plus, if you’re in a pinch and don’t have your wallet with you, it may come in handy to have this payment option available right on your phone.



Headed to campus? Check out these additional tips:

 
  • Review your auto insurance for towing distance and rentals or look into an AAA policy
If you’re bringing a car to campus, make sure to review your auto insurance policy before you move. Car issues can happen unexpectedly, so it is important to know what’s covered in the event you experience car troubles.
 
  • Purchase renter’s insurance if you are living off-campus
Renter’s insurance is a safety net in the unfortunate event that your belongings are damaged or stolen. For a small monthly fee, consider purchasing renter’s insurance for peace of mind.
 
  • Think about purchasing second-hand when buying items for your dorm/apartment
Buying items for your dorm or apartment can quickly become expensive. It’s likely that the items you will buy won’t be things you keep forever – outside of a dorm setting, when will you ever use twin XL bedding again? To cut down on costs, consider exploring second-hand options to furnish your new living space. For things like bedding and mattress pads, check with friends or family to see if anyone has any items that they no longer need. You can also look at resale websites, such as Facebook Marketplace, to find discounted furniture for your new room. As always, be cautious when purchasing items from individuals you do not know personally. Bring a friend or see if your town has a “safe swap spot” that is monitored by local law enforcement.
 
  • Watch for student discounts when making purchases
Your student ID can be a powerful savings tool. Many retailers, including movie theaters, restaurants, clothing stores, and even grocery stores, offer student discounts. Do your research before checking out to see if you can save by being a student. Even discounts that seem minor, like 5-10% off a purchase, can add up over time. In addition to student discounts, you can also save money by getting good grades. Some insurance providers offer coverage discounts to students who maintain a certain grade point average.
 
  • Research budget-friendly alternatives to paying full price for textbooks
Textbooks can be expensive! Finding alternatives to buying books new from your campus bookstore can lead to major savings. Before making a purchase, check out other retailers that sell new and used textbooks, like Amazon. If you don’t see yourself needing to keep the textbook after the course ends, renting is a great way to save money. Purchasing an electronic-only version, borrowing from a friend who has already taken the course, or seeing if your school’s library has a copy are also excellent options for keeping textbook costs down.
 
  • Plan for student loan expenses after college
It’s no secret that college can be expensive. Many students take out student loans to help fund their college expenses. While these loans can help offset what you pay upfront for your education, it is important to remember that you will need to pay them back eventually. There are many student loan calculators available online that show you how much you will be required to pay each month. If you have an idea of what career you will pursue, you can also gauge how the average income compares to the amount of money you will be paying back in student loans each month – giving you a sense of what you can realistically afford to borrow.
  
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at fafsa.gov
Completing the FAFSA is an important step in your college planning process, and there is more to it than simply seeing the amount of aid you qualify for. FAFSA takes a look at your financial information to determine what types of aid you are eligible for. If you want to receive any federal financial aid, including various types of loans and work-study jobs, you need to submit your FAFSA.
 

TruStone Financial is Insured by NCUA.
 

Contents of this blog article are intended to provide you with a general understanding of the subject matter. However, it is not intended to provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice and should not be relied on as such. Information may have changed since the publication date.

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