While college is one of the most rewarding and exciting times of one’s life, it can also be one of the most tricky to navigate, especially when dealing with the fiscal aspect. One of the things that has helped my daughters out in college has been writing checks keeping a balanced checkbook, even though most of their payments are made through debits cards. Here are five reasons that a balanced checkbook can help you out in college.
While I don’t pay for everything by check, I do record every transaction that I make in my checkbook’s register. It’s too easy, especially for college and even high school students (my son will attest to this) to lose track of how much you’re spending when all it takes to get whatever you want is the swipe of a plastic card. Keeping a physical balance can help to keep those spending urges in check (pun absolutely intended).
Creating a Budget
College is a time of constant change. Classes, schedules, living situations, events—all of these things can affect how a student spends money. After keeping a physical balance for long enough, a student will begin to see more and more what they can and cannot afford, and consequently will begin to budget their expenses. I’m not saying that you really even need to sit down and physically construct a written-out budget as a student; seeing that balance in the register is generally enough to give you a general idea of what you can afford.
Watching the Bank
Keeping a real-time balance can help you to confirm that your bank is handling all of your transactions properly. Out of all of these tips, I would say that this is one of the least important because of how unlikely it is to happen—but the bank has botched processes before, and, even more commonly, merchants have been known to charge customers the incorrect amount before. These types of things are less likely to slip by you if you are consistently comparing your checkbook register with your bank statements.
Depending on what your living situation is like, you may be moving into an apartment, shared house, or even a fraternity house that will require you to pay some sort of rent or fees. A lot of times these places will require that you pay rent with a check, or go through a third party website that charges a fee per transaction. While usually a minimal fee, it can begin to add up after 9 or 10 payments—avoid paying any more than you have to by using checks to pay to your rent.
Forming Good Fiscal Habits
Last but not least, realize that by keeping a balanced checkbook register, creating a budget, and watching your expenses closely, you are forming habits that will serve you well fiscally. On top of that, once you get out of college and have more and more bills to pay, you will already be familiar with your check book to the point that the process won’t seem so foreign to you.
Do you have any other reasons that a checkbook should be used in college?
About the Author: Annie Harrington is a small business owner and freelance writer. She is also keenly interested in all aspects of design, including how to order checks online.