Help your student organize their financial records

College Students and Financial Records

by Susan M. Sparks

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If you have a student heading to college this fall, chances are there is a lengthy checklist of items to bring, such as bedding, a laptop, or a bicycle. However, the most important item is an organizational system for the paperwork outside of class schedules and homework.

Living away at college is the first taste for most students of being on their own and responsible for "adult" things, such as paying bills, keeping track of student loan paperwork, and monitoring their spending.

Despite digital apps and software programs, there are still original documents they will need to organize, such as bookstore receipts and health insurance information. The easiest way to start is to designate one place to keep all these items. Some people like to organize with color coordinated file folders, while others feel that keeping everything shoved in a box or envelope is adequate. While it may not be your style of organization, encourage them to develop a system they will actually use and can refer to when they need to retrieve an item of paperwork.

If your student is paying their cell phone bill or managing their own credit card, they will need to keep track of bills and due dates. A Harris Interactive poll revealed that 23% of adults pay bills late (and incur late fees), because they lose them. While many companies promote paperless billing, your student may do better with an actual paper reminder. With their style of organization in mind, help them develop a strategy to stay on top of their financial responsibilities. They could designate a certain day of each week, such as "Money Monday," to check their bank balance, pay bills, and plan their budget. Others may prefer to keep notes on a wall calendar for due dates or keep all their paperwork together in a box or binder and set an alarm each week to review the contents. The Student Life Jacket, The Easy-to-Use Guide and Organizer for College Students and Young Working Adults is a binder with divided sections to store documents.

While you may have an extensive spreadsheet program or filing system to manage your household finances, it can be overwhelming to your student. Starting with a simple system will help them develop self-discipline and confidence. As they move off campus, bring a car to school or work more hours at a job, they will be able to expand their system to meet their needs.

Related: 5 Ways to Save on Student Loans

They will also need to be able to access warranty paperwork for high-ticket items like laptops and smart phones if they need technical support. If the device has crashed, it won't do much good if the warranty information is stored on it. Receipts, serial numbers, or user IDs should be easy to retrieve and a copy stored separate from the equipment.

Personal information should be well protected, yet accessible when they need it. Remind your student to securely store items like their social security card, bank cards or other sensitive papers, rather than carry them in a wallet. It's also a good idea to keep a photocopy of their driver's license, school ID, and bank cards with your secure files in case their wallet is lost or stolen.

Susan M. Sparks has been a writer and photographer for newspapers, the web and as a contractor for the U.S. Navy. As a military wife and mom, she has organized the family's moves across the world, over 20 moves in 30 years. She created The Student Life Jacket to empower young adults to start successful organizational habits.

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