As a college student, you should be focusing on your financial future as well as your studies. No, not the financial future consisting of next week's pizza fund, but your long-term personal financial future. Since over half of all students that graduate college will exit with student loans, you need to start thinking about future finances now, whether you want to or not. Learning to budget and manage your money at the present time is important for your long-term financial success.
Start by shopping for a checking account. Many banks offer special accounts for college students, but you are mainly looking for features that benefit you the most. If your parents are going to be depositing money into your account regularly, having an account of your own at their bank may allow them to transfer money to you more easily. If you are campus bound, look for an account at a bank that has an ATM on campus or find an account at a bank that offers free ATM usage at other banks' machines. Other special services that banks offer college students can include no monthly fees, no minimum balance, and sometimes even interest can be earned on your balance.
Use credit cards wisely. Know their limits, fees, and due dates. Pay them on time and within your budget. Build your credit by using your card judiciously and paying it off monthly. It's ok to carry a small balance ($10 to $50 or so) to further help build your credit, but don't do it if you might be tempted to let the balance creep up.
Also, set aside a particular credit card for emergency use only. This is especially important for students who don't have any parental financial backup. Sometimes, you will have to use the emergency card. Just make sure it is an actual emergency (you locked your keys in your car, need glasses, or have to buy books before your financial aid money comes in), as opposed to the I-want-it-really-really-bad kind of emergency (for instance, the newest video game just came out or there's a great sale at your favorite store).
Pay all of your other bills on time. Even if you live on campus, you probably have at least one or two monthly bills. For instance, most college students have a cell phone bill. Many students have a car payment, and car insurance to go along with it. Off-campus students have rent and utilities, too. Some companies will tailor their bill's due date to the customer's needs. Ask if you can move your due date on a couple of bills if it will help you pay them on time.
Finally, start saving. Even if you can only save ten dollars a month, starting to put money away at age twenty will more than double your accumulated nest egg by age sixty than if you begin saving that same ten dollars at age thirty.
Make sure you start your life after graduation on the right financial foot by treating your financial future seriously while you're still in college. You'll probably graduate with student loans to pay off, but if you've practiced good financial habits throughout your college years, you'll be prepared to budget and spend your new career's paycheck wisely, including paying off those obligations. Develop good financial habits in college and you'll likely have good financial habits for life.