Top 5 Money Management Tips for College Students

The poor college student: It’s a cliche in part because it’s so often true. The plight of most college students is that they go to school full time and usually only work part time. That means that they don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on much of anything. If you’re reading this, then it’s likely that you’re in this boat. Here are five ways you can make your money stretch further while you’re going to school.

1.Start by Making a Budget

For many new college students, going  to university is the first time that they’ve been asked to make a budget. In terms of keeping control of your finances, U.S. News and World Report puts learning to budget first on its list of college finance “must dos.”

A good college budget not only shows you how much money you have coming in from jobs, parents, and financial aid, but it also shows you how much you have going out. If you have more going out than coming in, then you will have a shortfall.

Here are a few things that should go on your budget:

  • Rent
  • Textbooks and supplies
  • Food (if you’re not on a meal plan)
  • Laundry (soap, coins for the machines, etc.)
  • Transportation
  • Personal care items

2.Shop Wisely for Textbooks

With college books costing you as much as $1,300 a year, your school books represent a major portion of your college budget. 

The problem stems from the fact that the textbook publisher sets the price for the books and your professors order the books. However, the person ordering the books – that’s the professor – isn’t the person who has to pay for the books, so the price of your books affect your professors very little. 

However, the price of your books affect you a great deal. That’s when it pays to know how to buy textbooks on the cheap. 

First, try not to buy textbooks brand new. You’ll save a lot more money if you get used textbooks. You may save even more money if you rent some of your books or get them in Kindle format.

Also, be aware that your campus bookstore may not be the best place to buy books from a price standpoint. There are other booksellers, like Booksrun that buy and sell school books online. Check out options like these when cash is short.

3.Separate What you Want From What You Need

You might feel like you need coffee to get yourself going in the morning, but do you need a Starbucks coffee everyday? Do you need to eat lunch at the deli around the corner? Probably not. 

According to Nerd Wallet, splurges, like your daily coffee start to add up to the tune of a $1,000 or more a year. That’s where knowing what you want versus knowing what you need to get by is so important. 

If you’re not sure about which expense is which, then keep a money journal for four to six weeks. Record everything you spend money on. After a while, patterns will emerge. You will begin to see where you’re spending money. You may actually be surprised at how many splurges you find on your money journal pages. 

Speaking of splurges, you should also be mindful of how you use your credit cards if you have them. Don’t wait until the bill comes to start keeping track of your credit card purchases. Put those in your money diary as well. Credit cards make it easier to spend money mindlessly. You don’t see the money you’re spending leaving your hands, so it’s like it doesn’t exist until the bill comes in.

4.Work on Your College Breaks

Money that you earn and save on a job is less money that you have to borrow in student loans. It may be that you already work throughout the year. If so, keep that job during winter and summer breaks.

If you have a work study job, then find a job once school’s out. Put as much in savings as you can. It’ll be a cushion for you in the coming year. 

5.Get Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants save you a bundle of money because the more of them you get, the fewer student loans you have to take out. Having student loans to pay back means that some of your future earnings won’t be yours. 

Right now, the average student loan debt is almost $30,000. Since student loans cannot be discharged via bankruptcy, you’ll be paying back everything that you’ve borrowed until it’s paid off. In light of that, borrow wisely.

Final Thoughts

Although you may not have much money when you’re in college, these years also represent a great opportunity for you. Not only will you be getting an education, which could help you secure a job later, if you play your cards right, you’re also learning about how to handle money. 

Few experiences in your life will teach you as much about money as learning how to handle your money wisely while you are in college. During these years, you’ll really learn how to keep track of your money, how to cut costs, and how to make the money that you do earn count.