Balancing student life with your personal finances can be difficult, however with mindfulness and planning, you can do yourself quite the favor in the long haul. As a college student, this time of your life is one of the most important in setting yourself up for a healthy financial future. Here are five great tips every college student should use to start saving money while in college.
1. Budget Your Spending Money
Arguably the most important thing to learn to take care of yourself financially is how to make a game plan with the money you have to work with. It’s essential to understand your budget and what you can designate to certain aspects of attending college, such as nightlife, food, activities, and whatever else life will throw at you.
If you’re getting ready to pay student loans as well, this is something to prioritize when it comes time to outline your money management strategy. A great way to break down your budget is to either weekly or monthly and figure out what needs to take priority. Items like bills and groceries should take precedent, before moving into “wants.”
Using calendars, spreadsheets, or even online budget tools can be an alternative way to help keep track of your money. They can save you a lot of time and energy when figuring out all of the logistics.
2. Don’t Go Crazy with a Credit Card
For many students, experimenting with a credit card in college is a first step to begin your own financial responsibility, it’s important to not overspend on a credit card. Although it may at first glance be a good idea to start building credit to prepare you for after graduation.
Even if you are working a job to pay off your credit card, you’re going to want to be selective in what you choose to use credit on.
3. Cut Down Unnecessary Expenses
To no surprise, cutting down your spending on unnecessary items will save you a ton of cash while in school, so be sure you know the difference between needs and wants. Needs are anything you have to have in order to survive, such as food, housing and clothes. Wants are anything else you desire for fun, entertainment or comfort. It’s essential to balance your “wants” and “needs” to make sure you’re covering the necessities before moving on to what you want.
Then, when it comes time to focus on the “wants,” ensure they are even worth their value. It’s important to look at minor purchases that you may not even notice draining your bank account. Music or television subscriptions that renew monthly could be eating away small amounts per month. Even a cup of coffee every morning before class adds up.
These kinds of payments can affect your credit if you’re not properly paying them off. If you find these kinds of purchases taking a toll at your credit, try looking into credit rebuilding options so that you can continue to keep your personal finances healthy and moving forward.
4. Utilize Your “Free” Resources
As a college student, it’s easy to forget about all the luxuries and resources at your disposal at times. These resources can be a great way to save a couple of extra bucks here and there. For example, using your college’s fitness center can save an egregious amount you would normally be spending on an external gym monthly fee.
The same applies to on-campus dining halls. Although you’re technically paying for the meals you eat at the dining hall all semester, it’s not something you will see directly coming out of your bank account after each meal. Cutting down on eating out and limiting yourself to how many times you venture outside the dining hall can free up a lot of the money you may be spending weekly.
A college health center is a great place to visit as well should you get sick. As opposed to going to an off-campus doctor, they may be able to save you some money on medicine or appointment fees.
5. Get Help if You Need It
College and just after graduation is the optimal time to learn to manage your money well, if you haven’t already. As you begin a new job, or move on to student loan repayment know that there are resources available to you if you’d like help budgeting or creating a financial plan. The NFCC has a nonprofit financial counseling network available to help you as you approach each stage of life.