College is a time to learn, but it’s also a time to spend. It’s easy to get caught up in college life’s expenses and forget about your finances. Here are some tips for money management for college students:
Make a budget.
If you’re not careful, college can be expensive. Between housing, food and other expenses, it’s easy to overspend without even realizing it.
To get an idea of how much money you’ll need for your budget each month, track your spending for a week or two to know what areas cost the most. Then make sure this number is realistic—if it’s too high or low compared to what you’re currently making per month, adjust accordingly.
Only buy textbooks you need
You don’t have to buy every book that your professor recommends. Often, you can get away with using the library or borrowing a friend’s copy. If you need a textbook for a class but didn’t buy it ahead of time and can’t find it on your own, try checking out some other students who might lend you their textbooks. Or, if all else fails, search online for cheaper versions of what you’re looking for—although be sure not to share any copyrighted material!
Some purchases can be justified, but they should be the exception rather than the rule. For example, if you’re going to spend money on textbooks, try to buy them at a discounted price or secondhand. Look around for the best bargain possible if you need a new laptop or phone case. Buying something new isn’t always better just because it’s new (and sometimes it’s worse).
If there is an item that you want but don’t need—and particularly if it’s something expensive like a video game console or designer handbag—don’t buy it until after graduation when your finances have stabilized and you’re ready for such an expense.
Reuse what you can
If you can, reuse. Here are a few tips:
- Use used textbooks, clothes, furniture, electronics and food.
- Keep a small stockpile of items that you know will come in handy for the next semester: pens/pencils/highlighters; paper; notebooks; folders; binder clips or hair ties for binding papers together neatly (a lot of teachers will give these out at the beginning of the semester).
- If you’re moving into your own apartment or house during college, try to get things secondhand. There are many websites where you can find cheap furniture that’s still in good condition—and even some places where they sell new furniture that looks like it came from a thrift store!
Sign up for free services that help you save money
A cashback app, a rewards credit card and travel rewards card can all be used to your advantage. Use one or more of these options along with a credit card that matches your spending habits (e.g., no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees). You should also download the mobile banking app. As per the experts at SoFi, “You’re used to swiping and tapping your way to cool clothes, midnight snacks, and the funniest TikToks. So it makes sense to use your phone to bank.”
Now you’re ready to make the most of your college budget! Good luck, and remember that it’s okay if things get tight sometimes. You don’t need fancy equipment or expensive textbooks to do well in school—just time and dedication.