Simple Money Tips for College Students

Working with a budget can be difficult as a college student. You have the freedom to do what you want, and you want to explore things you didn’t have the chance to while living at home.

However, you have to balance your desires against limited funds and the possibility of long-term debt from student loans. Here are a few tips to help you save on some of the essentials, so you’ll have more money for experiencing life or keeping your debt under control.

Budget your money

A budget is a plan designed to ensure you spend less than you earn. It doesn’t matter whether your earnings are from a job, a scholarship, grants, or student loans; a budget helps you manage what you have and avoid overspending.

You may think you should live life to the fullest when you’re in college — drink, party, buy loads of new clothes, and forget your finances. The idea of budgeting puts a damper on that fun. In reality, not having a budget sets you up for serious financial difficulties, both at college and after. The good news is, planning your spending need not affect your fun.

To create your budget, itemize your income and expenses. List all the essentials, such as rent, fees, food, and so on, then work out how much you have left for the fun stuff. Divide that amount over the number of weeks in the semester (or year if your finances work that way) to get a figure for your available weekly funds.

Before you rush out to go shopping, put aside a piece of that spending money, perhaps 10 percent or 15 percent, in case you missed anything. If you don’t use it during the semester, you can blow it on fun stuff before you go home for break or save it for the future.

Don’t buy new books

Why buy when you can borrow? And if you must buy, why not buy used? Chances are, you won’t read or use your textbooks once you leave college, so try to avoid unnecessary cost.

If your local library has the titles you need, reserve them in advance and borrow them for as long as they will allow. If they won’t lend the books, reserve study time to use them in the library.

If you want or need your own copy of particular books, ask around or check online. Last year’s students often try to sell books to the current year’s intake, either to pay for their own books or for extra cash once they’ve graduated. You can pick up second-hand titles at reduced prices.

Avoid credit cards

Credit cards can be useful; they makes life simpler and are great in an emergency. On the other hand, it’s a terrible temptation that can lure you into spending money you don’t have, and paying back the debt can be difficult.

Always opt for a debit card when you have the choice. You can also consider getting a credit card with a low spending limit, purely for emergencies. But be realistic. If you know you’re likely to use it for beer and clothes, avoid any sort of credit. In the future you will be grateful for that decision.

Cut down on vices

College life can be one big party, but watch your vices. Drinking alcohol, smoking (tobacco or other substances), and going out to clubs is great fun, but it all comes at a cost, both financial and physical. You could end up paying for your partying in more ways than accumulated debt, so be careful. Enjoy yourself, but don’t go overboard.

Shop for value, not for impulse

Always ensure you plan your shopping, and avoid malls if possible. Buying on impulse can take a huge toll on your finances. When shopping, go for products that are essential and which will last, rather than the latest cool things. Consider thrift shops for clothes; they may not be designer gear, but you can create your own style and stand out.

College finances are tough; no matter how careful you are, you are still likely to end up with debt at the end of your course. By following the aforementioned tips, you can limit how much you owe and still have fun. Always remember one simple rule: buy what you need, not what you want. That’s how to save more without too much pain!