3 Tips on Managing Your Money in College

Many college students find it difficult to manage money, let alone save it. It’s the first time they are really financially independent and often have no real understanding of finances.  Some will choose to work part-time, but get lulled into the belief that it is extra spending money.  There are many things one can spend money on, so its important to start to examine spending habits, and identify what things can be changed.

Set a weekly budget

This can be tough whether you’re starting college for the first time or starting a new semester, as this is the time you need to purchase school supplies, books, etc. but it’s worth establishing a budget before you begin, so your spending doesn’t get away from you.

Make a list of what you’re going to require, and what your expenses will be. Figure out the amount of money you’ll need each week, and set a goal to go the entire week spending only that much.  If you’re working and earning some extra cash, be sure that you’re not spending more than what you earn.  Similarly, keep track of your bills, and be sure to pay them on time and in full, to avoid interest.  Accumulating interest will follow you long after college.

Never buy new

In the case of textbooks, you can always look on Amazon, or on Craigslist and other similar channels. Buying used is always worth the saved money, particularly since we’re potentially talking about hundreds of dollars of savings each year without really having to give up anything.  As for clothing, while you’ll want at least a few articles of business professional clothing for interviews, there’s no reason not to shop at discount department stores or a thrift store for day-to-day life.  It’s not beneath you. As a student, you’re one of their key target markets.  And remember, you’re only doing this while you attend college.

The final tip centers on food.  Essentially, you want to avoid eating out. Buying groceries are always far cheaper and always healthier. It can be difficult when your friends might be going out for meals, but as long as you have at least a few home-cooked ones, you’re doing well. Also, make your own coffee.  Starbucks and Tim Horton’s may be good, but your own brew costs significantly less, and those costs really do add up over time.  In fact, if you can save the $6 a day that you would have spent on those two coffees, you would save over $1,500 a year.

These habits will work for life

College may be the first time you’re managing money on your own, and it’s the perfect setting for figuring out what sort of money manager and saver you’re going to be for the rest of your life.  Learning to budget, shop for value, and not live a lifestyle you can’t afford is one of the most important life skills you can learn.  Unfortunately, many adults don’t learn these skills until it’s too late.