The 6 Best Ways to Manage Money in College
Of all the great experiences you have in college, there’s one that probably makes you wish you were still suffering through Mr. Johnson’s 4th-period high school chemistry.
Yes, I’m talking about managing your money.
You don’t have to be the stereotypical broke, distressed college student, though. You can take charge of your money now and make the most of your situation.
Here are some smart ways to manage your money in college.
1. Use Zero-Based Budgeting
Budgeting isn’t the beast you might think it is. Besides, you’re already using planning skills to pass classes. You keep track of course requirements and due dates. You plan your week so you have time to study for the statistics midterm and write that English essay.
Zero-based budgeting uses planning skills. You start by making a list of expenses for the upcoming period (week, month, quarter). Then, assign every dollar to a category until you reach zero. You know exactly how all of your money will be used, and when you stick to the plan, you prevent overspending.
Start budgeting with Budgety today!
2. Work Part-time
Working during college is a solid way to increase funds, get real-world experience, feel independent, and gain references for future jobs.
Working longer hours during the summer helps build a nest egg. If you need income during the semester, working 10-15 hours a week can ease financial stress. If you just want a little extra fun money, think about doing one shift a week.
Look for jobs with flexible hours like work-study programs, tutoring, babysitting, front desk greeters at local gyms, restaurant servers, and cashiers.
3. Be Smart About Housing and Food
If you’re living at home while attending a community college or taking online classes, you’re already saving a ton of money. If you’re away at school, you can still make decisions that decrease the cost.
Compare the total expenses of living on campus to off campus. When pricing off campus, be sure to include rent, utilities, internet fees, and transportation. Sharing a small unit with 1 or 2 friends might be a little cramped but can save you a lot of money. Be mindful of your bills- turn off the air and heat when you can, don’t leave lights on, and unplug electronics when you’re not using them.
Also, consider ways to save on food. Check out your school’s meal plan options. Buy in bulk and share food costs with roommates. Use the least expensive grocery store near you. Limit eating out and cook simple meals (you can feast when you go home to visit).
4. Have Fun in Frugal Ways
College is supposed to be fun, but you have to embrace the college lifestyle. Most students can’t afford the spring break trip to Florida. You can still have a great time, though.
Managing your money in college includes getting rid of unnecessary services like streaming apps and gym memberships. Don’t use expensive delivery services like Door Dash.
Be active- run, ride on local bike paths, and participate in intramural sports. Use your apartment complex’s pool or workout room. Find free entertainment like the Farmer’s Market and local band performances on campus or downtown. Walk to the stadium instead of paying parking fees at Saturday’s big game. Also, check out the performing arts center which usually gives student discounts.
Make a point to form bonds with friends- get together for game night, cram in someone’s apartment and watch a classic movie, or play a volleyball game on the grassy area near the quad.
5. Buy and Sell Used
Online platforms like Offer Up, Facebook Market, and Amazon are part of a thriving market for pre-owned items.
Not wearing all those cozy sweatshirts you brought from Montana to your dorm in Arizona? Sell them. Just make sure you keep a couple to wear back home for Christmas break. Need a desk for your apartment? Buy a used one.
The same goes for books. Shop around. Online sites sell discounted college books and offer the option of renting or purchasing an e-version for even less money.
6. Understand “Interest” and Other Basic Terms
Let’s be real. Most of us don’t know a whole lot about personal finance when we get to college.
Thankfully, there are lots of social media accounts geared toward beginners. They explain basic terms like debt, diversification, inflation, investment, and net worth.
An important one you may be facing right now is interest. It can work for or against you! If you invest $10,000 in an account that earns 7% annual interest, you’ll have $10,700 at the end of the year. But, if you take out a $10,000 loan with 7% interest, you’ll have to repay $10,700.
You can do it!
Whether you’re getting a monthly amount from your parents, using money earned during the summer, taking scholarship disbursements, or working part-time, you have money that needs to be managed. Using sensible tips like the ones here can mean a much less stressful journey through college.