Unless you just won a huge amount of money in the lottery, managing your money is probably important to you. Even if you have a lot of money, it can be hard to manage it well. If you are a student, it may seem even harder to keep your bank account in the black.
If you went back to school, you may have had to cut back on your work hours to make time for your new homework and other responsibilities. Or maybe you’ve never had to pay much attention to how much you spent on groceries or where the money went when you paid for a streaming service every month.
No matter what made you decide to get a better handle on your budget, you know that you need help managing your money in college, and we’re here to help. We got advice from both financial experts and college students like you. Check out these 10 quick tips for getting good at managing your money.
Best Money Management Tips for Students
1. Don’t overlook student discounts
Having a college ID can sometimes get you deals or lower prices. People know that these benefits are available at movie theaters, streaming services, insurance companies, major retailers, and other places. You shouldn’t be afraid to look into your options, but you should still be somewhat cautious.
Don’t forget that saving 10% on something you don’t really need is the same as spending 90% on something you don’t really need, so think about your purchases in that way.
2. Put your savings on autopilot
Putting away a little bit of your pay each month might not seem like it’s going anywhere, but in the long run, it pays off to be persistent. If you find it hard to save money every time you get paid, decide once and for all and set up your savings to happen automatically. Most banks’ websites have a link that will help you set this up. If you run into questions, call your bank teller and inquire about your options.
3. Get creative & find fun for free
It can be tempting to go out to eat and plan social activities that cost money. What else can you do with your life that doesn’t cost money? Well, a whole lot!
David Bakke, a finance expert at Money Crashers®, suggests that you spend a few nights at home instead of going out. Have a game night or rent a movie to have a little fun without spending much money. There’s a good chance that you can find a few friends who also want to save money.
4. Get automated payments in check
This is different from setting up an automatic savings plan. “Lazy” shopping is becoming more and more common in our time. Automatic payments for Spotify® or Audible® subscriptions can add up quickly. Be careful with media, fashion, and other shopping subscriptions that cost money every month. Instead, put that money toward some things you need, or just save it.
Even though you might miss your regular box of makeup samples or weekly meal plan kit, skipping those fees will help you save money in the long run.
5. Make food at home
Even if you cook at home, you don’t have to give up all the simple pleasures in life. But if it’s become a habit to grab a salad from the local deli or stop by your favorite fast-food place after dinner, try to cut back a little.
Cooking at home can be creative, fun, and even a great way to meet new people. You can save a lot of money by buying ingredients at your local grocery store and making the most of leftovers. This may take some planning, though. Find some easy, cheap recipes and learn how to make them well. Remember that cheap doesn’t have to mean bland if you know what you’re doing.
6. Earn some extra cash
Chenell Tull from Hustle2Startup says, “Work as much as you can without letting it get in the way of your studies.” “Even a part-time job is great because it gives you money to spend and helps you pay off the interest on your student loans while you are in school.”
Depending on what you’re studying, freelance work could be a great way to make some extra cash. If you don’t have many freelance opportunities with your degree, think of other creative ways to make money. Start an Etsy shop, sell some clothes you’ve been meaning to get rid of, or have a garage sale with your friends.
7. Try to stick to cash for your non-essential budget
It’s easy to swipe your credit card at the register—sometimes a little too easy. It is easy to forget that is real money. After you get your paycheck and pay for tuition, bills, and other monthly expenses, you can use cash for other parts of your budget.
It might feel different to hand a store clerk a crisp $20 bill instead of swiping a card, but it will keep you from spending too much. Seeing the money leave your hand can have a subtle effect on your mind that may make it easier for you to say “no” to an impulse buy.
8. Use online coupons
Many businesses have different deals on their websites than they do in their stores. There are also a lot of online apps that can let you know when a website might have a coupon code.
George Ruan helped make the Honey® browser extension for this very reason. Ruan says that Honey can help college students save a lot of money when they shop online and make their money go further. “It works on pizza, books, and everything else!”
9. Don’t fall for “It’s only $5!” mentality
“It’s easier than you think to go from $5 to being poor and in debt,” says Tana Gildea, author of The Graduate’s Guide to Money. She says that even though a dollar a day in the vending machine might not seem like much, it adds up to $30 a month.
She asks, “Did you really want to spend $30 on soda, candy, and crackers?” “Probably not, but it catches you by surprise. Try to stop this trend and you’ll save a dollar a day.”
Think carefully about what you want to buy, and put those extra snacks and smartphone apps in your budget. That way, you can be sure to keep track of your money.
10. Budget for everything
The first step to getting your finances in order is to know where your money is going. This is where a budget comes in. It’s easy to think that the only things you need to include in your monthly budget are your bills. Don’t give up! Those trips to get coffee can add up quickly.
Yogin Patel, a sophomore at Arizona State University, says that the most important thing he has learned is that he needs to have a budget for almost everything. “That means you should set aside money every month for going out to eat, going to the movies, getting late-night snacks, buying books and supplies, going out with friends, etc. Remember that these budgets should allow you to save some money every month, which is very important.
Using these tips and tricks every day is a great way to start learning how to handle money in college. These simple tips for college students on how to handle their money will help you feel better about your finances while you’re getting your degree.
Want more ideas for saving money at school? Scholarships and grants can cut your out-of-pocket costs by a lot.