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My Blog

Managing and Saving Money in College

Many of you already have accepted that you will graduate with a certain amount of student loan debt. Now it's time to recognize the danger of increasing that debt by adding to your loans and relying on credit cards. Four years of careless spending could quickly add up. 

Try to owe the least amount possible when you leave school with your diploma in hand. 

Evaluate your expected financial expenditures during school and take responsibility for every dollar that goes in and out of your bank account. 

Here are three simple ways to be a spending savvy student:

Increase Income
 
When you plan for college, the list of expenses starts with tuition and continues all the way to dorm decorations and toiletries. The potential for spending seems endless. However, students have limited cash to pay for the necessities and the extras, that is, unless, they seek employment.  
Rather than relying on parents and student loans, take the initiative to find a job the summer before school starts, and then continue working part-time during the school semester. If classes and homework fill up your weeks, then try to work only one night a week and Saturdays. Whether it's 15 or 25 hours a week, you will have an income — a starting point for managing cash and putting aside savings.  

Take Advantage of Resources
  
Another way to add to your income is by searching for scholarships and grants. Don't limit your options by only looking before freshman year. Later in school you may qualify for special scholarships based on your college GPA or major. For the small price of doing research and completing applications and essays, you can get access to free money.  
Take your work income and leftover loan money and open a student checking account that comes with a debit card and a savings account. Many banks provide special discounts and even reward programs for students. Just remember not to fall for student credit card incentives while you're at the bank. If you do decide to open one, keep your credit limit low and make payments on time. 
Now that you have money coming in and a way to track it (through your bank) you can start putting together a budget. Make a visit to your school's Office of Student Affairs to get a list of the expected expenses you will incur while in school. These expense sheets are provided by most school and are helpful planning tools. 

Budget Realistically
 
Using a budget will be difficult if it does not include all of your regular expenses. If parents or loans are covering tuition and meal plans, put those costs aside. Using a spreadsheet program or an online budgeting application, enter the estimated cost of your books, cell phone bill, other technology expenses, dorm room items, toiletries, weekend activities and other purchases you plan to make.  
Decide on a limit ahead of time for how much you will spend on snacks and fun events. Planning can prevent you from unexpectedly needing to borrow or use credit and enable you to gauge a realistic amount that can be put in your savings account for post-college life.  

Alanna Ritchie is a content writer for Debt.org, where she writes about personal finance and little smart ways to spend (and save) money. Alanna has an English degree from Rollins College. 
 

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