If you’ve recently joined the ranks of the nearly 20 million college students in America, you have a lot to be excited about. Classes, friendships, and parties- all essential parts of the university experience that you don’t want to miss out on.
One experience that you’re probably totally fine living without, though, is the week-to-week painful budgeting on a broke-college-student income. Instant ramen does tend to get old after a while, and student loans? Don’t even get us started on those.
Here, we’re going to help you fight against the daily horrors of your empty wallet by giving you some of the best insider budgeting tips for college students. Read on to avoid going to class after class having eaten nothing but Nutella from the jar!
1. Actually Set a Budget
The first thing you’ll need to do when budgeting is to, well, actually set a budget. No, we don’t mean taking $300 out of the ATM and putting it in a drawer “for everything this month.” We mean sorting that $300 into various envelopes so you know exactly where it’s going.
In addition to setting aside money for rent or dorm fees, make sure that you have enough specifically for your weekly groceries. Don’t dip into this money for a bottle of beer or a night at the movies! It’s for groceries only.
Other funds you may consider setting aside money for are clothing, personal items (like toilet paper and kitchen cleaners), school expenses, and, yes, a bit for the aforementioned beer and movie night.
2. Use Cash When Possible
Speaking of cash in envelopes, let’s talk about using cash. While it sounds like fake news, it isn’t- people who spend cash actually spend less money on nonessentials. This is likely because you (correctly) feel as though you are spending actual money rather than just swiping a credit card and getting items for “free.”
3. Set Aside Party Money
By ‘party money,’ we don’t necessarily mean funds for wild nights out. Though there may be some of that involved, we’re using this term to describe cash that you’ll be using for nonessential items.
A part of your budget should be solely for enjoying life! Put fifty bucks or so aside so you can have dinner with a friend or buy that new comic book you’ve been eyeing. After all, what’s life without treating yourself sometimes?
4. Download the Right Apps
There are loads of apps out there that can help with your budgeting endeavors. Smartphone applications like Charlie, Goodbudget, and Mint have you covered when it comes to knowing how much money you can spend at any given time.
There are also rebate apps like Ibotta, which gives you a percentage cash back on groceries. Check some of those out if you want to put a little extra coin in your pocket!
5. Open a Bank Account
Speaking of apps, have you downloaded your bank’s yet?
Have you even made a bank account yet?
If the answer to that is anything other than a resounding ‘yes,’ that needs to be made a priority. Having your own bank account is necessary to keeping your money all in one place, making deposits and transfers, and paying bills. Open an account at your local bank today- it’s crucial to your budgeting success.
6. Start to Build Credit
While you’re at it, talk to your bank about building credit. If you have a current credit score of 0, don’t panic- that’s pretty normal for new college students.
There are a variety of systems in place for people to begin building credit from scratch. If you have a good relationship with your parents, one way to do this is to become an authorized user on their account. If this isn’t a possibility for you, there are student credit cards that you can apply for today!
7. Talk to Your Parents
Speaking of your parents, talk to them. They know a lot more about money and budgeting than you do simply because they have more experience with it. They’ll be able to give you more personalized pointers than any online forum because they know you (and, likely, your spending habits.)
8. Have a Financial Cushion
When you budget your funds, make sure to create a short-term savings account. You don’t need to put a ton of money into it on a weekly basis, but make sure that you’re at least putting a small percentage of your paycheck into this account and leaving it there.
Keeping a few hundred dollars put away acts as a financial cushion in case of unforeseen expenses. If your car breaks down or your cat needs to go to the vet, having this financial cushion could stand between yourself and a lot of stress.
9. Apply for Scholarships
Applying for scholarships is also a great way to save money. You’ll have to save significantly less for your student loans this way, giving you more money to put aside for other expenses!
There’s definitely a scholarship out there for you since there’s a scholarship out there for pretty much anything. Scholarships for small people, professional clowns, lefties, and adorable couples exist, proving there’s something out there for everyone.
10. Learn From the Pros
In addition to reading online forums and talking to family members, seeking financial advice from professionals is an awesome idea.
One way to do this is to look at a great personal finance advice blog. Experts post on these blogs to give you the best tips for saving money and spending wisely. Going out of your way to talk to those in finance and banking- maybe even professors at your university!- is immensely helpful as well.
More Budgeting Tips for College Students
While coming up with and sticking to a budget is difficult, it’s an easy way to alleviate stress from your college experience. When you spend smart and save big, your future self thanks you.
Now that you have some of the best budgeting tips for college students, it’s time to go in search of even more. Click on the ‘contact us’ tab on our home page to discuss finances with our knowledgeable professionals. We’ll give you the best tips, tricks, and ideas on how to save money so you can have a stress-free college (and post-college) experience.