7 Smart Money Moves to Make the Most of Your College Years

Many young people are first exposed to managing their finances during college. College is often as much about learning how to function independently in the world as it is about academic learning. 

The cost of tuition is high and rises every year. Still, housing, books, and living expenses add up. According to the College Board, these costs can be as high as $33,520 per year in addition to tuition and fees. 

To avoid financial regrets after graduation, here are seven moves that you can make to manage your money and expenses. 

1. Set a budget (and stick to it) 

Creating and adhering to a budget is a good practice to start early and maintain throughout your life. It’s especially important in college when making ends meet is often a struggle. Let’s face it: Running out of money is about as fun as an 8 a.m. class on Friday. 

A budget doesn’t have to be complicated or take a long time to accomplish. You have various options to manage your budget, such as using a mobile app, spreadsheets, web-based budget calculators, or simply pen and paper. The important thing is finding a system that works for you and sticking with it. 

2. Open a savings account 

Start building your savings by opening an account with no fees or a low minimum balance, such as a high-yield savings account where you can deposit money every time you get paid.   

Make sure to allocate a portion of your budget towards savings to avoid running out of money during critical times like finals week. 

3. Get a side hustle 

Finding time for a part-time job can be tricky, but gig work can give you the flexibility to work around your classes and other obligations.  

Companies like Lyft, Uber, Instacart and other specialized gig platforms are often perfect for busy college students. Many students do freelance work or tutoring. Some students even make commissions for art or sell things on Etsy. 

4. Be smart with credit 

Building a positive credit history in college can help open doors for future credit-related purchases like buying a car or home. There are several options available to help you get started. 

  • College credit cards: Many credit card companies offer credit cards for college students and often market them to students on campus. These cards usually have low credit limits and carry high interest rates compared to other cards. 
  • Secured credit cards: These credit cards require that the cardholder pay a deposit, and your credit limit is generally equal to the amount of that deposit. They’re good to help build credit for those who can afford that upfront cost. 
  • Authorized user: If you have a parent or older sibling with good credit, you can ask them to add you as an authorized user on their card. This will help you build your own credit history. However, if they miss payments or make late payments on the card, it can negatively impact your credit, too. 

According to a report by U.S. News and World, 42% of college students have credit card debt, with over a quarter owing more than $2,000. If you decide to open a credit card, only spend what you can pay back and pay the balance in full and on time every month.  

This will avoid accumulating high-interest credit card debt while establishing a strong payment history to boost your credit score

Emergencies and unforeseen expenses happen, so if you accumulate credit card debt, don’t panic! There are ways to manage your debt, including possibly paying it off with a debt consolidation loan

5. Pay bills on time 

College can be a blur, but keeping track of bill due dates is important. Heading off to school is when most students begin paying their own bills and start establishing their credit.  

Whatever bills you may have, making timely payments is critical since negative marks on your credit report have serious consequences long after graduation. Derogatory marks like missed payments, charge-offs, and collections can negatively impact your credit report for up to 7 years. 

Setting up auto-payments or monthly reminders can help you keep track of bills. Remember, good financial grades (credit scores) will be as important as your GPA after graduation. 

6. Be thrifty with expenses 

Besides tuition, additional college costs such as books, food, housing and other expenses can really add up. The Education Data Initiative estimates that an average college student spends more than $1,200 annually on books and supplies alone. 

You can’t avoid expenses like books, but you can still look for ways to save. For example, renting textbooks can be a great way to save money. Also, learning to cook can help stretch your dollars, as take-out or eating out can be expensive. 

7. Barter, trade, share, and get student discounts 

Being thrifty is admirable, but knowing how to meet your needs and wants without overspending is important. Social media and communications apps often include freecycle or buy/sell/trade groups where you can obtain products or services free, through barter, or at discounted prices. 

Another option is to directly barter with other students on campus. It’s also worth exploring student discounts and deals available for college students. 

Good financial decisions now set you up for future success 

Navigating finances as a college student can be a challenging and overwhelming experience. Between balancing tuition fees, textbooks, and living expenses, it’s no surprise that many students struggle to establish a solid financial foundation.

However, the good news is that by being mindful and avoiding common financial pitfalls, you can set yourself up for financial success both during and after college. 

Read More:

All personal loans made by WebBank.


Get the latest news & trends delivered to your inbox.


Get the latest news & trends delivered to your inbox.