College is one of the most exciting times of your life. You’re living away from home and taking your very first steps into adulthood. But that can also be a little stressful, particularly if you’ve never been in control of your own finances before.
Whether you’re trying to figure out how to pay for tuition, housing, or even your textbooks, knowing how to manage your money effectively can save you plenty of headaches. We’re here to share our top finance tips for college students, from student loans to learning how to build credit that can help you in the years after your graduation.
1. Create a budget and stick to it
Financial management for students starts in one place – your budget. Knowing exactly how much money you have coming in and going out each month means you won’t have to worry about not having enough in the bank to cover all of your expenses.
Budgeting is an important life skill to learn as early as possible. As a working young adult, you’ll be responsible for paying rent, utilities, and paying back your student loans. Getting a jumpstart on how to create and stick to a budget before you have to think about those bigger costs is a great way to practice good financial habits right now.
2. Keep track of your money
When it comes to budgeting tips for students, one of the most important is to keep track of what you’re spending. This is a really important part of making sure your budget is working for you, and to keep yourself accountable if you do happen to overspend one month.
Use budgeting apps and online banking tools to see what you’ve spent that week and compare this to how much you’ve budgeted for certain items. You might not realize how quickly small purchases add up when you’re not keeping an eye on your transactions regularly.
3. Take advantage of financial services & student support
Many colleges offer financial help to their students who want to learn more about managing their money. You’ll likely be able to find classes on financial planning for beginners or how to open a savings account through dedicated student groups or support offices on campus.
Don’t forget about the tuition and financial aid office too! They’ll be able to sit down with you to review your student loans and provide you with resources that could help you save money here.
4. Save as much as you can
Whenever you have a little extra cash, it’s always best to try to save this. You never know when you might have an unexpected expense and need those funds. Start building your emergency fund as soon as possible for things like car repairs or medical emergencies that can come with some sizable bills.
Instead of keeping that cash sitting in your checking account (where it’s really tempting to spend it!), look into the best savings accounts for students in your town or city. Savings accounts typically have higher interest rates, so you can make extra money without even doing anything!
5. Start working on building your credit
Having a good credit score opens a lot of doors later in your life. Whether you’re hoping to buy a home of your own one day or simply get a better rate on a car loan, college is an excellent time to start building your credit.
If you’ve already taken out student loans to pay for college, you’re starting to build your credit already. Make small payments, like $25 a month, on your financial aid while you’re still in school to help pay down your loan early and avoid more interest. Doing this also helps you build a solid repayment history, which is a key part of your personal credit report.
Credit cards are also another way to build your credit, but you need to be able to use this responsibly and not rack up extra debt. Make small purchases on your card that you can pay back in full straight away.
6. Skip the takeout
Heading out to a local restaurant or grabbing takeout for a night in with friends is always fun, but it adds up quickly if you do this multiple times each week. Take advantage of your school’s meal plan if you have one and use all of your swipes before it renews.
Getting a few cooking skills under your belt can also save you cash, and impress your friends! Make quick breakfasts in your dorm and pack a lunch to take to campus instead of splurging on coffee and sandwiches at local hotspots every day.
7. Get a part-time job
When you need more money to come in, looking for a part-time job while you’re in school can be beneficial. Even working a few hours a week can help you to save money faster or give you some extra cash to have more fun with your friends in your downtime.
Part-time jobs are also a great way to prepare for your life after college. If you know exactly what career you want one day, you could even look for a job that helps to support that to build your professional network and experience.
8. Shop with a student discount
There are thousands of retailers out there who offer money off deals specifically for students. So when you need to buy something, look around to see if any local or online shops have these benefits.
It’s not only shops that offer student discounts though. Museums, entertainment venues, and some restaurants will knock a few dollars off for students at local schools. You may even find that local student bank accounts in Houston, Austin, or other metro areas offer discount perks for their high school and college-aged customers.
9. Save money on used textbooks
Most of your classes will likely require a textbook or two, and those books are expensive. Save some money by purchasing used editions from students who have already taken that class, either through your college bookstore or directly from your peers.
You can even complete the circle by passing along your copy to another student once you don’t need it anymore. Sell your books back to the bookstore or online to recoup some of those outgoing expenses at the start of the school year.
10. Look for scholarships
No matter what you’re studying, there’s probably a scholarship out there with your name on. And the best part about scholarship money is that you don’t have to repay it! These funds can significantly lower how much you need to take out as student loans, which can make a huge difference to your overall financial wellness by the time you’re finished with college.
Look online or talk to the Financial Aid office to see what scholarships you might be eligible for and start your applications as soon as possible.
11. Protect your financial information
Sadly, young people are some of the biggest targets for online scams, identity theft, and financial fraud. Be sure to protect your private information by using secure passwords and signing into a VPN if you’re on a public Wi-Fi network in the library, coffee shop, or elsewhere on campus.
Keeping an eye on your bank accounts isn’t only good for budgeting but can also help you to catch any suspicious activity with your financial institution as soon as possible. The sooner you can identify possible fraud, the quicker you’ll be able to resolve the problem.
Take Control of Your Student Finances Today
Finding a way to manage your money in a way that works for you is one of the biggest lessons that you need to learn as a young adult. Moody Bank can help you to feel good about your money management while you’re in college.
Open a savings account today to build an emergency fund or create a nest egg for your first few months looking for a job after graduation. If you’re not sure about what the best options are, stop by one of our branches to chat with the personal banking team.