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10 Valuable Financial Tips for College Students

Now that you are in college, you have to learn how to be independent and manage finances. It can be hard to keep everything in check, but hopefully, these tips can help you be smarter when it comes to your finances. Unfortunately, there aren’t courses taught in high school on financial literacy, so we are left to find other resources to learn about financing and budgeting. Learning to save money in college is vital and will help you be able to manage finances beyond college. 

One person I watch on YouTube is Graham Stephan. He helps people learn how to budget, build credit, money-saving tips, real estate, and learn to invest. I also love his Millionaire Reacts series, where he reacts to other YouTubers that make videos tracking their spending throughout the week.

Dave Ramsey was recommended to me by my father, who always spoke highly of Dave. I watched a couple of his YouTube videos and was amazed at how he aided people through financial crises. I love his advice videos where he allows people to call in and speak about their particular situation, and then he gives them the advice to help them out of their crisis. Dave Ramsey himself went through a financial crisis and had to file for bankruptcy in 1988. When he was 26, he had a net worth of over $1 million, and it all came down when the bank called in his loans, and he was left broke and felt broken.

1. Create a Budget

This is the key tool in taking back control of your finances. When learning to save money as a college student, this should be the first task you complete. First, you need to determine all your sources of income and where they are flowing in from (part-time/full-time job, allowance from parents, financial aid, scholarships). After that, you need to develop an estimate of all the expenses you will incur, such as books, food, clothes, rent, toiletries, entertainment, etc. Put all categories and numbers into an excel spreadsheet and make sure to balance everything (with some money left over for emergencies). The best budgeting app I recommend everyone to have is Mint, and not only is it free, but it is excellent for anyone looking to improve their spending habits. 

2. Get Organized

Set up your financial structure by opening a bank account or joining a credit union. Look around for the best deals and compare fees. By opening an account, you have access to ATMs, a debit card, and can cash checks. Opening a checking account and receiving a debit card will let you conveniently and rapidly pay for purchases anywhere, without the need to carry cash around. Opening a bank account is one of the first steps into the world of managing funds, even though those funds may be limited for the time being.

3. Be mindful of spending

To simply put it, be conscious of how you spend money. When I go out, I always try to avoid unnecessary items I get tempted to buy. For example, I could go to a restaurant and buy food, or an even better idea would be to save money and cook food at home. However, from time to time, it is okay to treat yourself and splurge a bit. By being mindful, you can cut out unnecessary expenses. By living below your means, as Dave Ramsey always suggests, you will reap the benefits later.

4. Adjust budget as needed

As college students, we are just diving into the world of personal finances, which can be difficult at first. Still, it is critical to learn how to manage money in our 20’s, as it will benefit you for a lifetime. After you have had the time to work with your budget (at least six months), decide if this budget is realistic and practical. Readjust your budget as needed, when necessary.

5. Establish Credit

It is vital to begin establishing a credit history, so do your due diligence in researching different credit cards and make sure to open one up if you haven’t already. One fantastic credit card I recommend to all college students is the Discover it Student Cash Back. There is no annual fee, no penalty APR, and special perks and offers each month with 5% back on those rewards and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

6. Boost Credit

There are various ways to boost your credit score with little to no effort. If you have bad credit, you will not get the best rates in the market to take out loans that will help you purchase your first house or car in the future. You will have good credit if you don’t miss your payments, don’t apply for too many credit cards, and aim for no more than a 30% credit utilization.

7. Look for scholarships

Take advantage of scholarships out there that can help you finance your education. There are many scholarships available, and some are so simple to apply for, no essay or writing is required. There are billions of dollars in grants and scholarships awarded per year, but you need to sit down, search for them, and apply. Some resources to find scholarships are Scholarships.com, Niche.com, Fastweb, and Chegg.

8. Don’t buy new

There is no need to purchase brand-new textbooks. Instead, opt for cheaper solutions such as a used textbook or an online version. Be wary because colleges always charge higher prices than other online retailers such as Chegg or Amazon. Look online and through the Facebook marketplace to see anyone listing college essentials or furniture for sale because they have just graduated or are moving out. It is a greener and cheaper alternative than buying all new items.

9.Take Advantage of those student discounts

We are college students, so take advantage of the perks and discounts we get for being a student. One app to get is UNiDAYS, which offers fast, free, and exclusive deals to students. Did you guys know you can get 20% off at HM just by using UNiDAYS? I also got Spotify premium for students, 4.99 a month, and I love music, so it has been my favorite purchase. My account also includes a free Hulu & SHOWTIME subscription. Go out there and look for those great discounts because once you graduate, there aren’t going to be any more student discounts.

1o. Consider paying off interest-only loans early

If you have taken out loans, be mindful of who you borrow from and how much you take out. It is best to stick with federal loans because they have lower interest rates and flexible repayment plans. Even though you have a six-month grace period, you can start paying off unsubsidized loans as interest accrues from those particular loans right when you take it out. By repaying earlier, you will have an easier time paying off loans when you graduate.

(This meme pretty much sums up what it’s like being a college student)

Works Cited:

Editor, Contributing. “20 Financial Tips Every College Student Should Learn.” Expensivity, 17 May 2021, https://www.expensivity.com/college-student-finance-tips/.

Safier, Rebecca. “7 Financial Tips for College Students in the New Year.” Student Loan Hero, 18 Aug. 2020, https://studentloanhero.com/featured/2019-financial-tips-college-students/.

“10 Financial Tips for College Students.” Debt.org, https://www.debt.org/students/financial-tips-college-students/.

“Why College Students Need a Checking Account: Discover.” Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog, 12 June 2019, https://www.discover.com/online-banking/banking-topics/why-college-students-need-a-checking-account/.

Allison Lagos-Soriano is currently a senior at the University at Buffalo, studying Marketing and Data Analytics. She loves wellness, music, true crime, makeup, and pop culture. Allison has many dreams and aspirations to be a successful business woman, travel the world, and make the world a better place. #GoBulls
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