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Get That Money, Honey! How to Cultivate Financial Freedom in College

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Washington chapter.

It’s no secret that college and everything that comes along with it is expensive. From tuition and housing, to textbooks and school supplies, food, and that new rain jacket you just bought for those impending rainy winter days, your bank account may be screaming for reprieve. And it’s easy to say, “oh I’ll just stop spending money,” but that isn’t necessarily realistic. 

Never fear! Saving money in college is possible and totally doable. And, fortunately for you, I know just how to do it! In 4 simple steps, you will be on your way to cultivating financial freedom in no time.

Step 1: Survey your spending

Surveying your spending can be as simple as keeping a spending log. I know, recording all of your expenses sounds a little elementary, but I promise, it really helps you save your money. You can keep a spending log anywhere that makes sense for you: in your notes app on your phone, in a notebook, or even using an app—whatever floats your boat. The most important thing is that you start tracking your expenses so that you can see where your money is going. 

Every time you purchase something, make note of that expense, marking the date and how much money you spent. For example: November 10, $35.30 on groceries. Then at the end of every week, you can take a look at your spending log, evaluate your expenses, and determine whether you are spending money on unnecessary items that are draining your bank account. 

Step 2: Build a Budget and Stick To It

Now that you have a good idea of how much money you are spending each week, you can build a budget. When building your budget, it’s important that you determine what exactly you are spending your money on. Is it food? Clothes? Shoes? Transportation? Whatever it is, identify your expenses and allot specific amounts of money to spend on those items each week. 

Setting a budget is really simple, but it’s something that so many people, college students, in particular, neglect to do because it can feel like another task to add to our never-ending to-do lists. Creating a budget doesn’t have to be stressful though; you can protect your savings and still have fun with your money. I’d suggest setting aside an amount of money in your weekly budget for fun items like going out to ice cream with your friends or taking yourself to a movie to decompress from the school week. Having a budget and sticking to it is key to having fiscal fun while also making sure that you aren’t running your savings dry.

Step 3: Hatch a Side Hustle

Who doesn’t love to have a little extra pocket money? I know I definitely do! Taking up a side hustle is the perfect way to earn some cash and have some fun while you’re at it. When looking for a side hustle, think about what kinds of unique skills or hobbies you have that you could monetize. Are you into fashion? Try selling your clothes on Poshmark or Depop! Do you like to meet new people and make conversation? Apply for a job at your favorite local coffee shop! Do you excel in school? Use your smarts to your advantage and start a tutoring service! Making money can really be as simple as tapping into your creativity and finding ways to exercise your special skills. Your hobbies and talents could be your key to becoming financially free! How cool is that?

Step 4: Tuck Away 10%

Once you have found your side hustle and have started making money, the first thing you might want to do is go out and treat yourself to that new pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing. And, I hear you, those shoes are really cute, but the first thing you should do when you receive a paycheck or start making money from your side hustle is tuck at least 10% of that money away and into a savings account. This way, you can start to build your savings and create an extra cushion of money to use in case of an emergency. 

Got it?

Like I said, saving money and cultivating financial freedom in college is possible. All you have to do is survey your spending, build a budget, hatch a side hustle, and tuck away that 10%. If you have never kept a spending log before, set a budget for yourself, had a job, or received a paycheck of any sort, all of this information may have felt overwhelming, and I get that. But, I promise, if you take a few deep breaths, push through the overwhelm, and follow these 4 steps, your future self and wallet will thank you! 

Kelen Tamurian

Washington '26

Hi! My name is Kelen Tamurian, I am a writer for the HerCampus team at the University of Washington, and I love writing and being creative more than anything in the world. My favorite thing about writing is the ability it provides to connect with others; I love how writing can bring people together, encourage difficult and probing conversations, generate smiles and laughter, and create a safe space for people to be vulnerable with themselves and with others. My hometown is Fox Island, Washington, aka the home of the most incredible sunsets on earth! My favorite food is sweet potatoes... I know, I know, it sounds weird, but hear me out, you can put literally anything on a sweet potato and it tastes good: avocado, peanut butter or almond butter, cheese, ketchup, chocolate, literally anything! My favorite activities are painting, making ceramic pottery, reading in the sunshine, going for walks along the water, listening to podcasts or music, and cooking or baking. My best friend is my little brother and family is everything to me!