Going to college is a major change for a lot of students. It’s the first time being on your own. And that means it’s usually one of the first times handling your money on your own.
While this is a totally fun and exciting adventure, it never hurts to listen to people that have been there and done that. We’ve compiled some amazing tips from top bloggers who’ve all been there and done that.
Take note – these tips can help you start your life on the right track to build real wealth.
For more fun resources, check out our 101 Resources For College Students.
Understand You’re On Your Own
The first tip comes from Alan from Real Money. This tip is the perfect thought to start us off, because it highlights one of the key themes of leaving and going to college.
Your parents are probably not going to be there for you to take care of your finances forever. The sooner you take responsibility, the better off you’ll be.
College Is The First Time You Have To Budget
For most, college will be the first time you’ll have to balance income and expenses. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun – you just have to be smart about it.
Martin Dasko from Studenomics highlights this point:
As a college freshmen, you need to master the art of partying on a budget. This is often a taboo subject and your parents/media will tell you to stay in [and study]. The reality is you’re going to party and go out in college. Exams and assignments and heart break will stress you out.You just can’t let having fun force you to go broke. I’ve seen too many friends go broke because of partying. The trick is to plan your partying. What day will you go out? How much will you spend? What will you drink? How will you get home?Each of these questions can save you hundreds of dollars. Trust me on that.If you don’t plan the day, you’ll just randomly party with no reason. I saved my gallivanting until after exams. Setting a budget is key. I would always hit up the ATM before going out. Not six drinks in. Buying booze in advance will help you because you won’t have to worry about spending your tuition fees at the bar.Getting home is always a struggle. I’ve taken too many expensive cab rides because I wasn’t aware of the bus schedule.
Don’t think about budgeting as placing restrictions on your spending. It’s about facing reality.
Start learning to budget now. Live on less than you earn and avoid lifestyle creep. Once you get your first job, budget with the idea that you could leave/lose your job at anytime. Building up a solid safety net is important at all ages but especially when you have little on the job experience.
Tips For College Students On Working And Getting A Job
A lot of bloggers had tips about working during school. I’m a big believer in working during school. Beyond earning a little money, working gives students real world skills, such as communication and problem solving. Every college student should work.
Many of the bloggers share my same sentiment, and have some great tips about working while in school:
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner from Making Sense of Cents has a great tip on working in school:
My best tip is to get a part-time or even a full-time job, if you can fit the hours in while still being able to maintain good grades. I was able to work full-time and that helped me pay my bills while also being able to beef up my resume. To do this, I did have to carefully craft my school schedule each semester, but it was well worth it.
Elle Martinez from Couple Money continues on the theme of working while in school:
Work – either part-time during the semester or full time during the summers. The experience can help you decide if the field if it’s right fit for you. You don’t want to be in a career you hate. If you can’t find an internship, create one or look for something related. And put some of your money earned into an IRA. It’s a great financial habit to start now that can pay off tremendously in the future.
Sandy Smith from Yes, I Am Cheap talks about internships, which are key to getting a leg up while in school:
Treat your internships like a very long interview. It’s an opportunity to gain real world experience, written references, and potentially a full-time job when you graduate from school.
Kayla Sloan from Shoeaholic No More still reminds us that school does come first:
Find the best part time job you can but don’t forget, school comes first! You’ll be better off having had to work for your money than having it handed to you.
Morgan Marie Quinn takes us home with a simple reminder:
College freshman take note: Get a part time job and pick the cheaper school.
Always Look For Great Deals
Beyond budgeting, you should always look to take advantage of great deals that you can typically only get as a college student. Also, a little planning always goes a long way.
Andrew Schrage from Money Crashers shares a great tip on finding deals:
Make use of your student ID card. It’s good for plenty of free or cheap entertainment, including attending speaking engagements, movies, and the fitness center. College freshmen should also avoid paying for services like laundry, dry cleaning pick up, and grocery shopping. Do these chores on your own and save money. Live with your parents while attending school and you’ll save a bundle of money on housing and other expenses. Buy your textbooks used from eBay or Amazon and not at the campus bookstore. That’s where they are the most expensive.
Julie Rains from Investing to Thrive echoes these tips:
Get better at planning in your life. The more you plan, the more you can control your spending. For example, rather than waiting until the day before classes start to get your textbooks, find out what books you’ll need for your classes as soon as possible and then find the best deals, which may be ordering online rather than using the college bookstore. Likewise, you may be able to save on meals, supplies, etc. if you can shop around for the best prices instead of using convenience-type stores.
Be Careful With Credit
The topic of credit card debt comes up a lot with young adults, because it’s a whole new world that is typically not taught in school. It’s not about avoiding credit cards, but it’s about being responsible with the ones you have.
Jason Vitug from Phroogal highlights his story, which was a struggle with this exact issue:
Avoid my mistakes with credit. I got my first credit card after applying and racked up a ton of credit card debt. I had no discipline and guidance. After racking up $5,000 in credit card debt I felt like I had no one to turn to and it added to the stress.
Get a credit card with a parent as a consigner. Use this as a way to have the money conversation with your parents. Your parents can help you monitor your credit usage and establishing your credit file at 18 years old can help you secure that new apartment after college graduation.
Keep The Costs Of College As Low As Possible
A lot of bloggers had reminders about keeping the cost of college as low as possible. They share some great tips on how to do this.
Lance from Money Manifesto reminds us that you can still get scholarships once you start school:
My tip would be to not forget about scholarships. Just because you are no longer a prospective student does not mean that there are no more scholarships available to you. I ended up getting more scholarship money for my Sophomore, Junior and Senior years than I did my Freshman year and those scholarships helped me graduate student loan debt free. Unfortunately, my wife wasn’t so lucky.
Kali Hawlk from KaliHawlk.com has a great challenge for taking more classes to save money:
It’s not always fun, but taking more than a full load and taking a course or two during summer semesters will get you to graduation faster — and possibly cheaper. Cost of classes may not change, but the sooner you graduate the less in fees, room and board, and other college costs you’ll pay. And the sooner you can secure a job and start earning a significant salary, which can pay off big-time over the course of your career. Starting sooner allows earning to compound longer.
Along those same lines, Teresa Mears from Living On The Cheap reminds everyone:
Graduate on time. And treat mom and dad’s money as if it were your own.
Start Building Real Wealth For The Future
College is the best time to start building real wealth. Start a business and earn extra money on the side. Start investing and watch compound interest grow your money while you sleep. Take advantage of your youth and use it to build wealth.
Dominique Brown from Your Finances Simplified echoes this very sentiment:
Start a business while in college – all the great companies started in dorms. Take advantage of your youth and lack of responsibilities.
Then, max out your Roth IRA every year. Prioritize investing and saving first. Aim to save 20-30% of your income. Try to graduate 1 year early to maximize lifetime earning potential and reduce college expenses.
Final Tips For Success
Beyond the money tips, here are a few last reminders to make college a success.
Kate Horrell from KateHorrell.com says:
Go to class. 95% of success in college is just showing up.
Matt Becker from Mom and Dad Money reminds us:
Focus more on finding work you love and people who excite and push you than on managing your money perfectly.
Stefanie O’Connell from The Broke and Beautiful Life has two great reminders:
LEARN. Challenge yourself to get into the habit of learning beyond your required coursework. Fostering a love of learning that extends beyond the classroom will equip you with the habits and information you need to succeed throughout life. Watch documentaries, seek out training in essential life skills like money management, take different kinds of classes in various mediums. The habit of continual self improvement and growth will serve you for the rest of your life.MASTER CRITICAL THINKING. College is prime time to hone your critical thinking skills. Stop accepting information and advice at face value and start learning to assess what’s truly valuable and what’s biased or misinformed. Being able to discern will leave you far better off when making choices now and later in life- financially and otherwise.
And to end it, here’s a great Letter To My 18-Year Old Going To College. It has a ton of great reminders about money, life, and more.
Now it’s your turn? What money tips do you have for college students or young adults?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.