Your first year of college can also be the first year of your adult life. It’s an exciting time, that’s filled with lots of new experiences, yet it’s easy to make mistakes. We’ve prepared this guide to help you navigate through one of the most challenging parts of your new journey – personal finance.
Personal Finance Tips for College Students: The Big Expenses
One of the ways to be financially successful is to be smart about your biggest expenses. This will often mean making difficult decisions in the near future so that you can be in a good financial position long term.
1. Don’t Become a Student Loan Debt Statistic
70% of Americans graduate college with student loans, but there are ways to minimize the damage. First and foremost, get a financial education and learn how to be smart with your money. Reading this article means you’ve taken a right first step.
If you haven’t chosen a college yet, choose a better cost-effective college or a tuition-free university. If you decide to get a degree so you can do better in the workforce, talk to people who already have the type of position you want (you can find them on LinkedIn). You might discover that a degree from an expensive college isn’t the only way to land a great job in your field.
2. Save on Housing
If you live in the dorms or rent an apartment, your living arrangement will be one of your biggest expenses. So, if possible, consider cutting it completely and keep living with your parents until you graduate and get a full-time job. If that’s not an option, consider living with additional roommates or in a more budget-friendly neighborhood.
3. Drop the Car
Most students constantly lack two major resources: time and money. A car is a huge help, but adds significant financial pressures at a time that you’re likely already spreading yourself too thin.
To support yourself, try the public transportation around campus for a month, and see if you can switch over from the car at least part time. Also, try sharing rides with other students. Have people pay for the gas when you drive them, and pay for the gas when they drive you. Encourage additional students to participate. It’s a great way to support the environment and meet new friends, too.
Alternatively, choose a credible online university, that gives you access to professors from some of the world’s most respected universities, such as New York University and Yale. Studying from home is a great way to reduce commute costs.
Personal Finance Tips for College Students: College Life
College life can be expensive, but it can also help you save money.
4. Use Student Discounts
Whether you like your photo on it or not, your student card is a beautiful thing. It gets you lots of discounts – from movie theaters and restaurants to travel opportunities.
Check with your campus which companies have partnered with it, don’t be shy to ask about student discounts whenever you’re buying something from other companies as well. Some companies don’t officially partner with universities, but still, like to support students by giving them discounts.
5. Don’t Buy New Textbooks
Textbook prices have increased by 1,041% from early 1977 to mid-2015, but students paid 20% less for textbooks in 2014-2015 than they did in the 2007-2008 academic year. How?
They don’t buy expensive new textbooks.
They buy and rent used books from websites like Amazon and TextbookRentals.com, or from fellow students. Others choose universities that use free, open source textbooks or upload all the necessary information online, so you won’t need to buy textbooks at all.
Personal Finance Tips for College Students: Relationship Building
A big part of college life is socializing. Most people could use a friend to share their college journey with, and sometimes these friends become key people in your professional advancement. Of course, socialization often means spending money – but you don’t have to spend a lot of money.
6. Build Professional Relationships
Building relationships might not sound like a personal finance tip per se, but it’s critical for students to remember that relationships with the right people is what will eventually open financial opportunities for you.
While at college, take time between classes and studying sessions to socialize with your fellow students. One day, they could become industry colleagues you’ll want access to. Get professors to mentor you so that you can build a closer relationship with them.
Connect with people outside of your campus too. Attend industry conferences, or at least participate in group discussions on the professional social network LinkedIn. Your future colleagues will appreciate a young student who’s taking the extra step to get involved in the industry.
7. Find Cheaper Ways to Socialize
Of course, socialization doesn’t always have to be career-oriented. It’s important to connect with people without an agenda and just have some fun.
You don’t always have to go out to pubs, restaurants, and movies to have fun. You can get together with friends to watch a movie online at home.
You can go to the beach instead of the pool. You can have a picnic outdoors. Eat dinner at home and only go out for dessert, and prioritize places that give you student discounts.
Most college students are like you – living on a tight budget. Support each other by having fun without spending a lot. It’ll be easier to do it together, anyway.
Personal Finance Tips for College Students: Long Term Thinking
Many people go to college because they care about their future. It’s the perfect time to start thinking long term about your financial choices.
8. Monetize Your Skills
Most personal finance tips for college students focus on saving money, but you also need to get creative about increasing your income. A great way to do it is to monetize skills you already have for opportunities that pay more than minimum wage.
For example, if you know how to play the guitar, you can teach others how to do it, and you can perform at parties. Distribute flyers on campus, or look for websites that connect people who can teach with people who want to learn.
If you can monetize a skill that can further your career, do your best to prioritize it. For example, if you study computer science, but already know how to code, don’t work in fast food. Get a coding job.
9. Keep a Budget
Ultimately, whichever strategies you choose, you need to keep track of what you’re doing, analyze it, and optimize as you go. Therefore, it’s important to write down your income and expenses, and face the numbers head on.
The Most Important Personal Finance Tip for College Students: You Can Do it
Personal finance can feel overwhelming, especially if it’s the first time you’re learning about it. Give yourself time to learn, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from people around you. If you keep at it, you’ll master it eventually.
You’re the CEO of your life. It’s your job to make sure it’s profitable as you create your dream life.