When you go to college, you are away from the comfort of your home and your parents.
That means no more nice things such as free meals, a roof over your head, and not having to worry about monthly bills.
Unless you or your parents have saved enough money to help you pay for your college education, you are going to be on your own.
For some people that is a scary thought.
But being on your own can give you a sense of accomplishment and independence that will prepare you for your future as an adult.
If you want to make it through college without tons of debt, you will need to learn how to be smart with your money.
Follow these must-do tips along with some useful tools that will help you financially while you are in college.
1. Set up a student budget
Setting up a budget is the first and most important to save money while being away for school, or in life really.
Creating a budget is a great way to keep track of all your income and expenses.
While in school, income may be considered money from your parents, grants, student loans, scholarships and, of course, any part-time jobs you may find.
Expenses such as your room and board, transportation, insurances, utilities, book and supplies, entertainment, etc. will be money that will leave your pockets on a daily to a monthly basis.
When and how to create a budget?
The best way to prepare your budget is simply spending some time writing down where all your money will come from and where it will be going each month.
And the best time to set up one is at the beginning of each semester.
Creating a budget at the beginning of the semester will help you keep a record of how much you can spend on food, transportation, entertainment and books for the semester ahead.
Once you have noted everything, you can figure out what expenses you can cut down to save and set a goal.
Tools like mint.com or personal capital help you keep track of your budget from the convenience of your smartphone. With personal capital you can add your bank accounts and keep track of your income and expenses.
The best thing about these apps is that they are free.
2. Find a part-time job or a side hustle
A great way to make money is obtaining a part-time job while you’re in college.
A part-time job will give you the extra income to do fun things with friends, dining out, traveling on weekends, eating healthier and going out for movies.
Here are some part-time jobs you can do while in college:
Local Business Jobs
- Retail Sales Associate – Apply to your local retail store; Big stores like Target or Kohl’s are always hiring
- Book Store Associate – If you like people, books and sorting things
- Bike Shop Mechanic – Handy fixing things? Try working as bike shop mechanic
- Front Desk Associate at a Fitness or Yoga Studio – Great way to stay in shape in college
- Photographer – Reach out to local photographers and see if they need an assistant.
You can also start your own photography side hustle by taking photos for local or even worldwide businesses.
Online sites like fiverr help you connect with companies or people that need photos taken for their businesses. It is great to make some extra money.
- After-School Teacher/ Online Tutor – There are endless opportunities working as a tutor.
You can teach your favorite subject to someone who is in need and make some cash while you are at it.
Nowadays, not only can you teach in person but now you can also teach online.
Here are some other part-time job ideas:
Food Service Jobs
- Ice Cream Scooper
- Host or Server at a Restaurant
- Juice/Smoothie Maker
- Catering Staff
- Food Truck Staff
- Social Media Manager
- Administrative Assistant
- Marketing & Sales Intern
- Graphic Designer
- Software Engineering Intern
- Brand Ambassador
- Library Assistant
- Dorm Receptionist/Security Monitor
- Campus Tour Guide
- Research Assistant
- Research Study Participant
- Cafeteria Worker
Sharing Economy Gigs
- Driver & Carshare – Carsharing apps like Uber and Lyft can help supplement your income. Ridesharing apps like Tripda allows you to offer rides to people on trips that you are already taking. Getaroun, another carsharing app, lets you rent out your car any day of the week. You can also become a delivery driver for a local restaurant or find positions through Postmates, Doordash, and Grubhub.
- Artisan – Have a special talent or craft that you want to share with the world? Make money off your handmade goods on websites like Etsy and Amazon’s Handmade.
- Homesharing – Got an extra room in your place? Websites like Homestay, Airbnb, and FlipKey allow you to rent out your homes to other people. This is a great way to earn cash without having to spend time at a job.
- Child & Senior Care – SitterCity and UrbanSitter are websites that make it easy to find nanny and babysitting opportunities near you. NextDoor, a private social network, lets you post messages to offer babysitting to local families and neighbors.
If you want to work in adult and senior care then Care.com is perfect place to look for these opportunities. The ability to control your work hours and the relatively high pay make these jobs ideal for college students.
- Pet Care – Dog-sitting websites like DogVacay and Rover offer different gigs such as boarding, cleaning, walking, daycare, and more for pups.
If you’re a cat lover, Holidog offers services for both dogs and cats.
All these side gig are well suited for the college student with limited schedules who need to make a money.
Errands & Cleaning
- JobRunners – Don’t mind home cleaning, deliveries, admin support, or handyman work? Apps like TaskRabbit lets you offer everything from moving to event and party planning for other people.
- Freelance – If you’re in the creative space, get a head start on your career and work as a freelancer during school. Sites like Upwork and Fiverr are massive marketplaces for all types of freelance work.
3. Save on books by renting instead of buying them
Before you buy any textbooks for your classes, see if your college library has the books you need.
Many of college libraries have them and will let you borrow or rent these textbooks. You can easily save hundreds of dollars each semester this way.
If you do not have luck this way, you can try out the these options too:
1. Buy books from other students: Unless you are keeping your books from college for the rest of your life, you should not have to pay the full price. Instead save money by buying your books directly from other students. Typically, by going this route you can save a lot than if you were to buy brand new ones.
2. Trade your books with other students: Meet with students from previous semesters and offer them to trade their books with you so you both benefit.
3. Rent books online: Renting textbooks instead of buying brand new ones is another way to save. Normally, renting your books is cheaper than buying new books.
If the book is brand new and no older editions are available, renting them is still a better a deal. These other websites where you can rent or buy at a better prices:
3. Learn basic financial literacy
Begin investing in yourself and start learning the basics of financial literacy.
The best way to do this is through personal finance books, blogs and websites like this one. Start educating yourself about investment and retirement.
Some personal finance rules to live by:
- Create a budget
- Set a financial goal
- Review your monthly expenses frequently
- Stick to your budget
- Learn the difference between good debt and bad debt
- Don’t live on credit
- Pay yourself first. Save 20% of your earnings before you start spending
- Invest early. Invest in ventures you understand
It is never too early to set aside money for your retirement. For personal finance and retirement, implement the 80/20 rule — for example use 80% of your income on your bills and expenses and then 10% for your long-term savings and 10% for investing.
4. Cut unnecessary costs
You’ll be surprised how much you can save when you cut out things you don’t really need or use.
As a college student you can cut down costs by building good habits — For example walking or taking public transportation instead of using your own vehicle, or buying clothes during the holidays season when a lot of discounts are available.
You can also use coupons provided by many stores that allow you to get products at discounted prices.
Websites like Honey provides coupons and codes with high discounts for stores like Kohls, Nike, Bloomingdale and many others.
The best way to restrict down the unnecessary cost is by preparing a monthly budget and following it strictly.
4. Understand your student loans
Before taking any student loans, it’s important to look into which loans you qualify for, know the interest rates and always know the principal balance you owe.
Rebecca Safier from studentloanhero.com put together a great guide to Federal Student Loans.
5. Student discounts
Don’t hesitate to ask for student discounts wherever you go. Many stores have it, but sometimes don’t advertise about it.
So, it’s better to carry your College ID card everywhere with you to possibly save 10-15% on your purchases.
It’s important for students to implement good spending behaviors early. No one is going to teach you how to plan and control your personal finances in school or college. Following these tips can help you save money effectively and wisely as a college student.
Which steps are you going to take? Let us know in the comment section below!