As a current college undergraduate, I understand what it’s like needing to stretch every dollar. Students have enough stress managing academics, social life and extracurricular activities—nothing ruins the semester more than running out of money.
I’m here to share five tips to help you manage your finances while in college so you can save for the things you love.
Get a part-time job
Many college students apply for jobs around campus to earn extra spending money. The key to finding an opportunity that really works for you as a student is to look at the extra perks, not just the hourly wage. Are the working hours are flexible? How labor intensive will the job be? Some of my friends work in the athletic weight room or as hall monitors for various buildings. These types of jobs are great for busy college students because you get downtime from working. If you want something off campus and don’t have much time to learn a new skill, check out our article on how to make money doing things you already do.
Participate in campus research studies
You might see flyers about research studies around campus or hear professors mention them in class. Either way, they’re opportunities few people take advantage of. Participating in a study is an easy way to make $10 to $20 in less than an hour and requires no long-term commitments. From my experience, signing up is easy and some of the studies can even take less than fifteen minutes.
Even if your campus doesn’t offer a lot of opportunities to participate in paid research, take this idea and run with it. There is always easy one-off work to be found that requires minimal commitment and can help bring in a few extra bucks.
Limit How Often You Eat Out
I cannot stress this enough—maximize the bang for your buck on your meal plan. So many of my friends go out to eat during the week instead of using meal swipes at a dining hall. By the end of the semester, they’ve wasted hundreds of dollars in unused swipes.
Now I’m not saying don’t ever indulge and go out from time to time. Just use meal swipes if you have them. And if you know that you’re not going to eat on campus a lot, then adjust your meal plan accordingly. Invest in some cookware and learn to make simple meals at home so you’re not tempted to go out and spend.
Set a spending limit per week
Another great method for saving money and being more conscious about your spending habits is to set a spending limit each week (and stick to it). This way, you’ll cut out all of the extraneous items, helping you understand your needs and priorities. It’ll also help prepare you for the real world, because soon enough that money will be coming out of your own pocket, if it isn’t already.
While the first few tips may not all apply to you, I think the best way for you to manage your finances as a college student is to use cash. Credit and debit cards can make it difficult to keep track of your spending in the moment. Cash, on the other hand, makes that easy because you’ll see your wallet getting smaller with every purchase. Obviously, more expensive purchases will probably require credit or debit cards. But how many college kids are buying pricey items? Use cash… trust me.
If you follow these tips to stretch your college budget … you’ll surely be able to spend it on some other cool things when you’re not hitting the books.