Tips for Managing a Budget In College

These 10 tips can help you keep your spending costs under control while you pursue your academic degree

By Jaime Weinstein
Posted 2012

College Budget Tips
College Budget Tips

Leaving for college is the first big step toward independence. That also means financial independence. Are you prepared? If not, it’s OK. You’ve got a little time to study up.

One of the main things you need to realize is that living on a budget is an important step to take although, unfortunately, too many college students do not take it. So to bolster your commitment, here are 10 tips for living on a budget in college.

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Understand your FAFSA.This handy little form is what you will use throughout your academic career to qualify for financial aid, scholarships and grants; the money you will need to pay for tuition and live off of.

Rent your books!Yes, it is possible. You don’t have to buy your books anymore. There are services out there that rent books like, and

Student Advantage Card.This is a private card which costs about $20 and gives students discounts on everything from travel (Amtrak and Greyhound) to shopping (Target, T Mobile, Armani Exchange) and even book retailer discounts.

Use student discounts.Your student ID will allow you to harness the power of the student discount. Do not be ashamed to wield this piece of plastic for it can get you discounts for all kinds of things like movies, salon and barber shop services, food and more.

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Know your student fees. Most students don’t understand what their fees pay for. These fees usually provide entertainment (concerts, movies, gatherings and field trips to theme parks) for the entire student body to participate in. So why go off campus when you can have fun right at home?

Know your meal plan and student debit card.Thanks to advances in technology, many colleges across the nation offer meal plan credits and debit card services that can be redeemed at local eateries. This can be quite a challenge for students new to budgeting tips. Excel and are two excellent budgeting tools you can use to keep track of your card’s usage.

Cook!If you don’t know how, now’s as good a time as any to learn. If you do, that’s great, because most dorms have a communal kitchen. If you have a freezer stock it full of fruits, frozen veggies and protein, so you can defrost as needed. Keep other nonperishable items around like peanut butter, soup, cereal and pasta. For anything that can parish, buy wisely. Cooking for yourself is not only great on the wallet it’s great for your health, too.

Work study jobs.This is the type of job where you work on campus. Students qualify for this job through their FAFSA. It’s great to learn a skill at school that you can carry with you for life, network and get a little extra spending money, too.

Groupon, Living Social and Local Deals. These sites should become your best friend, but spend wisely and read the fine print. Thanks to the growing popularity of local deal sites you can get great deals on restaurants, entertainment and travel. If you have a couple of friends go in on a deal that makes it even more affordable for the student.

Create a budget and stick to it. This probably will be the hardest task to accomplish of any of these college budgeting tips. Experts recommend writing down your daily spending habits over the course of a week to a month. Once you’ve created this spending diary you can figure out what your daily, weekly and monthly spend is, and then you can create a proper budget.

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Thankfully debt prevention and budgeting workshops are held regularly at campuses across the nation. If your college is not offering one of these workshops another good place to go is your local bank. Personal bankers are there to not only help you set up an account, but give you savings and spending strategy tips. They may even suggest a debit or credit card that would be wise to use while away at school. After all, creating credit for yourself and maintaining it is one of the most important things you’ll have to do as an adult, next to finding a job after graduation. Something else important to consider, choose a bank that is available in your home and college town – just in case mom or dad has to throw in a few dollars!

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