If you find that juggling your college finances is a bit more challenging than you anticipated, take heart. Money management is a learned skill that comes with time and practice. A 2016 survey conducted by Edvisors.com found that 64 percent of the 364 college students who responded admitted to “running short on funds at some point before the end of the semester.”
Here are some easy-to-implement tips designed for students wondering how to manage money in college.
1) Use Smart Tools to Develop a Spending Plan.
Use time-saving tools, such as budgeting software Quicken along with free and paid apps and websites, to help you keep track of your college finances and manage cash flow. Edvisors editor David Levy suggests that you build some wiggle room into your budget so a single unexpected expense doesn’t derail your entire month, and he also encourages students to keep a small emergency fund.
2) Find Easy Money.
Even if you’re working a part-time job, look into web-based freelance work or creative ecommerce opportunities for additional income. Upcycle used items on eBay, sell your artwork or crafts on Etsy, or put those editing and writing skills to work on a web content provider platform.
3) Pay for Extras with Cash.
A study by Dunn & Bradstreet discovered that people who shop with credit cards pay 12 to 18 percent more than those who shop with cash. Discipline yourself to use only cash when you’re spending your discretionary monthly income on things like coffee and snacks. Handing a cashier your green paper money evokes a very different feeling than swiping a plastic credit card.
4) Pay Fixed Expenses with Cash-back Credit Cards.
Do use a cash-back credit card to pay for gas, groceries, utilities, books, and other school supplies. Pay the balance off every month to avoid interest, and enjoy as much as a 5 percent profit on your necessary expenditures.
5) Don’t Pay Retail.
Discount gift cards from sites like RetailMeNot and GiftCardGranny help you save up to 35 percent on everyday essentials including groceries, gas, clothing, and accessories. Even splurging on a movie and dinner out cost far less when you pay with one of these discount cards. Seek out online coupons and promotional codes that help you make the most of your college finances when cyber shopping.
6) Always Shop with a List.
In addition to never going grocery shopping when you’re famished, take a list and stick to it. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that people who avoid impulse spending in grocery stores can save up to 23 percent on their food bills. In a 2011 article in The Guardian, professor of architecture Alan Penn stated that approximately 60 percent of Ikea purchases are impulse buys.
7) Bucket Your Savings.
Once you know your fixed monthly expenses, stash the remainder in savings vehicles that let you set up multiple accounts based on your short- and long-term savings goals. Sites like SmartyPig.com and Payleaf let you assign a purpose and goal to every dollar. Fun, easy-to-use tools let you monitor your progress, and Payleaf even helps you earn money while you save, keeping you motivated and inspired to master your college finances.
8) Automate Your Savings.
The easiest way to move money from your paycheck or primary checking account into your savings vehicles is with direct deposits. These automatic transfers offer a painless, invisible way to funnel money into your savings buckets without it ever passing through your hands.
9) Shop for Lower Banking Fees.
If you pay a monthly service charge for your basic checking account or get dinged each time you make an ATM withdrawal or use an online bill pay service, you’re losing money. Find a financial institution that offers the services you use the most for free. Even better, find one that will pay you a generous cash bonus to open a new account. Your school may even have a relationship with a banking institution that will help you meet this goal, so check in with your Student Life team.