Money Management Tips for College Students

It’s one of the biggest problems our generation faces today – how are we supposed to pay for college without going completely broke?

With college tuition prices through the roof and continuing to rise, it’s a wonder anyone can afford it nowadays.

However, the college attendance rate is higher than ever, with some speculating that getting a college degree is the new high school diploma.

It’s no wonder that so many people are flocking to universities now, with the job market as it is, and no one willing to hire people with less than a bachelors degree.

However, this doesn’t make it any easier to pay for things, between tuition, room and board, textbooks, and life essentials.

So how do you go about paying for college? In this post, we’ll review some key money management tips for college students. First of all, we’ll talk about ways to receive help and assistance with your tuition and fees. There are a few different ways to go about this.

  • Loans.Whether they are government supplied or privately funded, loans are money you borrow from an institution or organization with the intent to pay them back after graduation. Government aid usually depends on financial need, and has a limit to the amount you can borrow. Private loans don’t have as many stipulations, but come with their own plethora of problems. Interest rates are usually higher with private loans, and they don’t have quite so forgiving payback plans as the government aid does.
  • Grants and Scholarships. These can be found through your university, your high school, your community, or even private donors. Scholarships and grants are money that is, essentially, free. Meaning that, if it is awarded to you, there is no requirement to pay it back. Check your university’s web page for information about scholarships, and talk to you high school guidance counselor or adviser. Fastweb and Zinch are both great places to look for private scholarships funded by companies and organizations as well.
  • Employment. Whether it be savings from your summer job, or a part time job once you get on campus, saving your cold hard cash is sometimes the way it has to go. In the next section, we’ll discuss money management skills to employ when paying your own way.

If you’re using your own money, in part or in whole, to pay for your college education, chances are you’re going to need to employ a lot of money management tips and tactics to ensure your bank account stays (mostly) intact.

  • Start with a good foundation, if at all possible. I know it’s not always possible or realistic, but a good way to do this is to put all the money you get from your graduation open house into your savings account. That way, when adding or subtracting to your savings, you have a nice foundation to keep you in check, and to protect against emergencies should they arise.
  • Create a monthly budget sheet (and maybe even yearly should it help). Make an excel spreadsheet or a Google Doc and record all the things you buy and pay for on a monthly basis. Record your income as well, and see how much comes in and goes out each month.
  • Know when your tuition and fees are due each semester, and keep up on your finances. Usually they will send you an itemized bill when they are paid; make sure to check this carefully to ensure that you understand and recognize all the charges on it. You never know when the school’s system made a mistake, and it wouldn’t be fair for you to pay for something when you shouldn’t have to.
  • Don’t spend money frivolously. This should be a no brainer, but for someone like me who is just getting used to receiving a weekly paycheck, it can sometimes be difficult to remember not to go and blow it all. Some ways you can do this are avoid eating out often, as you tend to over pay for food, and to make a grocery list and stick to it when shopping, as we all know the strange phenomenon that happens when you go food shopping on an empty stomach.
  • Use your emergency credit card wisely. While it’s generally a pretty good idea to have a credit card for emergencies such as overdue rent or unexpected car repairs, and it can help build up your credit when used properly, it seems to be a bit of a pitfall for many college students. Sometimes it’s hard not to go on a crazy shopping spree or to charge up one too many things to your card (they’re emergencies, really!) but don’t forget – you have to pay all that back eventually! Don’t dig yourself into a hole because of a whim.

With some planning and a little common sense (not to mention a lot of organization) you can pay for college without going too broke! Have additional money management tips for college students? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment in the box below.

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Elizabeth Benson

Elizabeth Benson

Elizabeth Benson is a freshman at Central Michigan University, currently pursuing a degree in Journalism. Elizabeth is a member of the CMU Honors Program, and is a staff reporter at Central Michigan Life, the student run campus newspaper. When she’s not in school, she can usually be found reading, writing, or watching movies, and enjoys traveling and performing in plays.
Elizabeth Benson

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