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5 financial planning tips for college students - How to make the pennies count

Updated on November 17, 2015

Going to college is exciting and the anticipation of it makes you forget about everything else. You start dreaming about the dorm rooms that you will decorate, the friends you will make, the football teams you will sign up for and leave the rest to fate, or in this case to the student loans that you borrow.

Why you should worry about finances when in college?

As good as it sounds, the reality of the fact is that the more you borrow, the more you pay in the end. Yes, you'll find a job after you graduate but you forget one thing. Once you get a job, it will be time to buy a better car, move to a better house, buy good looking work clothes etc. You'd need to borrow more money (take more loans) and the student loans will stay right where they are.

Here is what you can do to save yourself a lot of trouble 10 years down the line. Not to mention, these time tested tricks help you become more effective and in total control of your future.

1. Be a short term visionary

Okay, you don't have to be a seer but a little wishful thinking goes a long way in managing money especially when you are in college.

What I am trying to say is - plan a little better. Have some idea of what you are walking into. Now I am not saying finance-proof the 4 years of college because that is just not possible however before the year/ semester begins, sit down one afternoon and think about what do you need for this semester. Short term plans, short term goals are easy to manage and achieve and they don't scare you or make things seem impossible.

Specifically, have some estimates of how much money you will need for - Books, Clothes (for an internship you landed and you want to dress to impress), Software (that the professor announced on the first day of the class is required for your course and costs $90, but you knew about that because you spoke to students who had taken this course before) Having a rough figure in mind helps you determine how much effort you need to put into raising that kind of money and what sources to tap into.

2. Spreadsheet is the mantra

That Microsoft Excel shortcut on your desktop is a life saver I tell you. The best way to stay on top of your finance is to drop them in the spreadsheet. You can simulate unexpected expenses to see how they will affect your bank balance and use formulas to update your spreadsheet automatically if you have to make any changes.

How to arrange your spreadsheet to simulate an effective finance plan?


3. Make some money cuz you aren't going anywhere without it

Yes, college is stressful and you get busy. But honestly that is no excuse for not making money. You can plan and plan and plan some more but it won't matter unless you have some thing on the income side of the spreadsheet.

The best way of course is to find on-campus jobs and most colleges have them in abundance. Library staff, software IT support, lab attendants, office manager are always in demand because most of these job roles are filled by students and things change every semester. However I have heard students complaining that they have a hard time finding one. I'll let you in on a secret - It is called networking. I found three, yes three jobs on campus only because I was always in touch with my graduate advisor. If you are a hard working student, smart, intelligent and willing to work, college authorities like staff, professors etc. will be more than happy to put in a kind word where there is a vacancy. 95% of the hirings that happen on campus are a result of networking. Keep looking, let everyone around you know that you are looking and of course make a good impression. There is no reason why you shouldn't be hired.

Be grateful that you live in the 21st century and that you have internet. I am not saying that it is easy peasy to make money online, of course you need to work hard but the possibilities are immense. Photography, cooking, tutoring, virtual office assistance - the world is your oyster. Just pick something that interests you, that you can cultivate and nurture and that doesn't require a lot of capital investment and you will be on your way to making some decent bucks. Try out a couple of different ideas and see which hit it. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with working multiple jobs. Don't be afraid to work hard. After all, you never know when one of your gigs might help you land a full time permanent job.


4. Go Discount Hungry

A lot of people have problems asking for discounts. When you are a student, this becomes a big problem. Always be on the lookout for discounts. Most places, at least near your campus will offer student discounts. Though they might not count much, it is worth saving every penny because you need it. And it is not just student discounts, most grocery stores, salons etc. offer heavy discounts. Clip coupons and start saving them and use them on every shopping trip. It might be obvious but you'd be surprised at how many people just let them go. Your student office in the school might also know about some programs that you can get benefit out of.

While we are at it, also try to save money whenever you can. Use a bus instead of a cab (of course only if it is safe), carpool as there is no shame in asking for help, walk to places you can instead of paying for commute (and enjoy the weather too plus loose some weight)


5. Stop wasting that hard earned dollar

I am saying this because it needs to be said. Return your books to the library on time to avoid late fees. Do not screw up your dorm room or you'll have to pay for the damages later. Either do not waste food or don't buy more in the first place. Don't buy books, duh. Rent them. We don't realize how much money we waste however if you were to track all the extra money that you paid which could have been avoided, you'd be Richie Rich. Okay, maybe not Richie Rich but you'd be able to pay the last month's credit card balance with that money.

Going to school soon? What do you think?

I need to hire and pay a professional personal finance manager to manage my money while I am in college

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