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Money Management For College Students

Updated on May 31, 2010

Don't get trapped into debt

The college years are a time when money is always tight and yet it seems easy to spend it freely. How is that possible? On the one hand, as a student, your probably aren't earning a lot of money (if you're even working at all). But at the same time, your living expenses are probably somewhat minimal, especially during the years that you are living in campus. Furthermore, people seem to be throwing money at you all of the time. Student loan money comes in once or twice each semester and covers your basic expenses. And every time that you open your mail or turn a corner on campus, someone is offering you a credit card.

Take a minute to stop and think about what this means - if you aren't really earning any money but you are spending the money that's being loaned to you then it's very likely that you're getting yourself into some serious financial trouble. Don't blame yourself; making money mistakes is something that is common for college students to do. But even though it's common, it doesn't have to be a problem which you fall prey to. Don't blame yourself, but don't be a victim of this problem either. Take control of your finances early on in college to make sure that you're not racking up debt that you aren't going to be able to afford to pay back.

Here are some basic money management tips for college students that you should begin to practice:

  • Be smart about credit cards. You might not need one at all. Or you may want one for emergencies. Perhaps you need one for those extra expenses; be sure that it's got low interest and that your credit limit can be reasonably packed back. Don't accept every offer that comes your way; instead, be bright about it.
  • Budget. Make a budget plan at the beginning of the semester. Include all of the money that you're getting as income, including loans, scholarships and gifts from relatives. Make a list of all expenses, including the money that you may need for fun, entertainment and travel. Use this budget plan to see if you need to take on a part time job or if you can refuse certain loans.
  • Keep an eye out for sources of income. Perhaps you don't want a job while you are in college but you might find that you can make some extra money by helping to edit a friend's paper, working the bar at a particular event or delivering flowers on holidays. These jobs that only take up one or two days at a time can help give you extra spending money during the college years.
  • Know where your money goes. Be aware of what you spend your money on by keeping a journal of expenses for a few weeks. This will show you where you can cut back on spending if money gets tight.
  • Only borrow what you need. It's always tempting to borrow as much money as lenders are willing to give you. This is one of the biggest money management mistakes that college students make. Don't do it.
  • Share expenses when you can. If you're living off campus, get a few roommates to cut down on living costs. Sell items that your household only needs one of (for example, if you both move in with a coffee maker, get rid of one.) Go grocery shopping with friends and share meals to save on food.
  • Use your student discount. Students get discounts on everything from movie tickets to books; always ask if you can spend less money because you're in college.

These are just a few of the tips that you'll want to remember when you're looking at the state of your finances during your college years. There are plenty more which people - from your parents to the guy that helps you sort out your taxes each year - are going to give you over time. But the basic thing to remember is this; you really want to have more money coming in than what's going out. Be responsible with your spending, borrow only what you need and stay on top of your budget and you should be able to avoid the money messes that make college difficult on many people.


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