For many students, college is the first time in their lives that they’re truly independent and in control of their finances. However, most people aren’t making a lot of income — and have large expenses — while they’re studying full-time.
That’s why it’s important to make good financial choices throughout your entire time in school. Whether you’re preparing to go to college or getting ready to graduate, it’s crucial to make the right choices with your money. Doing so will make your college experience less stressful and will help you start on the right foot by the time you graduate.
While it might be tempting to spend your money on multiple coffee dates with friends or order takeout multiple nights a week, there are better ways to manage your money. Let’s take a look at some of the best financial choices you can make while in college.
Create a Budget
One of the easiest things you can do to manage your money in college is to create a monthly budget. Knowing what’s coming in each month, what’s going out, and how you’re spending your cash will make it easier to determine what’s important and where you can cut back.
You might be surprised to see exactly where your money is going each month. When it’s in front of you in black and white, it’s easier to cut back on things you don’t need. Some of the best ways to have more left over at the end of each month include:
- Eating at restaurants less often
- Canceling subscription services
- Making your own morning coffee
- DIYing as much as possible
If you want to stay on top of your budget, plan out each day with what you’re going to do and where you’re going to spend money. By keeping things as organized as possible, it’s less likely you’ll go over your budget and you’ll be able to save whatever is left over.
Consider Living at Home
The idea of living in a college dorm room or other on-campus housing is exciting, but it’s rarely cost-effective. Even off-campus housing can be incredibly expensive and cost thousands of dollars each year. Doing what you can to reduce housing costs can help you save a significant amount of money throughout your college career and make a big difference in your post-grad life.
If you live locally and have the opportunity, you should seriously consider living at home with your parents, grandparents, or another relative. Not only are you likely to save money on rent, but you’re also likely to spend less on food, utilities, and even school supplies. Further, there are countless benefits to multigenerational living beyond the financial ones. College can be stressful and having that additional support is vital.
Of course, that may not be an option, especially if your college is located far away from your family’s home. In this case, consider living with a friend or roommate to save money. You’ll likely still need to pay rent, but splitting housing costs with others isn’t going to be as costly as paying for a dorm room or your own apartment.
Build Your Credit Score
As a college student, you might not be thinking about the importance of your credit score. However, once you graduate, it’ll make a big difference in how easy it is to get a loan or make big purchases, such as a home or vehicle.
Even if you’re not working a full-time job while in college, you can still build credit and be in a better financial position by the time you graduate. Some of the best ways to build credit in college include:
- Opening an entry-level credit card
- Becoming an authorized user on your parents’ card
- Using credit for basic living expenses
- Utilizing credit card rewards
- Paying your monthly bill on time
However, credit cards are a major responsibility, and if not used properly, they can do more harm than good. Make sure you’re ready to pay your statements each month before applying for one since your credit choices now can have a long-term impact on your finances.
Ultimately, it can be difficult to make good financial choices in college when there are so many things tempting you to spend. But by thinking about your money now, you’re setting yourself up for a more comfortable financial future after you graduate. Put some of these ideas into practice, and you’ll feel much better about your financial situation as you go through school and beyond.