Money can sometimes seem hard to come by when you’re in college—especially if your parents aren’t supporting you monetarily in any way. Even the smallest of purchases can feel like a giant stressor as you watch your checking account dwindle lower than you’d prefer. So what’s a college student to do?
Managing your finances can be a huge learning curve if you haven’t been in the practice of handling your money with intention in the past, and it can take some getting used to. If you find that you’re not able to afford some of the everyday necessities of life, like food, gas, or toiletries, you might want to consider three thing: getting a job, lowering your expenses if possible, and handling your money in a different way.
1. Budget, budget, budget
Ah, budgeting. To some people, keeping track of where your money goes, how much you bring in, and how much you want to save and spend can feel like a pain. To others, it fast becomes a game to see how well you can stay within your own boundaries. While you might think you’re capable of keeping track of your finances in your head or that you wouldn’t benefit from a budget because you have no wiggle room for savings anyways, you might be surprised. Keeping track of the money you spend can help alert you to unnecessary spending, such as forgotten subscriptions or an extra fee for something you weren’t away. It can also help you see your patterns, downfalls, and necessities.
At the very least, a budget can help you feel more freedom because you know you’re spending within your limits. When you go to actually spend money, you don’t have to feel weighed down with guilt or overwhelmed at what that ten-dollar quarter tank of gas will do to you. You’ll be able to spend with a smile on your face because you know that the money is accounted for and you’re spending within your means.
2. Avoid credit cards except when necessary
Credit cards can be good and bad. They’re great for “establishing credit,” but they can really be dangerous if you’re someone who is prone to spending, making excuses, and avoiding dealing with issues. The last thing you want to do is rack up an enormous amount of credit card debt and make your money situation even worse.
If you do get a credit card, don’t spend more money than you are able to pay off in a given month. Try to use it on reliable expenses that are roughly the same each month, such as gas or specific bills. That way, you won’t be tempted to purchase other items and “just put it on the credit card” because you’ll know that you only use that credit card for a specific set of expenses. You’ll build credit, but you won’t be racking up tons of debt.
3. Try to save
It’s so easy to use every last drop of your money on immediate needs and wants, but it’s really important to try and keep at least a small emergency fund for when the worst happens. You never know if you’re laptop is suddenly going to break, if your car will need some serious work done, or if you’ll need to take an emergency trip home. A good rule of thumb is to put away a third of your paycheck into savings before you have the chance to spend it. Once you get in the swing of things, it will be a lot easier to live off that two-thirds of your paycheck once you get used to doing that.
Consider shopping around for banks if you haven’t opened a savings account yet. Different banks accrue different amounts of interest, and you’ll want to take advantage of the best rate you can find.
4. Sell some stuff
If you’re looking to make a bit of extra cash beyond what you make at your job, consider selling some stuff. Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Poshmark are all great websites and apps that make selling old things a whole lot easier. Donating your goods is a great idea too, but it can be nice to have a little extra cash in your wallet from selling things you don’t need anymore. Plus, it’s good for the environment too!