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6 Ways to Better Manage Your Money During School

James Torres | September 21, 2015

6 ways to better manage your money in collegeIf you’re a college student and you’ve opened this article, your first response to the title may have been, “Money? What money?” From Ramen dinners to free movie screenings, college is in many ways defined by its financial limitations. Not having a lot of money while you’re in school simply reinforces your need to manage it as best you can. Balancing your academic and social life in college is certainly tough, but it’s nothing compared to the challenges you’re going to face once you graduate, including trying to land a job, supporting yourself, and paying back those hefty student loans. To learn how to better manage your finances and put yourself in the best possible position for success after you don the cap and gown, read on.

1 – Create a Budget

Whether you’re flat broke or you have a reliable source of cash to spend, a budget is a must if you want to stay in control of your finances. Write down your main spending categories like food, clothing, entertainment, books, and housing, if it applies. Figure out how much you can spend in each category and track what you pay each month down to the penny. If you go over your self-imposed limit in one area, be sure to make it up in another.

2 – Reduce Entertainment Costs

Instead of going out to a restaurant or bar, invite your friends over for a trivia night in your dorm room or apartment. Break out Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, or Cranium and make an evening of it. You can also watch a movie, TV show, or sporting event that may be on TV. Instead of ordering in, pick up a few inexpensive ingredients and cook a fun, cheap dinner for everyone.

3. Wear Out Your Student ID Card

Your student ID card is a great resource for free entertainment options like sporting events and speaking engagements. Once you get the most out of it on campus, be sure to take it with you whenever you’re on the go. No matter where you are, be sure to ask if there’s a student discount available. Many retailers offer such discounts but don’t openly advertise them.

4. Pay Cash for Everything

If you’re not working and earning an income, you have no business paying for anything with plastic. It’s a recipe for disaster, plain and simple. Instead, limit your spending to cash payments only – that way there’s no chance of falling into debt. This is going to involve a degree of restraint, but if you can pull it off, managing your money is going to be a breeze

5. Work
Working during your school years can ease your money-managing efforts on two fronts. One, you’re going to have more of it, which is a no-brainer. Also, every hour you’re on the clock – especially if you’re working on weekends – is one more hour you won’t be out tempted to spend your cash.

6. Skip the Unnecessary Extras

Once your on-campus life begins, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be bombarded with a variety of “extras” you can sign up for to make college life more convenient. The problem is, they also make it more costly. Chances are you’re not going to need campus health insurance, especially if you’re under 26 and able to stay on your parents’ plan, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Laundry services, errand pickup, and meal preparation should be avoided, as well. And forget about that university debit card – it charges excessive fees and you’re going to be too tempted to spend your financial aid money if you get one.

The Sum of All Suggestions

If you stick to your money management guns, you may find yourself with a bit of a surplus in your checking account. If that’s the case, resist the urge to blow it all on a keg party for your dorm. Be wise and use it to start paying off your student loan debts, which you’re allowed to do while still in school. Savvy, restrained money moves like this are going to make your post-graduation financial life that much easier to manage.

What ways can you think of for college students to better manage their money?


James Torres

James Torres helps young people better manage their money and writes about budgeting tips, smart spending, and investing options.

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