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THE Financial Survival Guide for College Students: Make Your Dollar Go Further

Wealth management probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of college.

Usually, the time spent in college creates incredibly fond memories of building lifelong friendships, time spent laying a foundation for the future, and the occasional wild party or two. But you rarely look back on your college years as a time when you started to scale your wealth.

There’s a reason the term “broke college student” lives in the minds and on the tongues of anyone who attends a university.

When you’re going to school full-time, there’s little time for anything else. Between the classes, studying, research, internships — and countless other college activities — there isn’t much time to find employment and start diversifying your investments.

However, just because you have a limited income during your college years doesn’t mean you can’t live abundantly during this time of immense growth and development. If you’re preparing to get into college, currently attending school full-time, or the parent of someone about to head off to university, this article is for you!

We’ve got some great tips for how you can save on supplies, the best bank accounts to open as you’re starting out as a student, some good ways for college students to make money, and more.

Let’s get this (college) party started! 

Tip #1: Start By Applying for Easy Scholarships

If the term FAFSA brings up some tense memories for you, then you’ve probably already taken a big step forward in applying for student aid.

But FAFSA isn’t the end-all, be-all for gaining student aid. There are literally hundreds of scholarships available outside of typical financial assistance for students, and the best part is that many don’t even require lengthy essays or complicated forms that need filling out.

The more scholarships you apply for, the better your chances of reducing college costs. And when schooling is more affordable, your financial future is much brighter. 

Not to mention the fact that if you gain more financial aid than your tuition, that money goes straight into your pocket in many cases. Just think about how great life would be if you had extra financial aid to cover costs like textbooks or even room and board!

Tip #2: Build a Budget That Covers Everything

One of the easiest (and most common) financial mistakes you can make during college is forgoing a budget.

It makes sense that many students choose to live budget-free. Budgets can seem restrictive from the outside looking in, but well-structured money management provides more freedom than looking to see if you’ve overdrafted your brand-new checking account this week.

One of the easiest (and most common) financial mistakes you can make during college is forgoing a budget.

You also don’t need to live a cash-only lifestyle with all of your money tucked away in little envelopes to have a successful budget. There are many budgeting apps out there to help college students learn how to build wealth and manage their money.

Tip #3: Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Spending

Creating a budget and sticking to that budget are two entirely different things.

To ensure your budget keeps your finances in order, you need to keep an eye on your spending. One of the best ways to know you’re not spending too much is to set some time aside to look at your finances. Take 15 minutes before your morning class to review your cash flow and make adjustments to ensure you are within budget.

This process is even easier if you’re using an app for your budget! Many budgeting apps can help you build in spending limits and will notify you as you approach your spending goals. 

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Tip #4: Make Wise Investment and Savings Decisions Early On

It’s easy to live in the here-and-now in college, and that’s more than okay! 

You should savor those moments because finding ways to be present with yourself seems to get more challenging the older you get. That doesn’t mean living in the now should keep you from setting your future self up for success, though.

Starting a high-yield savings account or deciding to invest when you’re younger will pay off in the long run, and investing your money is easier than you think. With investment apps that round up your purchases like Acorns, you can start making your spare change work for you.

Tip #5: Spend AS LITTLE On Textbooks As Possible 

When your professors’ syllabi hit your inbox, don’t rush straight to your college’s bookstore to have a textbook shopping spree. 

Buying new books for every class can get very expensive, very fast. Instead of opting for new, browse other options like book rental for the semester, eBook versions of your textbooks, or buying used books from websites like Chegg

As an added bonus, you’ll have a much lighter backpack to haul around campus if you choose the digital route. Instead of carrying 400 pages worth of General Chemistry around, you can store it all on a digital eReader or iPad.

Tip #6: Leverage Online Coupons to Save Some Cash

Online shopping is a trend that’s here to stay, and you can take advantage of the already low online prices with online coupons. 

Web browser extensions and apps like Honey make online shopping even cheaper. Instead of finding what you want to buy online and searching with Google for a “real” coupon code, Honey does the work for you by finding online coupons as you put items in the cart.

Online coupons can also help you in brick-and-mortar stores as well. Downloading apps for your local grocery store chain or Target Circle can give you access to extra savings when you shop in-store. Many of these discounts are in-app only, so be sure to check your apps before making your shopping list. 

Tip #7: Use Your Student Discount All the Time

A student ID does more than let you check books out at your university’s library — it’s also a key that unlocks discounts on virtually everything (maybe not everything, but definitely a lot of things).

Local businesses, bookstores, and even certain grocery stores offer student discounts. Sometimes that discount may only knock a small amount off your total, but a little can go a long way if you’ve budgeted well.

Online giants like Amazon and popular streaming services like Spotify also offer significant savings on their subscription services. With Amazon in particular, you also gain access to unique discounts with their Prime Student account. 

Remember, just because you’re trying to be frugal doesn’t mean you need to cut every luxury (like subscription services) out of your life — you just don’t need all of them.

Tip #8: Take Advantage of Freebies

Student discounts can go a long way, but opportunities to do things for free can stretch your finances even further.

There are always things happening on college campuses, and many of them include free meals or snacks. When those chances at a free meal come available, don’t hesitate to jump on them. Not only will you get some sustenance, but you’ll also get a chance to network and meet new people.

Free activities don’t stop with university-led social nights. Instead of going out for a night of revelry, consider finding low-cost ways to hang out with your friends. That could look like a game night or renting a movie from the nearest Redbox to watch in your dorm. 

Tip #9: Cook at Home or Enroll in a Meal Plan

Food can get really expensive, really quickly — even if you’re trying to buy from the value menu at Taco Bell. 

Cooking at home is a great way to save money and create healthier meal options. Even if you’re working with limited space, there are always ways to get clever with your tools and cook a great meal. You’ll be surprised at how much cheaper it is to buy ingredients for a tasty meal than to grab food out.

If you’re not ready to stretch your culinary legs yet, many colleges offer affordable meal plans that they bundle into room and board costs for the semester. Yes, the menu may get a little tired from time to time, but you know that you’ll always have an inexpensive food option with your meal plan.

Tip #10: Plan Ahead for Larger Expenses

Staying frugal while still living a comfortable lifestyle is always a good move, but there will be times when expensive purchases will arise.

Planning ahead for those moments when you know there will be a large purchase will help you have more financial freedom when things like textbook season rolls around, and you can’t find a cheaper option than the school bookstore.

Your future planning doesn’t need to be limited to serious purchases either. Want to join in with a group of friends on a spring break trip? Start setting funds aside the semester before, so you have enough money to enjoy yourself when March rolls around. 

Tip #11: Find Ways to Make Some Extra Cash

Working and attending school full-time don’t always mix well. It can be incredibly challenging to juggle a job and studies, but sometimes a part-time gig is just the thing you need to have more freedom in your budget.

If you have your own transportation, opting for gig work like grocery shopping through Instacart or food-delivery apps like Doordash is a good way for college students to make money. Gig work allows you to set your schedule, which is incredibly convenient when you need to attend class and study.

And if the delivery game doesn’t sound like your thing, there are tons of different ways to make money online. Maybe you’re studying to be an English major or working toward a STEM degree. There are plenty of opportunities to become an online tutor and put your studies to work before you receive your degree.

You Can Experience Financial Freedom in College

Just because college is usually a low-budget time in life doesn’t mean you need to live with a negative money mindset while you attend a university. Break the “broke college student” mentality by taking control of your finances today.

With careful planning, clever savings hacks, and maybe picking up some gig work here and there, you can achieve financial freedom while attending school full time. It may take an adjustment period if you’re not used to living within a budget, but over time, you’ll be able to breathe easy as you navigate your college career.

Before packing your bags for the next semester on campus, take a few minutes to dive into your financial strategy for the upcoming term. Ask yourself the following questions: Am I spending my money wisely? Do I have a detailed budget for next semester? Do I take advantage of my discounts as a college student?

When you can answer “yes” to all these questions, you’re on the right track to achieving financial greatness at school. 

Here’s to a great school year, and here’s to greatness!

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Greatness Authors is a collection of writers, thinkers, curiosity experts, and students of the world who are committed to bringing you the most up-to-date, impactful, and inspiring information surrounding Greatness topics.

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