6 Crucial Budgeting Tips for College Students


College is a lot of things, but cheap isn’t one of them.

Whether you’re a traditional student or a returning student, whether you’re attending a private university or a community college, the cost of higher education adds up quickly. 

If you’d like to have a little spare cash, or at least enough to stop worrying about being broke every week, you’ve come to the right place! Here are our 6 must-know budgeting tips for college students. 

1. Figure Out How Much Money You’re Working With

Before you do anything else, you must figure out how much money you make a month and how much you spend. This is what builds the backbone of budget planning. We can give you all the budgeting tips for college students that we know, but those tips won’t matter if you don’t know what your budget is. 

Start by listing any money you know for sure that you’ll make. For example, if you’re a server, don’t estimate how much you’ll make in tips. Only list your base wages. 

Next, list all of your necessary expenses. Tuition, housing, and food should be your priorities here. 

2. Create a Budget

After you’ve established what you’re making and spending each month, you can create your official budget.

Once you have enough money to cover your bases, set a budget with your necessary expenses prioritized. The hardest part here is figuring out how much to spend on food and nonessentials. Dave Ramsey has long been considered the expert on this front, so we recommend checking out his tips if you don’t know where to start.

You also need to budget for extra cash. If you’ve got more than $100 leftover each month, put it in savings. This will give you a cushion to help your budget in the future. 

3. Open up a Cash-Back Credit Card Account

No matter how many corners you cut, you’ll still have expenses at the end of each month. Make the most out of this by paying for these expenses with a cash-back credit card. 

Cash-back credit cards earn you a small percentage of money for every dollar you spend. 

This Top 10 List is a great resource for the best cash-back cards on the market.

4. Live off-Campus

One of the largest college expenses is the cost of your dorm room. If you can find a way to cut that from your budget without becoming homeless, then that is one of the best things you can do.

Staying at home is the simplest solution, but not everyone can afford that (financially, geographically, or emotionally). Instead, look into low-income housing and apartments near the college. 

You should also consider getting roommates. Dividing your housing budget in half is another great way to save money here. 

5. Buy Used Textbooks

Textbooks are expensive. To get around this, look at used bookstores for cheaper alternatives.

The main thing to watch out for is that you’re getting the right book. Always compare ISBN numbers before making a purchase. Buying a $3 book is better than buying a $75 book, but not if it’s a book you don’t want. 

6. Sell Your Used Textbooks 

Saving money isn’t always enough. Sometimes, what you really need is a way to make money. 

The good news here is that if you’ve got a whole shelf full of piggy bank material.

Once the semester is over, hock your old textbooks for extra cash. You can sell to other students at your school and, in some cases, your college bookstore. 

You can also sell your old textbooks online. Cash For Your Books is our number one pick, but there are dozens of options out there.

Budgeting Tips for College Students & More

For more financial advice, check out the rest of our blog. We have the 411 on everything you need, from investment advice to cutting down your cost of living.

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