The Best Money Tip for College Students

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This really is a great money tip for college! It's not always fun, but it's how I got through my program without a lot of cash.

College is such an exciting time, no matter what age you enter the halls of scholarship.  You’re learning, expanding your potential, making friends, and exposing yourself to new opportunities every way you turn.

It’s also a time when you’re cramming for exams, spending more money than you ever thought possible, and your available hours to work and earn money are at an all-time low.

The single best money tip for college students isn’t exciting. It isn’t earth-shattering. In fact, it’s pretty boring.  But it’s also incredibly important:

Best Money Tip for College Students? Budget!

I cannot stress enough the importance of sitting down with a pen and paper (or computer and mouse) and getting all of your numbers out in black and white.  I always encourage people to budget liberally and spend conservatively.  It’s better to end up with more money than you thought you’d have than less.

As a college student, you’ll want to do some long-term budgeting along with short-term.

Long-Term Budgeting in College

The financial decisions you make in college can have a major impact on the rest of your life. Make sure you pay attention to long-term financial decisions such as:

  • How much is my tuition going to cost me each semester?  How am I going to pay for it? Loans?  Scholarships?  Working a job?
  • How much can I realistically expect to make when I graduate to pay back any loans?  How long will it take me?
  • How much can I expect my books to cost each semester?
  • How much will membership dues for any clubs/fraternities I’m in cost?  How often are they due?
  • How much will my room and board cost?  Is getting an apartment more or less cost effective?
  • How will I handle transportation?  How much will it cost me each month to either keep up a car or pay to use public transport?
  • How much do I need to be setting aside to build a healthy emergency fund for if WHEN something unexpected comes up?

Short-Term Budgeting for College Students

Once you’ve got the long-term budgeting issues taken care of, break them down into short-term solutions. These are the little decisions you’ll have to make at least once year–some of them should get attention no less frequently than once per month:

  • How much is my rent/room and board this month?
  • How much are my books this semester?
  • How much do I need to spend on food?
  • Where is my next check coming from?
  • How much do I have allotted towards entertainment? If you’re not eating this month, your entertainment budget is probably too high. If you’re not enjoying a single moment as a student, it’s probably too low.
  • What other day-to-day bills do I have to pay and when are they due? Don’t miss due dates; late fees are a waste of your hard earned money.

Tips to Fix Your College Budget

Writing these numbers down can be scary.  If you’re like most students, you’re probably seeing more red than green.  But having them written out helps you see the reality of your situation. Once you’ve started facing reality, you can focus on ways to handle and improve your situation.


Money in college isn’t easy.  Budgeting isn’t usually exciting.  But it is the best way to make sure the financial decisions you’re making now are setting you up for success rather than failure later in in life.

23 thoughts on “The Best Money Tip for College Students

  1. Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy

    I really hope this will strike a chord with some young’uns as they tentatively push their way into the working world. Ahh, the years of pain I merrily could have skipped past if only I had been taught more effective financial skills during my college years. Sigh.

  2. Mo Money Mo Houses

    Budgeting is definitely I didn’t even think of in university. Somehow it all worked out and I paid for it all, but I wish I knew where all my money went!


    You already know what I’m going to say and that is to budget. Although I never used a budget really when I was in University the first time I was smart enough to save my money and work as hard as I could. I managed to not only graduate debt free but I bought my first home around 20 years old. Life can be as hard as we make it or simplified depending on our decisions and of course circumstances! Great Post and Happy Budgeting! Mr.CBB

  4. Adriana @MoneyJourney

    I worked all the way through college but never actually took budgeting serious. I mean, after setting aside the money to pay the tuition, I pretty much spent the rest in ca very careless manner! Luckily, everything turned out great, graduating without student debt is priceless!

  5. Kimberly @ 80/20 Your Finances

    I highly recommend a job as a tutor or teaching assistant while in school. I did both at different times. Especially if you are tutoring in the classes you take (higher level courses often have a lack of tutors so if you are good at it, you can tutor the classes you are in) – you basically get paid to study! Even if you are tutoring or TAing for lower level courses in your major, it is amazing how continually reviewing the basics will help you in the higher level courses. You also learn a lot of good “soft” skills, like public speaking and creative thinking, that look great on a resume coming out of school.

    1. Femme Frugality

      I did a bit of tutoring and you’re right–incredibly lucrative per hour! Had a guest post a while back from a former TA. Such a smart way to go about earning extra money while beefing up that resume!


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