1. Create a Budget
Determine how much you have to spend for the year and divvy it out to yourself monthly. If you have trouble controlling your spending, allocate your money weekly to ensure you have some left at the end of the month. Budget for things like eating out at restaurants, and if you want to stretch your budget further, learn how to cook. Ramen noodles are easy to make and are a staple of college life.
2. Pay Cash and Avoid Debt
As a rule of thumb, if you do not have the cash for an item, you probably can’t afford it. Using credit is a dangerous habit to break, and saving cash for a purchase gives you time to decide if you really need it or just want it. Remember, once you get on the interest-rate “hamster wheel,” it is hard to get off.
3. Log Each Expenditure
Keep track of all your purchases, no matter the size, to see where your money is going. Many people are shocked to learn how much they spend on coffee, lunch, etc. Your own personal finances may surprise you, too, but once you have that information, you can make adjustments moving forward.
4. Buy or Rent Used Textbooks
Many inexpensive textbooks can be found online (Amazon, eBay, etc.) and on campus. In most cases, you will use the book for a couple of months and then no longer need it. Keep in mind that used textbooks seldom yield anywhere near their original value when it comes time to sell them back. Additionally, renting textbooks can save students 50 percent or more.
5. Earn Income and Save Money
Find a summer job—or work part-time throughout the year—and put money away each pay period. Put your money to work for you through the “magic” of compound interest—and do it sooner rather than later. Waiting just 10 years to begin saving could cost you thousands by retirement.
6. Get Involved
Time to take advantage of the numerous activities available on college campuses, as well as the discounts and perks that neighborhood businesses typically extend to college students. When you do go out, be sure to check if there are discounts available through your student ID. A word of caution: Use coupons only for things you actually need. Coupons can trick us into buying things we don’t need by making us believe we’re “getting a deal.” In other words, you don’t need to buy something just because you have a coupon!
7. Protect Your Identity
Identity theft is an unfortunate but prevalent college concern. Always keep valuables and personal items locked away or on your person to avoid becoming a victim. It’s also wise to limit the amount of info you post online. Protecting identity will save you countless hours, phone calls, and letters to undo what could have been prevented with a little due diligence.