College is one of the most interesting and exciting phases of an in an individual’s life. It is the first time that we understand what true independence means and how the life of an adult looks like. For many students, college life also means their first encounter with real-world personal finances and expenses, like taking their own financial decisions, saving money, spending wisely, etc. 

However, being short of money is a perpetual habit in college. And the reason behind it is poor financial planning. Budgeting is often a serious challenge for students in college because they have never previously had to take care of their bills on their own or make financial decisions all by themselves. And while all this might look pretty intimidating, it does not necessarily have to be a troublesome experience.

College is an excellent time for students to start over afresh, see and learn new things, and also build some basic personal finance habits that will also help in the long run as well.

Tips for College Students to Effectively Save and Manage Money

  1. Save on textbooks
  2. Use credit cards
  3. Shop online or at local stores
  4. Learn how to cook
  5. Participate in fun (and free) activities
  6. Work part-time
  7. Sell items that you don’t need
  8. Take a student loan
  9. Get rid of cable
  10. Keep track of your expenditure
  11. Save money from an early age
  12. Separate your needs from wants



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In this post, we will discuss a few important budgeting tips that can help students in college save some money as well enjoy a smooth ride through your entire education years:

  • Save on textbooks

There is no way that a student can go through college and clear their exams without textbooks. But textbooks today can be really expensive and shave off a major chunk of your pocket money. But don’t get alarmed just yet, because we have some helpful ideas that can save you money, without compromising on your study. One of the best ways to save money while buying books is to buy or rent used books. You can check for them online as e-commerce websites usually offer discounts on books. Another way is to look at the e-version of the textbooks. If you own a Kindle or a tablet, you can download the same and study without spending too much on books. If all fails, turn to the college library, get the required book issued, and get the relevant chapters photocopied. 

  • Use credit cards (but with caution)

College is the time when students get introduced to their first credit card. And while it might all seem very exciting, you must remember that you need to act very responsibly while using a credit card. So, select a card that has no annual maintenance charges, lowest interest rates, and can earn you cash-back/points with every use. You can use the card at gas stations and at retail outlets to accumulate points and redeem them later for offers and discounts. However, ensure that you pay back the bill on time every month to avoid late fees. Remember, a missed card payment also negatively impacts your credit score. 

  • Shop online or at local stores

Control your urge of spending a lot of money on things that you will eventually not use or throw away like pen stands, support shelves, accessories, etc. There are things that you will, however, need to buy for your day to day activities. For all of these, head over to your local stores or look them up online to find the lowest prices. Avoid shopping at malls, big stores or high-end markets.  

  • Learn how to cook

If you know how to cook a meal for yourself, congratulations, you have saved yourself a lot of money! But if you don’t, it is recommended that you learn it as soon as possible because it will help you save a lot of the money that you may spend eating out or ordering in! And not just that, cooking your meals would mean that you are eating healthier food that is made from fresh ingredients. 

  • Participate in fun (and free) activities

In college, you experience a different sense of freedom for the first time, and it might make you want to spread your wings and explore the world around you. But the best way to have fun and save money at the same time is attending college activities that are usually free and will also help you meet new people and socialise. Also, many theatres, restaurants, museums, etc. offer student discounts and regularly organise student-only events as well. So, keep your eyes and ears open for such opportunities and networks.

  • Work part-time

When in college, it is impossible to juggle between a full-time job and studies, and so the best option you have to earn some extra money is by working part-time. It can be any position within or outside the campus, while the latter usually helps you earn more money. You can also lookup online for internships or part-time jobs in your field of work. This will not only give you valuable industry experience and ensure that you have some extra cash to spare, but also make you spend your free time more wisely. 

  • Sell items that you don’t need

As you cruise through your years in college, there are many things that you might not need anymore. Like old books, old phones, old toys, old cycles, etc. You can sell these items on various online portals like and platforms and earn a decent sum of money. Selling these items can help you earn some extra cash which you can use to meet your college expenses. 

  • Take a student loan

Sometimes, it is not possible to fund college education on our own. On such instances, it is okay to take a student’s loan. Many banks offer various types of student loans. However, it is advisable to borrow as little as possible and only the amount that you absolutely need. And you must also pay back the loan as early as you can and not let it pile up because a student loan can rarely be discharged in bankruptcy.

  • Get rid of cable

While not being able to watch a match live or your favourite show on television may hurt you at first, but disconnecting your cable connection could be one of the best financial moves taken by you. Going ahead, it will save you a lot of money every month. Furthermore, since most channels now have their websites and YouTube channels where you can watch the shows online, usually free of cost. Also, most streaming platforms allow different subscribers to share the plan, thus, making it more economical. 

  • Keep track of your expenditure

An important aspect of budgeting is to know how much you are spending and what items are you spending. Use an app to keep track of all your monthly expenditure. Otherwise, you can also take a look at your debit card, credit card, and bank account statements at the end of every month to find out where your money is going every month. This will also help you see what big-ticket or non-essential items you have spent on and help you make better decisions in the same in the future.

  • Save money from an early age

It might seem like a bit of obvious advice, but consciously saving money from childhood can be of great help as well. When you start college, you begin a new life. It is your first step towards adulthood. And it is the time to take on more responsibilities and act maturely. However, saving money from an early age is a great way to start your college life on the right footing. Not only will this help you take care of your immediate expenses, but also create a safety net for unforeseen emergencies.

  • Separate your needs from wants

Finally, you can save a lot of money in college if you follow one quick and simple advice – separate what you really need from what you actually want.  For example, the things that you really need are a place to stay, clothes, food, and books. And things you might want are tickets to a concert, eating out, attending a party, etc. Making a list of things you actually need will help you put in place a plan of action that will guide you in the right direction. It will also help you plan a budget for yourself and help you decide how much you want to spend and on what things. This will also ensure that you don’t spend frivolously on things that you don’t really need.

There is no doubt about the fact that college can be expensive. However, understanding the basics of money management can help you sail through smoothly without giving you stress about how to make ends meet all the time. The first and foremost step towards saving money while in college is creating a budget.

You need first to design a budget for yourself and then try to follow it strictly. However, you must also realise that no matter, how disciplined you are, it is impossible to follow any budget or plan to the T. You may end up overspending sometimes, and that is completely fine as long as it does not become a habit. Stay committed to your goals, be disciplined, and think twice before spending—follow this advice—and you’re already miles ahead of your peers in financial planning.

Shivam Abrol

Shivam is a passionate content writer with Masters in journalism. A mutiple-award-winning writer, he brings over a decade of experience as a BFSI writer. In fact, he himself is known in his circle for sound financial advice. A writer by day and a reader by night, Shivam enjoys researching and writing on various financial topics, including credit, stock market, crypto, taxes etc. When he is not spending his time penning down an informative article or opinion, he can be found playing with his kids or collecting stamps.

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