7 Financial Tips for College Students

Community | 02/16/24
College student sitting

Preparing for college life can be exciting, but also nerve-wracking. You’re looking at a new stage of life that is filled with first-time experiences, academic challenges, and newfound independence. The start of college also marks a significant transition into adulthood, which includes learning to manage personal finances responsibly. Building good financial habits during college can set the stage for a secure and successful financial future. Let’s look at some tips that can help you navigate your finances successfully throughout your years in college. 

Create a budget
Living with a budget is essential for financial wellness. First, track your income, including all earnings from part-time jobs, scholarships, student loans and more. Next, list your expenses, including tuition fees, textbooks, rent, groceries, transportation, and entertainment. Set a realistic spending amount for each category, and your budget is good to go! Make a real effort to stick to your budget, then review and adjust as necessary. Budgeting helps you prioritize your spending, avoid unnecessary debt and ensure that you’re living within your means. Click here for a more in-depth guide on how to make and stick to a budget.

Minimize student loan debt
Student loans can be a significant financial burden after graduation. To minimize your debt, explore options such as scholarships, grants and part-time jobs to cover educational expenses. You can also get ahead on your debt by saving for your student loan payments before you graduate. You can use Ascend’s digital banking platform to set up automatic monthly transfers from your checking account to your savings account while in college. This way, you’ll be prepared to start paying off your student loan debt as soon as you graduate.

Live frugally
There are many things you can do to cut back on expenses during college. First, buy used whenever possible. This goes for textbooks, sports equipment and even your car. If you research the item you’re purchasing to ensure it’s in good condition, you’ll save a ton on the price without compromising on quality. Next, if possible, consider pooling some of your expenses with roommates or friends. For example, you can split the costs of food items, cleaning supplies and more. Finally, get used to eating in to generate significant savings. Spring for one or two counter appliances, such as a pizza maker and toaster, and get creative with using them for meal prep. Remember, every dollar saved can go toward your future. 

Prioritize essential expenses
Life in college is filled with temptations and social activities, so it’s crucial to prioritize essential expenses. Ensure that your tuition, rent, utilities, and groceries are covered before allocating money for discretionary spending. You’ll also want to set aside a portion of your income each month for savings and emergencies. By establishing these priorities, you can build a strong financial foundation and avoid falling into unnecessary debt. If you find there’s no money left over for just-for-fun expenses, look for ways to boost your income through part-time jobs or by selling some items you no longer use.

Build your credit
College is a great time to get your credit score ready for adult life. A strong credit score is essential for qualifying for large loans, obtaining favorable interest terms on those loans, securing a job and more. To build credit responsibly, consider getting a secured credit card or becoming an authorized user on a family member’s credit card. Use the card sparingly and make payments on time, and in full, each month. This demonstrates responsible credit management and will help you establish a positive credit history.

Take advantage of campus resources
College campuses often provide a wealth of resources to help students manage their finances. Take advantage of financial literacy workshops, counseling services and career centers that are at your college. These resources can provide valuable information on budgeting, saving, investing and finding internships or job opportunities. Seek guidance from professionals who can offer tailored advice based on your individual circumstances.

Apply for an Ascend Scholarship
If you’re an Ascend member and you plan to enroll or are enrolled as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, technical, or trade school in the next academic year, you may be eligible for an Ascend scholarship. To learn more about Ascend’s scholarship program, click here.

Building smart money habits during college can have an impact on your financial health for years to come. Use these tips to manage your money smartly in college. If you’d like more information on managing finances in your college years, check out Ascend’s free course on financing higher education.

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