4 Steps to Control Your Finances as a College Student

Money and budgeting are things that I struggle with, like most college students. I’m not that bad when it comes to saving money, but I’m so afraid of spending that I just can’t enjoy the money I’m earning. I think I need to learn to strike a nice balance. As I don’t know much about money myself, I was super excited when Araminta of Financially Mint reached out to me with her guest post idea! If you want to learn how you can control your finances while you’re in college, you’re going to love this post!

Money can be a tricky thing, especially when you're in college. Click through to learn the 4 steps to help you control your finances as a college student!

Money. It’s a crazy thing. It disappears, it reappears, it can mean not eating for a week or it can mean spending hundreds on a night out. It’s dangerous, especially in university.

As college students, we finally get to choose what to do with our money. And sometimes, that doesn’t end well (yes it’s happened to all of us). Next thing you know you’re out with friends and your card gets declined and you realize with horror that your bank balance is way too low. Not fun.

I think we all know it’s important to properly take control of our money, but many of us simply don’t know how to (thanks, high school education). We’re thrown into college, and suddenly have to learn how to balance eating healthy, studying, and having a social life all while not going broke. No wonder we all go a bit crazy!

As a college student myself, I’ve also had to deal with all ups and downs of using my own money (no more candy for me hehe). And as a college personal finance blogger, I’ve researched and tried out ways to live as a student and not go broke every month. In fact, the plan is to leave university with money and a financial plan for the future (sounds like a dream right?).

Here are the 4 steps you, as a college student, can complete to become a financially stable human being:

1. Create a budget

Budgets. You may have heard this word too many times or not enough. It can be a scary word, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing. Either way, I repeat it again: Budgets. They are the key to being financially stable. The idea is pretty simple: Just grab a sheet of paper, divide it into two columns and write your income on one side and your expenses on the other. Income includes loans, money from parents, job, etc.. Expenses include things like transport, gym, food, etc. Don’t know all your expenses? Spend one week tracking what you spend your money on (that’s when I stopped buying candy).

Once you have a rough idea of what your total income and expenses are, create a budget. How much are you willing to spend on groceries, entertainment, transport, etc? My favorite way of calculating budgets is with apps such as Mint or OnTrees (there’s a nice red alarm when you overspend your budget!).

When I first started tracking my expenses, I realized I was spending wayyy too much on goodies. So I did a proper budget and allowed myself to only spend £5 on little snacks. The result? I don’t feel guilty or worried every time I buy goodies. I know I’m within budget.

2. Increase income, lower spending

You’ve got the facts, you’ve got the budget. Now is time to actually improve your standard of living: decrease expenses, increase income. Decreasing expenses can be as simple as searching for discounts offered to students (Check out this list of cool discounts!). Increasing income means being creative. Could you get a better job? Start a side-hustle? Sell some of your stuff?

Imagine what you could do with more money! Save up for a trip (Amsterdam here I come!), buy a better phone, or go out for dinner. The possibilities are endless and they will all help you balance your lifestyle. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, I encourage you to also…

3. Invest

Investing is truly cool. Put simply, it’s just stashing away some of your extra money into an account and watching it grow. And not at 1% per annum in a Savings account. I’m talking about 7 or 8% every year. You invest $1,000 now, and in 50 years it could become $46,901 at an 8% rate. Just by leaving your money in one place.! And the sooner you start the more it grows!!! How cool is that?

This is, of course, long-term money. But 40-year-old you will be extremely grateful to have this extra cash, whether it’s for retirement, traveling, or for the next trip to the moon. Once again, having extra cash opens many doors (especially in emergencies).

Start by putting away a little amount of money each month (I’m at £50) and slowly watch your investments grow. If you’re in the US, check out this article and this blog. If you’re in the UK, this article summarizes it pretty well.

4. Financial education

If there is one thing I want you to take away from these four steps, it would definitely be this one. Financial education is essential for us college students, simply because of the power of knowledge. Just think for a second:  what if you knew everything about the stock market, how to fund a business, how to sell yourself and how to always have some income? You would never have to worry about being broke again! I am not kidding you, learning about money is what will give you the most control over it.

“You will learn how to stop working for money and make money work for you

Robert Kiyosaki

That means not working at a job you hate, not worrying about unexpected expenses and literally doing what you enjoy in life! (Here are ways you can get started on your financial education for free).

Taking those 4 steps and adopting the right financial mindset will teach you something about life: it’s not all about work. Life is not all about the grind, or about waking up at 8 am to work at a job you hate to pay for expenses you don’t need. It’s not having to work for months just to afford a weekend trip to the other side of the country. And it’s definitely not having to pay off debt for the next 30 years of your life and surviving on your paycheck.

Having control over your money means not letting it play such a big part of your life (unless you want it to of course). As a college student, you have time to really choose what you want to study, what you want to be doing for the next 40 years. And I think we can all agree that we want those 40 years to be enjoyable, to be fun, to be fulfilling. Take control of your finances now and you won’t have to spend the rest of your life working just for the money.

Araminta is the creator of Financially Mint, a personal finance blog for college students written by a fellow student. Have no idea about tax, credit cards or investing? Neither does she, but she is determined to learn, experiment and explore all aspects of money possible. Through these experiences, she hopes to help other students graduate financially stable and conscious about money. Find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest , and Tumblr.
  • Ryan

    Great post! I have the same problem of not being able to enjoy the money that I have–I am always afraid that something is going to happen where I will need to use all of the money that I have saved. This post is a must read for college students!

    Ryan | Ryality.com

    • I have the same problem! I always feel like I’m “wasting” my money whenever I’m spending it for non-necessary stuff (like new clothes, beauty products, books, etc.). I really need to get better at it and stop feeling guilty whenever I want to treat myself!