4 Budgeting Hacks For College Students

Sep 12, 2023 Paying For College

Learn how to get your spending under control with one simple tool – a budget.

A young woman sitting at a table, she is holding a pencil and smiling.

Not many people take advantage of this one thing when trying to get their spending under control – budgeting! If you’re in college, it’s crucial that you understand how to build a budget. Knowing how much you earn and identifying the things you have to pay for can help you establish habits and a stress-free relationship with money.

Even if the income you’re receiving isn’t from a job (income from parents, financial aid, etc.), you can use these budgeting tips and techniques.

Control Your Spending

Create A Spreadsheet

The initial creation of a budgeting spreadsheet can be daunting, but sometimes you have to be uncomfortable to grow. It’ll be the most visual view of your spending habits, what you have to pay, and where the leftover money is going.

There are a multitude of templates that can make this process easier; once the outline is created, everything else falls into place.

If a spreadsheet isn’t your style, there are many apps that allow you to do the same thing with your accounts. Just don’t forget to add your spending cash to your app calculations.

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Ready to take control of your finances? See what steps to follow to develop a spending and saving plan and follow through on it.

Use Cash For Fun Expenses

Incorporating fun activities into your budget is important in college, but when you use your card, it’s easy to swipe and not pay attention to how much you’re really spending.

Having a set amount of cash in your wallet is a tangible way for you to know exactly how much money you have left at any given point. It might even motivate you to spend less of the cash, causing you to save more than you’re spending in that category.

Don’t Use Credit Cards

To piggyback on the concept of using cash instead of a card, a credit card is often seen as “free money” because you don’t have to pay your balance right away or in full. For college students who often don’t have a steady income, using a credit card can help rack up debt if it isn’t used responsibly.

If you’re already taking out student loans, more debt will ultimately tie down more of your income for repayment.

Cook Your Own Food

Smart grocery shopping habits can be created early on and there’s no better time than in college. While this may seem like an odd tip to help college students, it’s actually one that’ll save you a lot of money. On-the-go students spend so much money on quick snacks or drinks, and these costs add up quickly.

Make your own meals and bring your own snacks so you can save on food expenses and have more room in your budget for special occasions or other things.


For most, college brings a sense of financial independence which comes with greater responsibility. Regardless of where your money comes from, it’s good practice to budget, save, and avoid debt as much as possible.

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Going To College

College might be the first time you have full control over your finances. Use our toolkit to arm yourself with financial tips for building a strong foundation during your college years.

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