With the cost of college rising every year, it has become more and more difficult to make ends meet and still have a healthy amount of savings. While we cannot wave a magic wand and lower the cost of a college education, there are a few ways that students can be smart with their money in college so that they can still have some savings.
The first thing a college student can do to save money is put money into a savings account. Oftentimes, putting money away into savings is the first thing to go when there are other expenses to take care of. However, failing to put something away now will lead to greater stress in the future. A student should set a realistic amount (even just a few dollars) each month to put into savings and then stick to it.
Of course, in order to regularly deposit money into your savings account, you need an income. Thus, the second thing a college student should do to save money is get a job. On-campus jobs are often the most convenient, and can usually be flexible with your class schedule, though there are other companies that regularly employ college students and can be equally flexible. You may even be able to find a job that will provide some form of tuition assistance while you are in school. Working and going to school can be a challenge, but to save money while in school, it is essential to find a balance.
Once you have a job, it is important to budget. Use a spreadsheet or an online service to keep track of your monthly income and expenses. In addition to putting money in savings, you must also manage where the rest of your money is going. For instance, college students are notorious for eating out a lot with their friends, which is okay, so long as you do not exceed a budgeted amount (within your means) for eating out with friends. If you can get into the habit of making a budget and sticking to it, you will find that a lot of stress related to finances will be relieved. Even if you do not have as much money as you would like, at least you will know how much money you have coming in and where it is all going.
In addition to working, saving, and budgeting, I would recommend staying out of debt as much as possible. The rising costs of education coupled with a spike in the number of people pursuing college degrees has resulted in a staggering increase in the amount of student loans taken out each year, and with more and more students graduating into a disappointing job market, this translates into many students going into default on their loans and millions and millions of dollars of unpaid interest. Thus, one of the primary ways that a college student can save money while in school (and after they graduate) is to only take out loans when it is absolutely necessary. Student loans in particular can be a good thing, but students must possess a certain amount of foresight to anticipate how much money they will end up owing when they finish their degree. A little bit of foresight now will lead to less stress later on when these loans go into repayment. And, if a student already has loans, then he or she should begin making payments, however small, as soon as possible – even while still in school.
College should be an incredible time in a young person’s life, and working hard to save money for the immediate and distant future can help ensure that it is. If a student really wants to save money while in college, he or she should regularly put money away into a savings account, find a good job that works well with his or her schedule, stick to a budget that keeps track of income and expenses, and avoid going into debt if at all possible. Implementing these practical steps while in college has the added bonus of putting in place habits that will continue to benefit the student even after graduation, for the rest of his or her life.
This essay was submitted by Ross Jones for FTWCCU’s Cash for Class contest. Ross’ major is in New Testament at Southwestern Seminary.
*Post has been lightly edited for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.