Money Management: How to Budget in College

For most college students, money can get pretty tight. Between rent, food, courses, textbooks, supplies, and other necessities a lot of students end up digging themselves into more and more debt. If you’re finding that your cash flow is dwindling down to a trickle, don’t worry. There are a lot of budgeting tricks to help you cover all of your needs without breaking the bank.


Sometimes a triage method of prioritizing your money is your best bet. Base it on your basic needs. First, you need shelter so always budget out your rent first. Then, you need water, food, heat, lights, and so forth. Everyone’s needs might be a little different. For example, if you are on medication, that should be your highest priority.

Sit down and look at your income. Then, list all of your needs in the order of greatest importance. Start at the most important and begin subtracting what that necessity costs from your monthly income. In the end, if you’re running in the negative, it’s time to make some changes.

If you have money leftover, it shouldn’t be all “extra” money. Take a percentage of the remaining money and put it in your account for emergencies. Add to it as often as you can. Then, use the rest for your non-necessities like having lunch with friends.

Trim Your Food Budget

Food can be a huge expense every month, especially if you don’t know how to cook. If you can’t cook, learn how. Ask your parents or a friend for help. Then, buy your groceries at the least expensive stores in your area and buy generic brands as often as possible.

Clip Coupons 

Coupons might seem cliche, but they can be lifesavers. Look for coupons on items you would buy anyway. Things like hygiene items, household cleaning items, vitamins, and pre-packaged foods are often on promotion with a new coupon that can save you a lot of money.

Shop Around

If you need an item, shop around for the best price. Check online and in store to find the best deals. You can also use deal hunting apps like Honey that help you find coupon codes and better deals when shopping online.

Buy Used

If you need clothes, bedding, or furniture or anything non-perishable, buy used. Thrift stores are a great place to find gently used clothing, backpacks, lamps, furniture, and more. Don’t be too proud to buy used. Thrift stores and online second-hand stores can help save you thousands of dollars, and they’re better for the environment as they keep perfectly good things out of landfills.

Understand Interest 

Credit cards and payday advance loans might seem like a dream come true. However, they aren’t just free money. Interest rates can come back to haunt you and dig you deeper into debt than you were in the first place. If you do use a credit card, try to pay back your balance before it gains interest. Never use a payday advance store, and always read the fine print before borrowing money of every kind.

Ask For Help

There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. If you have a strong family support network, go to them and tell them about your troubles. If not, there are plenty of organizations that can help you get back on your feet.

You don’t have to be the “starving college student.” With a little bit of budgeting, and some control over your spending habits you can meet all of your needs and maybe have something left over. Money management is hard for most people, but with practice you’ll be well on your way to ending your financial troubles.

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