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Budgeting Tips for College Students

For many college freshman, moving out of their parents’ house and into a dorm is the first time they are living on their own. One of the most important skills college students need to learn is budgeting. Many schools don’t teach personal finance, so oftentimes recent high school graduates will start out their adult lives not knowing much about how to manage their money. Not knowing proper money management techniques can lead to financial trouble later on, such as credit card debt. We have some basic budgeting tips for college students to help them get started!

These budgeting tips for college students set smart financial habits in stone.

These budgeting tips for college students set smart financial habits in stone.

Basic Budgeting Tips for College Students

The point of having a budget is to know how much money is coming in and going out every month. This will help you to ensure you aren’t spending more than you make. You might not have a lot of income just yet as a college student, but the basic premise of budgeting is the same no matter your income. Here are some simple budgeting tips for college students creating their first budget:

  1. First, determine how much income you have each month. For college students, this may come from a part-time job and/or financial assistance from family.
  2. Next, track your expenses for a month or so to see where your money is going. You can do this by writing down every purchase you make or recording it in a spreadsheet. Everything from your bus pass to your lattes need to be tracked.
  3. At the end of the month, take a look at all your expenses. Are your expenses more or less than your income? If your expenses are less than your income, great! If you’re spending more than your income, find areas where you can cut spending until your expenses are below your income. Alternatively, find ways to make more money. Can you start a side hustle in your spare time? From there, determine how much money you can allocate to each of your expenses every month: housing, transportation, food, etc.

Financial Goals for College Students

Sticking to a budget can help consumers reach their financial goals. Beyond the basic budgeting tips for college students, our credit counseling advice is to have a few financial goals in mind to work towards. For example, everyone, regardless of age, should be saving for emergencies. Most experts recommend having three to six months’ worth of expenses in an emergency savings account, which may sound like a lot, especially to college students. However, by being disciplined about saving money every month, even college students can work towards building a solid emergency savings fund. Even if you can only save $20 a month, it’s okay to start small!

Another financial goal to work towards is paying off student loans if you have any. While you typically don’t have to start paying on your student loans until six months after you graduate from college, if you can afford to start paying on them now, that may be a good idea. See if you have extra money in your budget that you can allocate towards student loan repayment. This could save you a lot of money in interest later on!

Final Thoughts on Budgeting Tips for College Students

College is the time to develop good financial habits. Don’t wait until after you graduate to learn how to create a budget or practice good money management techniques. Being able to save money and even pay down student loan debt during college will set you up for financial success later!

If you struggle to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Sign up for a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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