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Top Financial Tips for College Students

By Brian Geiger

Brian Geiger is a co-founder of Scholarships360. He previously worked on the growth team of a hypergrowth startup and in investment banking. Through a combination of private grants, outside scholarships, and income from freelance writing, Brian earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton University with $0 in student debt.

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Updated: August 2nd, 2023
Top Financial Tips for College Students

Good money management habits aren’t taught in school, yet students who develop money saving skills in college get a HUGE head start on financial freedom later in life.

To get you started on your financial journey, here are four key tips to keep in mind.

Top four tips for financial freedom

In this article, we’ll cover our top pieces of financial advice for college students, including:

  1. Spend less than you earn
  2. Build your credit score, starting now
  3. Stay on top of debt
  4. Invest ASAP!
  5. Keep learning about finances

Editorial Note: Scholarships360 receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

1. Spend less than you earn

“Spend less than you earn” is the North Star of all personal finance advice, and it’s as simple as it sounds: if your income is higher than your expenses, you’ll have money left over. Of course, making and saving money isn’t so simple. Here are some tips to get started.

Win scholarships

This one’s easy. Start by applying to easy scholarships and all other scholarships that you qualify for!  For more about how you can save money for college through winning scholarships, read our Ultimate Scholarships Guide.

Apply for grants

 Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year you’re in school. The federal government uses the information on the FAFSA to determine whether you need financial aid, and will in some cases award Pell Grants (that don’t need to be paid back). 

Get a part-time job

While balancing school, a social life, and a job can sound overwhelming, any amount helps! If you earn $15 an hour while working 10 hours every week, that will add up $31,000 of pre-tax income by the end of your four years in undergrad!

Related: How to find online jobs as a college student

How to spend less money:

  • Take advantage of student offers. Companies offer tons of great discount programs to students. Amazon offers “Prime Student,” which gives you a risk-free, six-month trial of Amazon Prime as well as a few other perks 
  • Budget. Proper budgeting gives you an idea of where you’re spending money, and where you need to cut back. Learn how to create a budget as a college student and stick to it! There are a ton of great online tools to help you manage your money without feeling overwhelmed. 
  • Get creative! Consider renting your textbooks instead of buying them new, and think about cooking for yourself instead of paying for that overpriced meal plan.

See also: Top websites for cheap college textbooks

2. Build your credit score, starting now

Length is an important factor in your credit score, and credit score is a key piece of your personal data profile that becomes a factor when purchasing a home, securing a car loan, and even applying for jobs.

To start building credit if you have none, begin with a student credit card. With on-time payments and responsible use, you can begin building a healthy credit profile. Just make sure to limit the number of credit card accounts you open and to always pay your balance in full each month.

Related: Top student credit cards

3. Stay on top of student debt

Student loans are one of the first ways people encounter debt in their life. If you’re in the market for student loans or have loans you’d like to refinance, consider checking out a private student loan marketplace to better manage your debt. of our favorite options for comparing different student loan interest rates and terms.

4. Invest ASAP!

Finally, due to the magic of compound interest, it pays to invest your money as soon as possible. This YouTube video from Investopedia explains compound interest well. While investing for retirement is important, you should typically pay off any credit card debt before investing money long-term (due to the high APR on credit cards).

5. Educate yourself about finances! 

Start out by learning more about how to save money in college and how long it takes to build credit

Bottom line

As a college student, you still have some time to figure out your financial life. Luckily, you’re already getting a head start from reading this article! By taking the time now to develop good money skills, you’re positioning yourself for long-term financial freedom.

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t spend more than you earn!
  • Apply for all the grants and scholarships that you qualify for
  • Create a budget and stick to it no matter what!
  • Start building credit now for your future goals
  • Learn about compound interest and save what you can
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about financial tips for college students

How can college students create a budget that works for them?

The first thing students should look at is their income in relation to their expenses. If they are spending more than they earn, they need to make up the deficit by making extra money or cutting back on discretionary spending.

What are some doable ways to save money in college?

Carpooling, buying used or renting textbooks, not eating out too often and cooking at home, and splitting rent with a roommate or two is a start.

Should college students consider getting a part-time job?

A part-time job provides extra income to cover living expenses and might even reduce the need for or number of student loans. Studies show that full-time college students who also work are more successful overall.


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