Four Financial Tips for College Students

Getting to college and burning through a budget with reckless spending is always a tough lesson to learn, especially on top of the significant expense of obtaining a higher education. But, with a little self-discipline and work-ethic, any student can live frugally and still have fun – and maybe even build a little nest egg.

Keep a budget. Living like a trust-fund baby or are some kind of prodigy entrepreneur may seem like a good idea in college, until the bill comes. For the first time ever, many students are left alone to manage their money without the meddling of mom and dad. But spending like a rock star eventually hits a sour note, in the form of expensive credit card debt on top of student loans to repay your college degree. Just like college planning, it’s never too early for young adults to start learning the basics of budgeting and there are plenty of good phone apps, online programs and campus resources able to help.

Take advantage of student status. Many retailers and service providers offer discounts for students who show a current school identification card, even an ID card from an online university. Looking to build brand loyalty with a new generation and just cutting poor students a break, these deals are too good pass up. From the movies and dining establishments to bookstores and gyms, a dollar or percentage reduction may be offered on the things that students want and need. If a price reduction isn’t posted, it’s always worth asking if a student discount is available.

Find temporary work. Taking a heavy load of college courses may make it hard to hold down a serious job, but there are plenty of ways to fill in the gaps in a student budget with a temporary job. From seasonal jobs during the winter holidays and summers when traditional and online courses are completed to babysitting during the week (and sneaking in a little extra study time while the kids are asleep), an ad-hoc job is a great way to find the extra funds to cover extra college costs and social activities.

Start saving. Even with a limited budget, a student can start building a nest egg. Income earned from an on or off-campus job can be put into a savings account or even better, a Roth IRA. If unemployed, set aside a small portion of cash proceeds from birthday gifts, tax refunds or stipends to start building healthy saving habits.  Unexpected expenses always crop up in college and even the allure of continuing on in a Master’s degree may beckon. It’s nice to have a cushion to fall back on, if need be.