Congratulations on your admission! 

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Welcome to college life!

This might be your first time living away from home. You might ask yourself, "How can I be financially independent of my parents and live within a budget while studying and enjoying college life?"

Even if you receive financial support from your family, you'll need to be a good manager of your money.

Start with these questions:

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  • Who's paying for my college and how?

  • What expenses should I expect?

Talk Ahead

Before the start of each academic year, have a discussion with your family about who will pay for college tuition and fees:

  • Will your family will take charge?

  • Will you need to rely on financial aid, apply for jobs, or a mix of these options?

Anticipate Your Expenses

Keep these college-related expenses on your radar:

  • Tuition and fees

  • Insurance (health insurance, car insurance, etc.)

  • Textbooks and school supplies

  • Room and board

  • Transportation

  • Personal expenses (clothing, entertainment, social life, etc.)

Having a healthy grasp of reality...is helpful in terms of knowing what kind of lifestyle you can really afford to live in college.

--Kyle Moore, a certified financial planner in St. Paul, Minnesota

Quiz

Many college websites list their COA (cost of attending). What are some additional expenses you might need to add to that list?

Possible increases in tuition

Activity and club fees

Special art or lab supplies

All of these

Make A Budget

Figure out how much money flows in and out. 

  • Evaluate your financial situation

  • Differentiate “needs” vs “wants”

  • List monthly expenses

  • Determine the average monthly costs for each category

  • Make a reasonable budget and stick to it

You can follow a percentage-based budget like the 50/30/20 rule:

  • 50% of your income on necessities like housing and food

  • 30% on discretionary personal spending like entertainment

  • 20% on financial goals like saving

If you find you need to tighten your budget even more, you can try 70/15/15 for needs, wants, and goals.

Track Your Expenses

Track and manage your spending to simplify your budget and reduce the risk of human error. Here are a few budgeting tools that will help you along the way:

  • Microsoft Excel

  • Mint

  • Monefy

  • Nerdwallet

Look For More Money

  • Check out the scholarship search board of your school and the Best College Financial Aid Resources. Submit an application for scholarships, prizes, and bursaries. Many scholarships don’t receive a large number of applications, so it's worth the effort to apply.

  • If your schedule allows you enough free time, take on a part-time job for extra income (e.g., resident advisor, research assistant, retail staff). There are plenty of money-making opportunities to be found online (eg., online tutor, freelance writer, web developer).

A person putting up a help wanted sign in store window

Working on campus can be a great opportunity for students to understand what a college is and how it works…Every college out there runs a small city within their realm, so your interests can be met in so many different ways.

--Ashley Bianchi, director of financial aid at Williams College

Tips For Saving Money In College

  • Buy or rent used textbooks (from former students on Craigslist or Facebook groups)

  • Take advantage of campus resources and events

  • Hunt for a room early, live off-campus, get a roommate, and use price-comparing tools

  • Look for affordable student cell phone plans

  • Cook at home

  • Ask about student discounts

  • Always pay bills on time to avoid late fees

  • Sell what you no longer use or need

  • Drop any subscriptions you’re paying for now that you can do without

A host in front of a microphone saying,

Quiz

Which decisions will help you budget for college?

Bet on a hot stock

Maintain your grade point average

Review your budget every month

Enjoy fun outdoor activities

Take Action

If you haven’t developed money-saving habits yet, start sooner rather than later!

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This Byte has been authored by

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Xinyue Zuo

Instructional Designer