How to Manage Your Money in College

by | Jul 6, 2023

For a lot of students, stepping onto a college campus marks a time of financial independence. While it’s definitely exciting to be making–and spending–your own money, it can come with a ton of stress too. After all, it’s not all “fun money.” Books, meals, housing, and tuition add up to a pretty penny, and you might find yourself staring at your bank account wondering how you’re going to pay for it all.

If that’s you, you’re not alone. According to the American College Health Association’s 2022 National College Health Assessment, 46.8 percent of student participants reported financial difficulties. And those difficulties don’t just affect your wallet; money struggles often spill over into other wellness areas such as mental health, physical wellbeing, and social dynamics. 

Basically, money troubles stink.

But there are steps you can take to help get yourself on firmer financial footing while improving your overall wellness in the process.

Make a Budget

Whether you’re manually tracking or keeping tabs with a budgeting app, knowing where your money is coming and going is crucial to being financially stable. Here are three great starting points regardless of your exact budget plan:

  • Create a Monthly Rundown: Jot down every bill and paycheck you typically receive in a month. Knowing your total monthly income and expenses is the first step of any budgeting plan.
  • Separate Wants and Needs: This can be tough! Your needs should be things that absolutely have to be part of your equation (think things like rent, food, and gas money if you drive). Your wants are the fun things like going out with friends and hobby spending. Splitting these up will help you weed out things that are more expensive than they are necessary, saving money in the process. But! Definitely, definitely keep some fun things in your budget. Fun and self care are super important too.
  • Start an Emergency Fund: It’s important to have a rainy day fund available in case unexpected expenses pop up. The amount will differ from person to person, but setting aside a bit of money every month that’s filed in the “In Case of Emergency Only!” folder gives you the flexibility to handle financial curveballs and provides peace of mind. Saving money can be a great destresser!

Focus on What *You* Want

Social media “millionaires” are a dime a dozen these days. If you look long enough on any platform, you’re going to run into people saying you need to do certain things or buy certain things.

Don’t listen to them.

It’s important to focus on what YOU want and need. The more you listen to yourself and chart your own course, the more financial goals you’ll achieve. If you find yourself bombarded with “millionaire” content, block it. 

Communicate

If you’re struggling financially, you’re not the only one. Plenty of people have been or are in the same spot, and that’s why it’s so important to communicate your worries and feelings about your finances. Talking to someone you trust about your situation can help reduce the stress around it and help you feel more equipped to work toward financial stability. Your school also might have financial resources available or counselors who will be able to help create a financial plan that works for you. 

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