4 Tips for Managing Your College Budget

If you were to open up your online bank tracking, would you be shocked by how much money you spent at Starbucks this month? Probably – and that’s a problem when you consider the many other things that demand your cash while you’re at school. These tips will help you manage your college budget more efficiently. And hey, you may not even have to give up your triple-espresso caramel macchiato (though you probably should cut down on the caffeine).


photo credit: 401(K) 2013 via photopin cc

1. Track your purchases.

Use the website mint.com to track how much you’ve spent and on what you’re spending. Mint categorizes your purchases automatically, and you can create personalized categories if you’re really curious about how much you spend on burritos/lattes/shoes specifically. Once you start to see the breakdown, you may notice you’re spending far too much on one thing and not enough on another.

2. Budget your cashflow!

Once you figure out how much you’re spending and on what, look at how much you’re making. The obvious goal is to spend less than you make in the same time interval. But that’s a little harder than it sounds, so check out the budgeting options on Mint, too. You can set your budget goal and check in on it whenever you’d like. Since you can monitor this, you’ll see if you’re getting a little too close for comfort on the Starbucks budget, and drink mediocre dining hall coffee ‘til the end of the month. (It’s not that bad…)

Quick pause: just want to let you know that getting your textbooks on Boundless will save you tons of money, too.

3. Think forward in time.

There might not be any two words more cringe-worthy than “credit card,” but establishing credit through small credit card purchases will help you in the long run. Don’t go crazy, and keep your purchases to their usual frugality, but use a credit card occasionally. Pay off your bill in full within the month, and you’ll have built some credit by the time you need to borrow money for those big, “real life” purchases.

4. Be frugal.

Take advantage of every free service or discount your school offers, from 10% off haircuts to free pizza at club meetings. Get in the know, and save your money by using student discounts as much as possible! Be extra smart by getting your textbooks at Boundless, saving yourself a huge sum of dolla dolla bills, y’all.

Once you’ve got a handle on your money, you can relax a bit more as you study. Happy saving!

  • Annalise

    Sme great advice here. I have to start tracking my purchases, its amazing how much money I spend on coffee a week! It’s bit scary thinking of the credit card… but I am all for the free pizza or student discounts on campus though!

  • Rebecca Turnor

    This is great advice! I have trouble with budgeting and most of the reason I think is because I don’t track my purchases. Purchases on the app store are my nasty habit, so I think if I was actually keeping track of them, I might be able to reduce them! Credit cards are a little scary for me at the moment, but always try to take advantage of discount offers on campus!

  • Iris K

    Wow, mint.com definitely sounds like a great way to track your purchases and budget! Unfortunately I live in Australia, and of course, it’s unavailable here. I did
    however, try to search mint.com through the Apple App Store and found different alternatives such as “unsplurge” to help you save and “Toshl Finance” which seems quite similar to mint.com. Thanks for sharing I’ve been meaning to find something like this!

  • Aimee Mumford

    Thanks for the great advice! I live in Australia so cant access mint.com however i still found this very useful! Im terrible at tracking my purchases, online shopping is definitely my weakness! Don’t think i am quite ready for a credit card yet but after reading this i will consider it in the near future! Thanks again for the information! Its a shame the mint.com isn’t available to students in Australia..

  • Mica Nelson

    This advice has been great
    thank you!!. To many times I have looked in my purse to found less then half my
    pay left and nothing to show for it. Keeping track of my purchases have made me
    look where I spend my money and how I can cut down e.g. coffees, magazines,
    lunches. I think going out to eat or to the movies on special nights is a
    smart move! Cheap Tuesday means my friends and I can watch a movie and get
    dinner at discounted rates! Knowing where I spend my money and being smart
    about what I spend it on is only teaching my positive life long habits! Thank
    you very much for your advice

  • Taila Sheppard

    Thank you for a great article!
    I am a firm believer in not giving up my daily mocha
    (or two) but often find myself under budgeting my week because I forget what
    all I’ve bought. Using an app to track my spending definitely seems like the
    new way to go. I however am a little bit on the fence in terms of getting a
    credit card. It seems like a very easy way to spend money that you don’t have and
    a lot of small purchases can add up in the end. It is however something to
    think about in terms of a future credit score.

  • Margaret Bowden

    This is really good advice. I’m terrible at budgeting; I always start a budget then
    forget about it for a few weeks and give up, so an app like mint.com might
    work. Small purchases (like coffee) really add up! (Though my Achilles heel is
    clothes.) “Think forward in time” is also great advice. I always thought of a credit card as pretty dangerous though, but I’ll need that credit rating later I guess.

  • Emilie Joelle

    Hi, I’m a communication student and I found this post pretty interesting. Thanks, also, I liked how simple, straightforward and great this blog post was.

  • Wendy Bibi

    Hi, i am a PR student. Those tips are so useful, thanks a lot ! I had no idea to track my purchases and mint is a great website- which i am sure will help and i am definitely going to be frugal. Using student discounts is the beat way to cope when not earning a salary though we are adults. Keep on blogging !

  • melissakalee

    Hi, I am a student at university, and these little tips will
    surely help me on how to manage my purchases. Being a student, it will be
    practical to do these little advises. Thanks. Keep it up!!

  • rungapen daren

    This blog is very helpful and well design. It is a very basic one but it gives significant information according to the topic of managing a budget. There are four tips given which are very relevant and easy to understand. Being a university student living on my own this blog help me to understand how I can mange my school budget effectively.

  • Margot Fox-Slater

    Very helpful and humourous blog, I really did enjoy reading through this however, I don’t think that excessive spending on coffee is my downfall! I will be giving your recommendation of mint.com a try as I am certainly curious now to see where all my money is going. Not sure if the credit card idea is a great one as Banks always want to up the limit, so I agree with the keeping it as a small credit card. Thanks for the handy hints and tips!

  • Helen Rice

    Extremely useful blog! A real eye-opener! I am the worst at saving money, especially as i am a university student! There are so many hidden costs!
    So glad i came across this blog! I loved the ‘take advantage of free services’. Oh i will be 😉 Haha! Thanks for the great advice and please, keep them coming!

  • Lau Ka Hou

    Hi there! Thank you so much for the wonderful sharing, Really appreciate the budget advice you’ve provided. I’m a University student and I find it very useful to help me use my limited allowance wisely. I always have the problem of overspending but thousand thanks for introduce the application to track my cash flow. I’ve started to use the apps for few days and I found it is user friendly and it even have notification to remind you record your expenses. This really helps me solve the problem of overspending and keep tracking my cash flow. Lastly, keep blogging if have more advice and tips to share, I really enjoy reading your blog. Have a nice day!

  • Diyana

    Wow I see…. Thanks very much for sharing this info. I sometimes have some trouble managing my own budget, since I am still a University student, and I see this info is very useful to me. I know that sometimes, as a student, I tend to go way over my budget, and spend more than I need to on stuffs. The way you explain it is very simple, yet easy to understand. Thanks again for the tips!

  • Shaleen Tan

    Hello there! I’d just like to say thanks so much for sharing this post. To be honest, as a student, I have the terrible tendency to spend money where it is not necessary. Then, regret terribly when have to suffer at the end of the month before my next allowance comes in. However, after having read your post, its a step closer to managing my spendings wisely. It was really helpful insights and tips that I’ll be sure to keep in mind daily. Twas a real eye-opener, thank you!

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  • Amate Muhd

    I am a student and planning to start a business after am done with my studies,looking at this guide has helped me go on track on how I can budget and plan on what and how to proceed, given me insight on what the outcome might look like,thanks for your tips

  • shem kivumbi

    thank you for posting these tips on budgeting, as a student i was getting tired of asking my parents for up keep money weekly, i felt i was spending too much. this blog how ever gave me a tip of taking advantage of the students discounts wen spending, this has cut down on my spending which means i now spend less than i receive and now live a comfortable life, thank you.

  • Dinara Aitmagambetova

    I think the tips you have shown us are really useful for any student, because as we are all know it is very hard to save money when you are in this kind of age that you want to try everything and see everything, and especially when you are far away form your family. The statement you have made that we should spend less than we make, it is really important, and I think everyone, not even a student, have to follow this goal. I guess it was, it is and it will always be the first problem of everyone is to manage the budget, and not everyone can do it, so hope those tips you gave will help many of those ones, who faced this problem. Thanks.

  • your tips are good for students. their is also a product in market http://www.campusedge.in which helps college & it’s students both to manage budget. student purchase notes for final exam which is very costly & college spent too much time to maintain record of students it affects the college management. so campusedge helps students to share their notes & also help to college for proper management. it is a good product because campusedge also provide security to our data.