Personal Finance Advice from 10 Real Students

May 14, 2021

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Managing your finances can be difficult, but it is especially challenging when you are juggling all of the responsibilities of being a student as well. Although it is said that experience is the best teacher, absorbing the knowledge from students who have been in the same financial situations is a close second. Several students from colleges and universities around the United States offer personal finance tips that they have learned from their experience of balancing schoolwork and finances.

 

1. Understand your financial situation

Most people aren’t able to pay for college out of pocket. Students usually need to apply for financial aid and scholarships or take out student loans to fund their education. Recognizing how much money you or your parents can contribute to college is the first step to making smart money decisions. A student from Texas A&M University shares his thoughts on the subject:

“From having conversations with my friends, I have concluded that everybody’s financial situation is different. Understanding your financial situation is an essential first step to know how to manage your finances successfully effectively. For example, Will you have tuition covered from grants and scholarships? Do you have money saved up prior to starting college? Are your parents assisting you through college (example: rent)? These are the questions you need to know to get started on your financial plans.” 

Joshua R.

      Joshua R.

      Texas A&M University

 

2. Consider the cost of attendance

Although basing your college decision on the majors that are offered, the amenities that are provided, or where the college is located are all good factors to consider, the cost of attendance should be one of the most important considerations. Some colleges, like community colleges, offer the same general education classes at a lower price. Loma Linda University student, Kristine, shares her experience with community colleges:

“Community college was an integral part of my education and financial independence. Tuition was a fraction of the price of universities, I lived at home, and I completed all lower division and general education courses. Once I transferred to my university, I only had 2 years of upper division courses to complete, and I graduated in a much better financial situation than some of my peers who attended university for the full 4 years. In my high school, there was still a stigma surrounding attending community college, but I want students to know it is an excellent resource to minimize your need for financial aid and puts you in a favorable financial position when you transfer to your intended university.”

Kristine W.

      Kristine W.

      Loma Linda University

 

3. Apply for specific scholarships

Student loan debt is something that college students want to avoid at all costs. Applying for scholarships is a great way to reduce the amount of money that you must borrow to pay for college. More specifically, applying for scholarships that are unique to your field of study or ethnicity will give you a better chance of winning them. Yanika from Boston University writes about her experience with scholarships: 

“There are billions of dollars in scholarship money available to you. This was something that I heard frequently but pushed aside because I figured that I would never win any scholarship. I didn’t realize that it doesn’t take a perfect GPA to write a great essay or to ask a teacher or mentor for a recommendation. Millions of scholarships will not only contribute to tuition but other attendance expenses like housing, the cost of books, and transportation. Many opportunities are specific to you, whether you are a Latina musician or a field hockey player from the Midwest.”

Yanika H.

      Yanika H.

      Boston University

 

4. Set aside time to evaluate your finances

It’s important to monitor your financial situation periodically because it can change from week to week, or even from day to day. Setting up a time to sit down with your bank accounts or budgeting apps during the week is important to gauge your progress towards your financial goals. Hear from Quinn, a student at the University of South Florida:

“Another piece of advice is this, setting one hour a week to monitor your expenses can make all the difference in your financial goals. This minor sacrifice of time will be more worth it than that one TV show episode on Netflix you've been dying to watch. In fact, supervising your spending can help confirm that you have enough money to pay your Netflix bill the next month.”

Quinn W.

      Quinn W.

      University of South Florida

 

5. Save, save, save

It’s easy to be tempted to spend your money on the latest trends or on the best coffee in town, but it is much more rewarding to know that you have a financial cushion in your savings account if you were in trouble. Managing your money is not only about watching what you spend but about watching what you save, too. Gabrielle offers her advice on how to establish your savings while in college:

“The most important part of managing your finances is one people just starting out tend to forget about. However, I am here to fill you in on how to establish savings. Without savings, you will have no safety net if something comes up. You should not aim to spend your entire income every single month. There might be months you end up doing this, but you should avoid doing this every month. Even if you only put aside $20 each month, that $20 will add up to $240 by the end of the year!”

Gabrielle S.

      Gabrielle S.

      University of Iowa

 

6. Create a budget that works for you

Monitoring your spending, savings, and investments is important to stay on track with your finances. There are many budgeting apps and platforms for you to write out your expenditures, but if you don’t take the time to update them, they won’t be beneficial to you. Having a budget as a college student is one of the easiest financial tips to implement. Read Emiline’s advice about budgeting: 

“When it comes to finances, it’s extremely important for me to not only ensure I can pay for necessities like tuition, school books, gas, and car insurance;but also set something aside for moving out post-graduation, and allow myself to enjoy a few splurges every now and then. When I first decided on these financial priorities and began receiving income from my jobs, I felt clueless and overwhelmed at the prospect of keeping track of it all. I tried a few free apps, but didn’t find one that I really loved. After watching a few helpful YouTube videos, I decided to sit down and make a list of every category to which my money was going. This has saved me a tremendous amount of time and having a budget relieved a lot of stress that I experienced when I lacked control over my finances.”

Emiline S.

      Emiline S.

      University of Central MO

 

7. Be prepared for an emergency

Because life is so unpredictable, having money set aside for a financial emergency is crucial. You could lose your job or be in an accident at any time, so the recommended amount of money to put in an emergency fund is three to six months worth of your pay. Amanda from Tulane University experienced an emergency firsthand:

“In the fall semester, I took a leave of absence and did an unpaid internship while also babysitting to save money for future semesters. I ended up getting COVID-19 and also had surgery about a month later for a mass in my liver. Instead of saving up money, I had to take over a month off to recover from being sick and having surgery. I am lucky that I understood the importance of saving money when I could and have been able to manage my finances even with setbacks from unexpected life events.”

Amanda B.

      Amanda B.

      Tulane University

 

8. Strive to learn more

Just like education, mastering your finances takes years of learning. There are many classes, podcasts, and blogs that aim to help students continue to learn about money and how to properly manage it. Aiden, a student from Gannon University, shares his advice on learning to be better with your money:

“Managing money, just like managing your time, is not an innate skill, it is something you learn There are a lot of tools, resources, and self-help classes on the internet that can help you plan and prepare for success. Most people do not plan to fail, they simply fail to plan. The next four or five years will play a major role in one of the foundational pillars of your life.  These years are not only about your education, they set the stage for your career and the quality of your life.  The choices you make during these formidable years will have a dramatic effect on your financial situation for many years to come.”

Aiden K.

      Aiden K.

      Gannon University

 

9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Managing your stellar grade point average while working a part-time job can be tricky, but as a student, you are not alone. Whether you want to vent to someone in the same situation or get advice from a mentor, asking for help is always a good idea. Lauren from the University of Florida offers her advice on asking for help:

“The piece of advice that I would give to other students is to ask for help and do research. Parents and other mentors have a lot of experience that they can share with young adults regarding their finances. They can offer additional advice on the best practices to follow. Additionally, it may be helpful to research online the ways in which other people manage their finances. While the internet is not always right and what works for someone may not work for someone else, it can be beneficial to research other ways to handle financial responsibility.”

Lauren M.

      Lauren M.

      University of Florida

 

10. Prioritize your health and well-being

In college, it is easy to put assignments and bills ahead of your health. Students can spend a lot of time worrying about finances, especially on top of all of their student obligations, and it can take a toll on their mental and physical health. Making time for self-care and not allowing your money management to get the best of you can allow you to be in a better state of mind to manage your financials. A Montclair State university student, Stephanie, offers her knowledge on taking care of yourself:

“The advice that I would share to students managing their finances for the first time is to not overwhelm nor overwork yourself to the point of breaking down.  Yes, saving money and earning an education are two very important aspects of life, however, so is your mental and physical health and well-being.  In times of need, always take care of yourself and allow yourself to rest every now and then.  Enjoy your college years while you have them, especially your undergraduate years, believe me when I say they really do go so fast.”

9

      Stephanie L.

      Montclair State University

 

Implementing financial advice from real students can help you become a better manager of your money and prepare for the future. Learn from the experiences of these ten students and create better financial goals and habits for yourself. Although juggling all of your responsibilities is difficult, soon you will be attending college and managing your money with ease. 

 

 

  WHAT'S NEXT?

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