The calendar has turned over again, and we’re all doing what we can to better ourselves in the new year.
If you’re one of the first-time college students out there starting out as a freshman or going back to school as an adult learner for career advancement, consider the following 18 money moves to help you stay financially fit.
1. Make a budget.
First things first – make a personal budget for yourself. This should include a specific amount that you’ll hold yourself to when it comes to spending each week or month.
Write down or keep a log of expenses on your iPhone to see how much you spend on a regular basis. Then determine if you can cut out any of these expenses or find alternatives for them.
2. Put money into a savings account.
It’s often tough for first-time college students of any age to save money. But it is doable.
If you don’t have one already, set up a separate savings account through your bank of choice. Contribute to this account regularly with as much as you can afford to put away. Even if it’s $50 or $100 a month, every little bit counts when saving up for the future.
You may consider establishing an IRA or Roth IRA for tax benefits.
3. Seek out scholarship opportunities.
There are thousands of scholarships out there waiting for college students to earn. Whether you’re good at writing, web design, math, or any other subject area, you can find small to large scholarships to help offset your tuition expenses.
Check out our scholarship guide to learn more.
4. Explore tuition assistance programs.
Tuition assistance comes in various forms.
Some colleges and universities offer tuition assistance for certain students upon enrollment. You may have to fall under specific income limits to qualify.
Some employers also provide tuition assistance. It may not be a whole lot in some cases, but every dollar can provide at least a little financial relief. So, if you’re working, don’t hesitate to ask your employer about this.
Another example of this worth mentioning is how New York State offers a tuition assistance program.
5. Research military benefits.
Are you an active-duty military member? Did you previously serve our great nation?
The good news for you is that you’re likely eligible for some type of education benefit to help you keep more of your hard-earned money. The post-9/11 GI Bill is just one example of such a financial perk for military students.
6. Look for a permanent job.
If you have some time to punch a clock and hold a permanent full-time or part-time job while in college, don’t hesitate to go for it. Collecting a regular paycheck can be a huge boost to your financial footing.
The key here is to find a position that wouldn’t conflict with any on-campus courses you take. Of course, this class schedule can vary from one semester to another, so always bear this in mind when applying for jobs.
7. Look for freelancing opportunities.
While you may not have a ton of free time outside of your coursework, freelancing on a when-you-can-do-it basis could be a great option to make some extra money.
Check out websites like Upwork to see if there are any projects you’d be skilled at completing. Consider driving for Uber or another ride-sharing service.
8. Clip coupons.
Perhaps you get coupons in the mail. Don’t hesitate to cut them out and use them. A handful of coupons can save you a few dinners over time.
9. Find Groupons.
Groupons can be used for a wide variety of activities and places of interest around town.
If you’re looking for some cheap fun to get away from the books at times, using Groupons can be your ticket to this.
10. Claim tax savings on education.
The IRS offers a handful of tax-saving benefits for some college students. These include:
- The American Opportunity Tax Credit
- The Lifetime Learning Credit
- The tuition and fees deduction
Check out this IRS resource to learn more about these tax benefits for education.
11. Rent your textbooks.
Paying for textbooks can be a considerable expense for college students at all levels, especially brand new students who are facing high textbook prices for the very first time.
Fortunately, renting textbooks has become an option for many course materials. You can easily save over 50% of your money by renting. Many school bookstores offer this option, and websites like Chegg.com are good resources as well
12. Buy discounted or used school supplies.
Discounted used textbooks can be a great option. But there are lots of other school supplies you can buy in bulk or order online for reasonable prices, such as notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, USB drives, and the like.
13. Connect your devices to public Wi-Fi.
Public Wi-Fi has become so prevalent on college campuses, in libraries, at restaurants and coffee shops, and in countless other locations.
If you can jump on a Wi-Fi network instead of eating up your valuable cellular data or even paying for Internet where you live, you can save plenty of money this way.
14. Cut down on eating out.
Swiping your credit or debit card at your favorite restaurants can break the bank over time. That’s why it’s important to spend your money wisely on food.
It’s also generally easier to eat healthy if you aren’t always eating out.
15. Buy groceries.
Instead of putting lots of money toward restaurants, you can save a bunch by shopping at your favorite grocery store.
Even if you aren’t into cooking or just don’t have time because of school, so many items today are made up already for you and only take a few minutes to heat up so you’ll have plenty of time to study for that upcoming criminal justice exam.
Find family members, friends, classmates, coworkers, and anyone else with whom you can carpool. Not only can this benefit your wallet, but others are probably eager to do the same if you’re heading to similar places regularly.
17. Ride a bike.
Maintaining a car or even using a cab or Uber can add up in terms of expenses.
So, if you live in an area where you can ride a bike to get around, hop on one and start pedaling. In time, you can hang onto lots of money by riding to campus, work, or the store.
18. Use public or campus transit.
Instead of pouring your dollars and cents into a gas pump, consider using public buses, trains, cable cars, or even campus transportation if your college offers it.