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5 Tips for Managing Finances in College

Piggy Bank

Life can get expensive, especially in college. Many students need to pay for tuition, books, school supplies, food, and housing - just to name a few things - so it’s really important to know how to manage finances and budget in college. Managing finances in college is a skill that can serve you not only in college, but throughout your entire life as well. Additionally, learning how to manage finances is a way to feel less stressed and more confident while balancing everything college students need to balance, like class, work, and social lives. Not sure how to start managing your finances, or need some tips? We have 5 of them here for you!

Perform an Earning and Spending Audit

One of the first things that should be on everyone’s lists for managing finances is performing an earning and spending audit. To do this, keep a paper log or use an app like Mint to see how much you’re earning per month, and how much you’re spending per month. Is there anything left over after you pay your expenses? Do you need to cut down on a few things so that you can have a little extra money? You don’t have to start budgeting or cutting things out just quite yet, but performing an earning and spending audit will help you get good base knowledge so that when it comes to budgeting, you already know what you’re earning and spending.

Separate Wants from Needs

After doing you earning and spending audit(s), you should have a list or at least an idea of what your money is being spent on. Refer back to your audit and see what things you’re buying that are wants, and what things you’re buying that are needs. Label each item as a “Want” or a “Need” if you need to. Are you spending money on things that are just wants, but not necessary? Are you hardly spending any money on wants but could still use a way to save some money? Wants and needs will be different for any given person, but here are some common examples of wants and needs:






Cell Phone (although this could also be a want)

College tuition

College books

College fees


Subscription services like Netflix or Hulu


New clothes, bags and jewelry

Activities that cost money

Extra electronics

Take Advantage of Student Discounts!

Most, if not all college students are able to land discounts with different companies and services with a school ID or school email address. A lot of these discounts are 50% off or more, and can help college students save a lot of money. Here are some companies and services that offer student discounts:

  • Sam’s Club - Sam’s Club offers a Collegiate Membership, so college students can enjoy the perks of a membership for lower than normal cost - and maybe stray away from eating Ramen Noodles all the time!
  • Apple - Apple offers students 5% off most products.
  • Greyhound - With Greyhound, students can enjoy 20% off tickets to thousands of locations.
  • The Wall Street Journal - The WSJ allows students to subscribe for only $1 a week for up to 15 weeks.
  • State Farm - Students that get good grades are eligible for up to a 25% discount until they’re 25 years old.
  • Sprint - Sprint allows students to add unlimited data to their plan for only $10 a month.
  • Amazon - The retail Giant offers an Amazon Prime Membership for students that’s 50% off of the normal price. The best part, though? You can get it free for the first 6 months before you even have to pay the 50% off rate.
  • Local Discounts - many companies and establishments in local areas will offer student discounts. Check wherever you go to see if your college ID or email can save you some money!

Join a Bank that Offers Student Accounts and Benefits

Many banks offer perks for students, like low or no fee accounts, saving plans, and other things. Banks like Chase and U.S. Bank offer great account options and benefits for college students. Bank fees can add up too, so check out some of these banks that offer perks for students:

  • Chase College Checking - Chase allows students to open up an account for $0 for the first 5 years. Chase will also give students $100 if they open an account, deposit $25 into the account at the time of opening, and use their account for 10 transactions within 60 days of opening the account.
  • Bank of America - Bank of America gives students all the perks of a non-student account, but with no monthly fees.
  • USAA - USAA has a college checking account for students. There’s no minimum balance and no monthly fees!
  • U.S. Bank - U.S. Bank also offers college checking accounts that have all the perks of regular accounts, but with no monthly fees. With U.S. bank, students can also order their first round of checks for free, as well as get 4 transaction fees waived at ATM’s that aren’t U.S. Bank’s.

Research Student Loans and other FInancial Aid Options

Many students rely on financial aid to help pay for college. This usually comes in the form of loans, scholarships, or grants. Most all types of financial aid is different, and some may have higher interest rates than others. Because financial aid varies so much, it’s extremely important to do your research on any financial aid options you plan on utilizing.

To read more about financial aid, take a look at our guide to all the different types of financial aid here!


Knowing how to manage finances is an essential skill for everyone, not just college students. However, starting to learn how to manage finances in college is a skill that can be beneficial for your whole life! Managing finances will look different for everyone, but remember these helpful tips as a guideline:

  1. Perform an earning and spending audit
  2. Separate wants from needs
  3. Take advantage of student discounts
  4. Join a bank that offers perks for students
  5. Research all types of financial aid you’re considering using

Go get that budget!