How to be Financially Savvy in College

Every semester, right around midterms, we reach a point where money can feel tight. Ordering out is easier than cooking for the sake of convenience. New fashions are in full display at your favorite stores. The holiday season is right around the corner. The list goes on. Balancing this, on top of all things college related, can be tricky. From exams, to social life, to extracurricular activities, it can be a lot to manage. Oftentimes, how you spend your money can be an afterthought when you are faced with competing priorities. Despite every effort to be money savvy, it can be hard to execute. The following tips will serve as a guide for quick and easy saving, even when it seems impossible.

Make small changes.

Change is hard! But when it comes to money, even slashing your spending by a few dollars will save you in the long run. Understanding where your money is coming from and where you are spending is important. Creating a budget will help you understand how much you are spending versus how much you are making. See if you can reduce any expenses – maybe by buying from another store, using coupons, or eating in the dining hall or at home instead of eating out. If your spending outweighs your earning, you should readjust and make the effort to cut spending.

Make use of student discounts and coupons.

Don’t be shy! We have the opportunity to utilize a variety of discounts we wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Many stores offer student discounts simply by showing your student I.D. at the cash register. Just ask! Sometimes, you can get up to 15% off. A quick Google search will show you exactly which stores offer discounts.

Another easy way to save is through membership or subscription packages. Websites such as Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and Spotify have student memberships/subscription fees at lower prices. Student pricing only lasts until you can’t prove you’re enrolled in a qualifying university or program, so make sure to use your discount for as long as it’s applicable to you!

General coupon codes for ordering online can also be helpful. Unfortunately, searching for these coupons can be time consuming. No one wants to search through their email looking for the most recent coupon codes from their favorite stores. Luckily, Honey, a free browser extension, can help! Honey makes coupons easy, automatically applying every available discount code to your cart when checking-out online. All you need to do is visit the Honey website, and follow the prompts to add Honey to your browser. You’ll find savings in seconds just with the click of a button!

Set SMART financial goals.

Define your personal saving and spending goals so they are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. SMART goals can help you cut down excess spending and save for your Black Friday splurge or holiday haul. Setting financial goals will give you a roadmap for sustainable spending habits, allowing you to readjust as your earnings and expenses shift throughout your college career.

If you feel like you’re still struggling to make improvements to your spending and saving habits, or if you are interested in further exploring saving methods or defining your own SMART goals, know that you’re not alone! There are a variety of resources on campus and online that can provide further tips and tricks to increase your money savvy. On campus, the Office of Financial Literacy can help mitigate your wallet’s mid-semester blues. Stop by and make an appointment with a Smart Money Coach. They can help provide you with a foundation to achieve your financial goals! Online, websites like NerdWallet are a great resource for all things personal finance.

Written by Melissa M. Marchetti ’20, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Smart Money Coach