The Broke College Kid Rulebook

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As a student in college, money — or the lack of it is definitely a hot topic. As funny as it might be to joke about being a “broke college student,” the reality of it isn’t fun at all.

College is a time where hundreds of new opportunities and experiences present themselves making it difficult to say “no,”which results in your bank account crying a little bit.

According to a 2019 LendEdu study, about 39 percent of Penn State students are fully paying their own way through college. The other 61 percent are receiving financial help from their parents.

Having to worry about your own expenses and bills is certainly an added stressor, but learning to manage them and budget yourself, especially at this point in your life, can provide you with so much relief.

Budgeting your spending or even putting a few dollars away from every paycheck can put an end to some questions. You won’t have to worry as much on whether or not you’re going to be able to pay your rent this month or if you have that extra $20 to get drinks with your friends.

Although you might run a tight budget in college, you still want to experience everything there is to offer without going completely broke.

Here are VALLEY’s five rules to help you become better with money.

1. Prioritize

It seems quite obvious that in order for you to pay for your expenses, you must have some type of savings or income. Whether it be a part-time job, summer savings or a parent’s help, budgeting whatever money you have coming in can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

It’s easy to feel like the richest person alive when you see that money slide into your bank account. This makes you feel like you can totally afford to go on a shopping binge or go out to eat with your friends three times this week.

While it’s great to treat yourself every once in a while, this method of thinking can leave you completely and utterly broke.

Prioritizing your expenses is something that seems so obvious, but many students don’t realize how essential it really is to have a healthy relationship with money.

Monthly expenses such as rent, utility bill, parking, a car payment and insurance should always come first as these are your fixed expenses — the expenses that cost the same amount each month.

Variable costs are expenses that are within your control. Think groceries, gas, eating out and clothing shopping. The amount of each of these costs can be adjusted to fit your weekly/monthly budget.

Savings expenses are the expenses in which you are expecting to have to pay sometime in the future like student loans, car maintenance or gifts. Your savings are not meant to be touched until expenses such as those listed above come up.

2. Get a Credit Card

Getting a credit card in college is your first step to building your credit score, and as crazy as it sounds, can affect your future financial situation.

Many credit card companies like Discover and Capital One offer student cards, which are intended for college students who are new to credit and offer free annual fees, rewards on purchases and even cash back for good grades.

When using a credit card, it’s important to remember that it isn’t “free money” for you to use and will eventually have to pay back. Making sure you always have the amount you’re about to spend on your credit card backed by your actual bank account is key for not allowing yourself to drown in debt.

A great way to utilize a credit card in college is to only use it for certain expenses like your groceries or gas, which will give you cash back rewards that will save you a couple of dollars and build up your credit simultaneously.

3. Use Coupons

You don’t need to be qualified for TLC’s Extreme Couponing to use couponing to your advantage. Of course, there are still in-ad coupons you can use but the internet is also filled with tons of discount codes that can save you money.

If you’re not looking to spend hours online just to find expired discount codes, try using Honey, an in-browser extension that goes through tons of coupon codes until it finds you one with the best savings.

Rakuten is another in-browser extension that saves you money when making a purchase online. This extension will ask if you want to activate a certain percentage of cashback rewards and once your purchase goes through, they’ll send a check.

Another great way to save money as a college student is to use your status to your advantage. There are tons of companies like Spotify and Amazon that will give you a discount and perks from just using your student ID, email or uploading your schedule.

4. Use Cash for Fun

It can be so easy to just swipe whichever card you have handy without thinking about the consequences until later on, but using cash when you want to go out and have fun is a way to eliminate this problem.

If you commit to withdrawing a certain amount of cash every two weeks and use this solely for going out or treating yourself then cut yourself off when it’s gone, you will become much more aware of what you are spending. This, in turn, will help you make much better financial decisions.

It’s also a good idea to save all of your spare change as well as it undoubtedly adds up!

5. Use an App to Help You Budget

Using an app can make managing your personal finances that much easier and can take a huge weight off your shoulders. These apps can track where exactly you’re spending your money and saves you time and energy while concurrently making you better with your money.

Mint is a popular budgeting app that safely links to your bank account and automatically tracks your spending. Within the app, you can create specific budgets for every aspect of your finances, even your coffee addiction will be accounted for. It also has a feature that allows you to see your total credit card balance compared to the money you have in your bank account, so you’re never spending money you don’t have.

Mint also has a feature that your bills and payments, and as a college student, this can be difficult with all the other deadlines you have to remember. It even allows you to directly pay your bills within the app, so you’ll never have to worry about a late fee.

LearnVest is another budgeting app that files your purchases into different categories like groceries, rent, ATM withdrawals and more. It also has a feature where you are able to set a budget for each folder as well.

College is a time to learn about every aspect of adulthood and unfortunately, that means your personal finances too, but it can become much easier with these tips and tricks!

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