How To Plan Your Budget And Spend Less Money As A College Student

Written by Steve Paul

It’s no doubt that college is expensive. Besides the amount you pay for tuition, housing, commuting, meal plans there are a dozen fixed and variable expenses you and your family will have to pay for out-of-pocket.

A recent study found that 43% of students don’t track their spending while 58% said they aren’t saving money each month. Based on these figures, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 7 out of 10 students are stressed about their finances.

“Don’t save what is left after spending; spend what is left after saving.”

What this article will cover?

At the end of an occupied day filled with classes, group projects, and exams, setting budgetary goals and managing expenses may seem like the last thing you want to do, but developing good habits early pays off in the long run.

You obviously won’t realize it now but personal expenses can become a huge burden if you and your parents don’t have a plan and talk it out before you head off to college.

This article will cover a few tips on how to budget your money throughout college and spend less as a student so you guys never run into that situation.

#1. Planning A Simple & Effective Budget

Plan Ahead

Whether it’s an education loan, a part-time job or you receive money from your parents, it is important to consider the amount of money you receive in a semester.

Divide the amount by your semester duration, to get a better perspective on how much you can spend each month.

· Start small by planning monthly budgets and focus on one semester at a time.

· It’s easy to draft a budget but challenging for college students to stick to it.

· A few recommended budgeting apps in 2020 for everyone Click Here

Needs Vs Wants

Needs are recurring expenses such as housing and utility bills that are likely to eat up a large chunk of your money, whereas wants are things you buy for fun and leisure.

· Identify, Categorize, and Determine your Wants & Needs. Some of the things you’ve indicated as needs might be wants.

· Trim Spending on needs: You can always shop around for a better rate on your phone plan, insurance, and even affordable housing.

· Trim Spending on wants: Limit the number of times you dine out or go for movies.

Start Saving

College students might find it challenging but it is advised to follow a 50-30-20 rule, where 50% of your money is spent on necessities, 30% on financial goals and 20% on savings.

Additionally, saving money can help you avoid student debt, pay for large purchases, reduce financial stress and provide a greater sense of financial freedom.

· Anticipate expenses and save for the unexpected such as health issues, household repairs or things that may catch you by surprise.

#2. Paid Certifications For Free

Certified courses help students showcase their competency, commitment to the profession, build expertise in a particular subject and helps with job advancement.

There are tons of websites that offer courses for free with a small cost for the certificate, some offer free certifications, but not all are valued by employers.

Moreover, it’s the content of the course that holds value and paid courses on Coursera and LinkedIn Learning are definitely worth your time and money.


Coursera is an online platform to build skills with single and specialization courses from top universities like Michigan, Stanford and leading companies like Google and IBM.

Coursera has a Financial Aid option for students to access paid courses for free with certification (you will have to wait 15 days to get a response on your financial aid application)

Pro Tip: You can complete the entire course during the trial period and get your certificate and then cancel the subscription so that you don’t get charged. It works!!!

LinkedIn Learning

Everyone knows the value of having a good LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn Learning offers certified accredited courses taught by industry experts in software, creative and business skills.

· LinkedIn Learning offers a 30 days trial period. Similar to Coursera you can complete your course, get the certificate and cancel your subscription in the trial phase to avoid getting billed.

Pro Tip: Once you complete a course on LinkedIn Learning, you can easily allow your certification to reflect on your LinkedIn profile.

#3. Explore Your College Amenities

Explore everything your college provides whether it’s your college library, gym facilities or various societies and clubs.

College Facilities

· Campus gym memberships might be feasible when compared to private gym memberships.

· Make the most of your library card or find used books for half the price at book stores.

Pro Tip: Sci-Hub is a website that provides free access to millions of research papers and books, without regard to copyright.

Student Concessions

· Whether it’s railway or bus transportation, almost every college provides special concessions for students.

Workshops / Events

· Other than the learning curve and networking opportunities, you should attend events for free food and freebies.

#4. Look For Alternatives

Expensive doesn’t always mean better. For college students on a budget, researching for substitutes is the key.

Generic Products

· This is self-explanatory. Avoid brand names and choose the cheaper generic options whether it’s food, medicine, toiletries, or household products.

New Releases

· Why spend 200-500 bucks on a movie when you can wait for few weeks till it releases on OTT platforms.

Pro Tip: Make use of Filmy Pass, go for early morning shows and redeem your card points. I’ve done the math and you can watch movies for as low as 30 bucks.

Minimize Subscriptions

· While subscribing to Amazon Pantry for recurring household purchases can save you money, it’s not necessary to subscribe to all OTT platforms.

· Several free websites and apps let you stream movies and tv shows. While torrents aren’t legal, VPN is legal in most countries.

Pro Tip: I cannot stress enough but make the most of free trials.

Free Software

· Being a college student, many tasks require specific software which could sometimes be on the expensive side.

· Here are a few recommended free software alternatives for expensive paid ones.

#5. Other Student Benefits

Carry your student card at all times and always ask for student discounts. You will be surprised by the fact that there are several deals, offers and student discounts on traveling, food hubs and outdoor activities.

Laptop Deals

· Other than the usual discounts, there are special deals for students. Dell offers Student Advantage Plan, Apple has special 100 USD discounts for students- you get the gist.


· Don’t be in a hurry to hit the ‘Buy Now’ button. Spend a few minutes to search for coupons to crack good deals.

Pro Tip: Honey is a one-click free browser extension that unlocks the best online deals.

Wrapping Up…

You don’t need to attend every concert, or have those latest gadgets, designer clothes to make your college life memorable. Minimize the money you spend on alcohol and quit those smoking habits.

When you value money and learn the importance of budgeting, you start focusing on the bigger picture i.e Memories and Experiences.

Research before spending on anything and don’t be lazy to look for alternatives. Exploring is key when it comes to saving money and it’s just one click away.

Spread the word if you found this article helpful.

“If you buy things you don’t need, soon you will have to sell the things you do need.”


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