3 Financial Tips & 1 Tax Tip for College Students

The start of a new school year is always an optimistic time for me. I remember being excited about the new classes and overly motivated to organize and be prepared. That motivation usually lapsed by October, but you get the drift.

One thing I never gave a lot of thought about was my finances in college. I naively just thought it would work itself out, and lucky for me, it did. However, part of that working itself out included student loans that had to be paid back. With that in mind, here are some tips to consider so you can be more financially organized than I was.

Create a budget

A college student writing in a journal.
Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash

The first tip is to create a budget (and stick to it) because this is most likely the first time you’ve had to complete this task. This budget can be as simple or complex as you need. However, you need to know how much you can spend over the course semester. I like to break this amount down by month, and then by week.

 

Learn how to spend money on food

nadine-primeau--bLkT8wGV0I-unsplash
Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

This might seem silly, but as a college student one of your biggest expenditure can end up being food if you’re not careful.  My first advice, if you’re on a meal plan at a dorm or cafeteria, use it as much as possible. You’re presumably already paying for this food so eat it up! Seriously, make it a habit to think of this meal plan as your primary source of food and don’t waste money going out to eat when you could eat using this meal plan.

If you don’t have a meal plan, learn to cook if you have a kitchen. Cooking your own food or sharing the cost of groceries and cooking with roommates is the most economical and healthy way to nourish body.

 

Recycle and Reuse as much as possible

A college studio apartment.
Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Trying to use as little money as possible while you’re a student is the goal here. You’re going to need a lot of “things” going off to college and you might be able to get hand-me-downs from friends and neighbors. The cost for things like old couches and chairs, kitchen utensils  and even decorations for your room can add it fast. See if you have extra items lying around your house or your grandparents houses. It might not be shiny and new but it will get you through and save you money. Plus, you’re living in a time when retro is cool so don’t spend money on something designed to look like it’s 30 years old – get an original from your family and friends!

OK, you have my financial tips and hopefully these will help get you school year off on solid financial ground. I plan to write-up additional posts on each of these tips in more detail so comment below or send me a message if you have any ideas you want me to include.

Tax Tip for the College Student

Working with ride shares and other gigs can create taxable income.
Working with ride shares and other gigs can create taxable income.

It’s really hard to narrow this to one tip because there are SO MANY. I forced myself to pick just one so I could highlight what I think is the most important one. Here is it: don’t forget the anything in the sharing economy creates taxable income so you’ll have to pay tax on this income. There are so many options to moonlight for extra money and pick up a few gigs here and there to help cover your expenses. One thing frequently forgotten is that these are all sources of taxable income.

In my day you pretty much had to get a job to earn money, and getting a job meant your employer withheld your taxes from your paychecks. In your case, the line between job and freelancer is blurred and you might have to save a little of each income source to cover your taxes.

This tax tip could be a whole post (or series of posts) but hopefully it’s enough to make you aware of the situation so you can prepare yourself to be financially responsible.

Like I mentioned above, I’d love to read your comments or questions so I can expand on each of these tips. Please feel free to give me your feedback. In the meantime, get back to studying!