News & Updates

How To Manage Your Finances in College

August 31, 2018 | Return to News & Updates


As students head to college, it would be in their best interest to learn a few tips on money management and be aware of the financing and loan structures of the college industry.

Between paying for college tuition, covering the cost of room and board and participating in social activities, managing money as a college student can seem like a challenge.

 Too many times, young students go to college without having any idea how they are going forward with paying for their college expenses. In addition, a study from Ohio State on current college students shows that 7 out of 10 students feel stressed about their finances.

“The findings suggest that the pressures of student loan debt and finding ways to make ends meet are weighing on America’s college students,” said Anne McDaniel, co-author of the study.

There is good news. County National Bank is going to give you 10 tips on how to break down your college finances and manage them with a breeze.


  1. Create a Budget. This is a great place to start. List your monthly income sources, including your savings, paychecks, and parental support. Next, figure out your monthly expenses. This includes school supplies, food outside of your meal plan, personal items, social spending and laundry. Then, try managing your budget and tracking expenses using checks and balances or online finance management tools like Mint.com to help you stick to your budget.
  2. Distinguish Wants from Needs. Here you will need to figure out what is a necessity and what is a luxury. Ask yourself, is $50 a week for going out to eat with friends a “need” or a “want?” After a few months on campus it gets easier to separate wants from needs and then put a plan into action. A good way to do this is get out a set a weekly cash allowance. Then when the cash from the allowance is gone, wait until next week for more “wants.”
  3. Take Advantage of Free Activities and Student Discounts. Most colleges offer a variety of free entertainment and services to students that get overlooked. These things could include free movie events, plays, sporting events, recreational facilities, counseling services, registered student organizations, printing, and much more. These activities not only save you money but they will also enhance your entire college experience. Also, many online services such as Amazon, Spotify, and Apple offer a variety of discounts to students. Local restaurants and movie theatres do this as well.
  4. Find a Bank that Works with Your College Situation (like CNB). Banks usually cater to college students by offering a variety of services that are tailored to college spending habits. These services could include free checking and savings accounts that allow students to avoid fees on withdrawal and/or transfer fees. Look around to find a bank with convenient ATMs around campus to avoid ATM withdrawal fees. Also, be sure to take advantage of online banking at your institution. This makes it easy to check your account, make payments and deposit checks at the touch of a button.
  5. Use, Don’t Abuse, Credit Cards.  In 2015, it was found in a study by Sallie Mae that 56% of college students had a credit card in their name. Credit is important for future purchases, so use it responsibly. College is a great time to start building credit, but having a credit card may encourage overspending if not responsibly monitored. It is very important to understand the difference between credit building and using a credit card recklessly.
  6. Do Your Homework on Loans and Financial Aid. In college, you should research the different kinds of loans that are offered and decide which one makes the most sense for your situation. Subsidized federal loans with low interest rates are one thing but high-interest private loans are a different story. Be sure to compare interest rates of all of the different loans so that way you know you are making an educated decision when it comes to using loans. It is critical to understand the college financial industry and come up with a game-plan for your financial aid in college. After college, graduates often have a difficult time balancing the looming and ever-growing student loan payments. Research is necessary to understand the exact size of your student loan debt upon graduation and then coming up with a practical plan on how you will pay it back.
  7. Shop Smart for Textbooks and Other Recurring Expenses. Textbooks are one of the top college expenses for students. Some textbooks can be upwards of $200 each. The College Board estimates that the average student pays around $1,200 a year on books and supplies. A good way to escape these costs is to shop around for used books on websites such as chegg.com and Amazon or buy online versions of the textbook.
  8. Ditch Your Car, Use Public Transportation. Many colleges provide college transportation to get you to and from class and even to the local grocery store. This allows you to save money on the ever-expensive parking pass, car insurance, and gas. Ditching your car, especially as a freshman, allows you to get to know people and share experiences. Who knows, they may share their money saving hacks with you!
  9. Take the Maximum Amount of Classes to Minimize Time in College. The biggest money saving tip for college student is to get serious about classes ASAP. The faster you get through your required classes, the less expensive your education will be in the long run. Tuition might depend on the number of classes you take, but the additional costs charged per semester such as room and board and social spending adds up very quickly.
  10. Don’t Take Out More Student Loans Than You Need. If you create a budget based on tuition expenses, textbook costs, room and board, and social savings and then factor in scholarships, parental support, and income then you should be able to get a good idea about how much additional help you will need per semester. The biggest mistake college students make is taking out more in loans than they need. Be smart in your financial planning now because taking out more loans than needed just results in higher student loan payments down the road.    


The bottom line is, college can be expensive, but learning the basics when it comes to money management in college means that you don’t have to graduate with a scary amount of  debt. If you lay the groundwork for smart budgeting and spending in college, it will enable you to handle your money responsibility and learn the value of managing your finances.