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7 Money Management Tips for Students

Written by Chanelle Garzon
Updated: June 12, 2024
13 min read
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of Pathward®.

As a former struggling student, I've gained firsthand experience in navigating financial challenges and am eager to share essential money management tips with you. I understand the difficulties of being careless with limited funds. With the little money I had, I didn't know how to manage my finances well enough to stretch longer than five days.

Living paycheck to paycheck with maxed-out credit cards, I accumulated a lot of credit card debt. There wasn't anyone to help guide me on building good financial habits. If there was anything I wish I had while in undergrad, it would be better money skills, so my goal is to pass on my knowledge to you and help guide you to a future of better money management and financial success!

One thing is for sure: the college experience is one of the greatest experiences of your life, but with healthy financial habits, it can be even greater. In this article, I will talk about what money management is, go over some banking basics, like the benefits of our new and upcoming Bold Visa® Debit Card, and discuss ways to maximize your money, as well as ways to avoid unexpected debt. I will also provide a list of money management tips for college students that you will be able to apply to your life outside of college.

If you're looking for ways to better your finances, head over to our Scholarship Blog and sign up for our Bold Debit Card. All you need is a free Bold profile to start! And while you're at it, check out some exclusive scholarships that can assist you with your college costs!

money management

What Is Money Management?

A key to financial success is having good money management skills. As a student, it's easy to ignore the power of saving money, especially when there is always an event, party, or occasion to go out and celebrate, so being able to balance your monthly expenses so you're able to enjoy yourself outside of the classroom is the real cheat code to good money management as a college student. But what exactly is money management? Let's talk about it.

Money management is the process of effectively managing and controlling your finances. It not only requires making informed decisions about budgeting, saving, and investing but also spending money wisely to achieve any and all financial goals you might have. And money management doesn't have to be daunting either.

You can create different ways to track expenses, create a budget, set financial priorities, reduce debt, and plan for the future. By practicing good money management, you can improve your financial well-being, build wealth, and make smart financial decisions for your future.

Apply for the Bold Debit Card today!

Creating a Realistic Budget

Creating a realistic budget is a key aspect of effective money management. It's not just centered on managing money and living restrictedly. It involves assessing your income and expenses to see how much money you have coming in and how much you are spending. A budget not only keeps you on track with your goals, but it will help you save money, as well.

Creating a realistic budget also means knowing yourself, your spending habits, and your lifestyle. One of the goals for creating a realistic budget is to allow you to save money while still staying true to your personal wants and means. That is, if your weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly income allows, I recommend setting aside some personal spending money for you to enjoy your life. While it's important to have savings goals, maintaining a good and realistic balance between saving and spending money is a way to avoid financial stress.

Don't Underestimate Student Discounts

Also, do not underestimate the power of student discounts! Student discounts can provide some major benefits for students on a budget by reducing costs, increasing affordability, and enhancing the overall student experience.

For instance, if you and a friend are in the mood for a night out, some restaurants in the surrounding area of your school may offer student discounts. Students should explore and take advantage of these discounts to make the most of their limited financial resources.

Please note: establishments that offer student discounts vary. Do some research in your area to scope out what places offer student discounts.

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7 Money Management Tips for College Students

Managing your money as a college student opens the path to a successful financial future. College life is already hectic enough; there's no need to add more stress by spending money unnecessarily on things like impulse purchases, expensive takeout, or simple wants vs essential needs.

And if there is one thing I needed as a college student, it was financial guidance. This is why I came up with a list of 7 money management tips for college students that can help you through your college years.

  1. Learn to cook and eat out less - with inflation hitting all markets, the cost of a simple, fast food meal can dig holes in your pockets, especially if you eat out every day. Learning how to cook can not only save you money but also promote wise spending habits. The money you spend on takeout can be spent at your local supermarket for meals that can last you the entire week!
  2. Prioritize Your Spending - When it comes to creating a budget, prioritizing your spending is crucial for financial success. By focusing on essential expenses like tuition, rent, groceries, and utilities, you cut out things that only drain your finances, like take out, shopping, partying, etc. Make sure your budget prioritizes your essential needs vs. your wants.
  3. Budget Wisely - I might have already said it, but budget, budget, budget. It is truly life-changing. Not only does budgeting help you manage your money wisely, but it also instills a sense of discipline you may not have had before. However, the key to budgeting is being realistic with your money plan. You want to make sure you create a financial blueprint that helps you reach your financial goals and allows you to enjoy your personal endeavors.
  4. Limit Credit Card Usage - Credit cards typically come with high-interest rates, so it's extremely important to use your credit cards wisely. This doesn't mean never use them, but I suggest using them as a last resort. And if/when you do use them, make sure you pay more than the minimum balance, if not in full, to avoid the interest once your billing cycle closes. And don't forget to look into our Bold Debit Card to help you get more bang for your buck!
  5. Seek a Part-Time Job or Gig - Looking for a part-time job or gig is also a smart way to manage your money. I know how difficult it can be to squeeze a job into an already full college schedule, but part-time jobs can be flexible and work around your school schedule. Not to mention, you'll be bringing in the money you need, especially remote jobs. So, before you exclude this option, do some research and see if you can make it work!
  6. Avoid Unnecessary Costs - One of the biggest ways to lose money is to spend it unnecessarily. You want to make sure your expenses are centered around what is important and needed. It's easy to get lost in weekend plans when it usually means weekend spending, so make sure you're managing the costs of your plans to ensure they align with your saving goals.
  7. Plan For the Future - Start saving early--I cannot stress this enough. Even if it's through small amounts here and there, everything counts. Opening a savings account may motivate you to start saving and contribute regularly. Also, explore scholarship options that are available to you. This can also help you manage your finances in the long run.
basic banking

Basic Banking Can Go a Long Way

A key component to creating a budget is having a bank that supports your financial goals. Aside from having a checking account, there are certain perks banks offer to college students that encourage them to save money and spend money wisely.

For instance, some banks offer students free checking/bank accounts with no monthly fees or interest charges, as well as online banking capability that allows students to check and keep track of their credit history. These benefits only help to push your financial situation forward in the right direction.

But what other ways can your bank offer you that can go a long way in terms of financial support? Let's talk about it.

Open a Savings Account

First things first, if you have a checking/bank account, you should definitely have a savings account. A savings account will allow you to set aside the money you're going to save for the week or month and adhere to your monthly budget. A savings account may also keep you on track to having a stable financial future. Not only will you see your money grow, but it will also help you create a savings plan you can stick to.

In my opinion, the key to keeping your savings account growing is acting as though the money isn't there. Once you've created your weekly or monthly budget, you're able to start setting aside the money you plan to save in your savings account.

The second you transfer the money into your savings, try to ignore that it's there. This money should solely be for rare and important occasions like emergencies, your future, or as a last resort. If you want to see your money grow, pretend it's not there. Before you know it, you'll have more money than you thought.

Direct Deposit

Bank accounts offer the ability to set up direct deposit, a secure electronic payment method that allows funds to be transferred directly into your bank account. Not only does it remove the need for physical checks, it provides a fast and convenient way to receive payments automatically.

With direct deposit, students can move their money to different accounts, like their savings and checking accounts, or split the deposit between multiple accounts. It is a great way to be flexible with managing finances.

Use of a Debit Card

Using your debit card for purchases also has its advantages for college students. It's easy to lose track of how much you're spending when you use cash, but debit card transactions are recorded in your bank account. Debit cards may make it easier to track your expenses and see where your money is going.

It also reduces the chances of you losing money, which is something no college student wants to experience. Imagine leaving your house with $100 and losing a portion of it throughout the night through misplacement or carelessness. Debit cards keep your money in one place, sparing you the stress of a financial loss.

The Bold Debit Card

Some debit cards also come with rewards, like the Bold Debit Card for college students. For every $2 spent on your Bold Debit Card, regardless of the category, students gain 1 Bold Point. Once you accumulate 1000 Bold Points, you can redeem them for either $10 cashback or $15 towards a student loan payment.*

This kind of debit card not only allows you to benefit from personal spending but also helps you track your spending in your dashboard so you can find ways to budget or view your Bold Points. Not to mention the uncompromising security features and ability to set up direct deposit. It can potentially help you avoid taking out student loans.


Setting Up and Maximizing Your Budget

Aside from bank benefits and debit card perks, setting up a budget will change your life! Let's take a look at some key points when it comes to setting up and maximizing your budget.

Track Your Spending

Tracking your daily, weekly, and monthly spending is a good way to maximize your budget. At the end of the month, you're able to see where you're spending money the most and find new ways to limit that kind of spending. It can also create some wiggle room for personal spending. For example, if at the end of the month, you have some money left over from your budget, you can take what you didn't use and treat yourself to something you want. The sky is the limit when you track your spending!

Lower Your Expenses

To maximize your budget, you have to lower your expenses. This doesn't mean you shouldn't spend money; it simply means spend money on your everyday needs vs unnecessary wants. This includes but is not limited to, buying groceries to make food at home vs. ordering takeout.

Not only can fast food drain your pockets, but it also promotes an unhealthy lifestyle. The same thing goes for unnecessary shopping sprees. You want to make sure your budget is centered around what you need, ultimately lowering your expenses.

Start Saving For the Future

Save, save, save! If you start saving now, you are only setting yourself up for great budgeting and managing. Whether it be a couple of bucks here and there or a set amount every paycheck, by saving money now, you are building your financial future. So, don't be afraid to throw pennies into your savings accounts. Every penny, nickel, dime, dollar, and quarter counts!

Use Credit Cards Wisely

Now, credit cards can be tricky because of the way they're set up. Unlike debit cards, you are obligated to pay back your credit cards at the end of each billing cycle, plus, depending on the card, potentially an additional high interest rate.

Using your credit cards wisely for certain occasions like rainy days or as a last resort will not only help you build your credit but also keep credit card usage to a minimum. Having a positive repayment history with your credit card can also help you in the future, so make sure your credit card spending is at a minimum to help you achieve financial success.

Ways to Grow Your Money

We know managing your money is key, but making your money grow is even better. With a hectic and packed college schedule, making money can be difficult at times, but I'm here to tell you it's not impossible. Here are some ways to help grow your money while in college without taking time away from your studies:

  • Start an emergency fund
  • Buy used textbooks (and sell ours when done)
  • Prioritize spending
  • Look into an investment account
  • Find a debit card with perks
  • Find a side hustle (i.e., tutoring, freelancing, food delivery, etc.)
  • Apply for scholarships
  • Take surveys
  • Create a blog
  • Find remote work

And many more! Luckily for students, technology brings accessibility to all of these money routes right to your phone. With some research and careful planning, you can start growing your money today.

Ways to Avoid Unexpected Debt

Now, though growing your money by saving is important, let's not forget how equally important debt is. Unexpected debt is something no one can foresee, but it can be something you can manage by being cautious of your spending. Take it from someone who didn't know a thing about debt: you don't want to find yourself living outside of your means and in a debt hole with high interest rates that can leave you drowning. So, here are some ways to avoid unexpected debt.

  • Use your debit card
  • Avoid using your credit card
  • (Again) budget wisely
  • Be realistic about your budget
  • Limit your subscriptions to streaming services
  • Cook at home
  • Utilize campus facilities (i.e., gym, libraries, entertainment events, etc.)
  • Plan out social outings
  • Review finances and financial statements regularly
  • Pay off credit cards in full (if possible; if not, pay more than the minimum amount)
  • Focus on essential needs vs. wants (i.e., more food for home, less takeout and shopping sprees)

Of course, these are just a few suggestions of many that can help you avoid debt. However, whichever route you take, make sure it aligns with your financial goals. As someone who has been there, my goal is to help steer you to a path of strong financial literacy and understanding so you don't learn the hard way when it comes to debt. Your college experience should be fun, exciting, and full of educational and personal growth. It shouldn't be the beginning of financial stress.

money management tips for students to try

Frequently Asked Questions About Money Management Tips for Students

How important is money management for college students?

Money management for students is extremely important not only for your college career but for the future, as well. Learning how to manage your money wisely will help instill financial discipline and keep you on track with your financial goals. And even though everyone's circumstances are different, we believe the earlier you learn money management, the better.

What are some ways to manage your money wisely?

Though there are plenty of ways to manage your money, starting with a realistic budget is a good way to go. Creating a realistic budget for yourself will allow you to save, as well as make room for you to enjoy personal wants like a night out with friends or something else you might like.

Prioritizing essential costs vs wants is another way to manage your money wisely. Making sure your costs are covering your everyday expenses, like tuition, food, textbooks, etc., will help keep you on track and avoid unnecessary costs.

Is it difficult to save money?

The idea that saving money is difficult is completely dependent on your spending habits. Without a realistic budget or proper money management, it can be very difficult to get ahead of overspending and on track with saving. But if you are focused on your money goals, saving money can become second nature, and you'll find yourself with a good financial foundation for both rainy and personal days and the future.

Looking for better ways to manage your money? Head over to our Scholarship Blog to learn more about finances and sign up for our Bold Debit Card. All you need is a profile. Check out our exclusive scholarships while you're here! Visa® Debit Card is a demand deposit account provided by Pathward®, N.A., Member FDIC. Visa Debit Card is issued by Pathward, N.A., Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. Card can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. Visa is a registered trademark of Visa U.S.A. Inc. All other trademarks and service marks belong to their respective owners. Register your Card for FDIC insurance eligibility and other protections.

*This product or service is independent of Pathward® and Visa and is neither endorsed nor sponsored by Pathward® or Visa.

†The features associated with the Bold Debit Card discussed in this blog post are provided by and are not affiliated with our Bank partners, Pathward®, or Visa.

Chanelle Garzon
Content Writer

About Chanelle

Chanelle is a dedicated and seasoned writer, editor, and researcher. She’s familiar with college admissions, finding and applying for scholarships, and the financial aid process.

She graduated from the University of South Florida with a major in English, Creative Writing with a specialization in Technical Writing.


Chanelle has over a decade of experience in the writing industry, specializing in blog writing, SEO writing, editing, translations, corporate writing, and various forms of creative writing. She founded and operated Femme Feature Magazine, an online and print publication dedicated to celebrating women in all corners of the creative field. An avid reader, Chanelle is constantly seeking refined and innovative ways to tell her stories. Writing is her foremost passion, and she is always on the lookout for her next narrative adventure.

Since joining the team as a Content Writer in 2023, Chanelle has brought her enthusiasm for merging the writing and digital worlds. She is dedicated to assisting students and young adults in navigating their educational and professional journeys.

Chanelle's unwavering commitment to her craft and her dedication to helping others shine through in her work. Leveraging her personal and professional experiences, she provides invaluable support to students, empowering them to achieve their goals and realize their potential.

Quote from Chanelle

“There is always a way to say the same thing over and over again. You just have to be creative and think outside the box.”

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