Personal Finance for College Students

A realistic Personal Finance approach while you’re still in college…

I realized that most of my posts target the younger professionals. However starting your personal finance mindset in college (or even younger!) could change the course of your life! Being financially savvy at an earlier age can save you years of heartache and eliminate a future timeline where you’re giving away free money in the form of interest payments. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be able to get through life, debt-free.

So how can college students get smart about Personal Finance?

I’m going to go over some strategies college students should definitely consider, some of which are only exclusively available to you if you’re in college!

Personal Finance For College Students Guide

1. Sign up for free college student accounts

This should be the fundamental step in your personal finance career. Most banks offer free checking and savings accounts for college students. Set one up if you don’t have it yet and store your money here to start earning nominal interest.

2. Sign up for a free college student credit card

Yes that’s right. This could be the dance with the devil. As long as you’re smart about your spendings, signing up for a credit card in college will give you a jump start on building credit for that future down car or house. Good credit takes years to build so might as well start in college because that’s four years you’ll be adding to your credit history.

There are a number of great credit cards out there for college students with $0 annual fees and low interest (but as long as you’re paying off your monthly statements, interest % should not matter!)

There is a list of great credit cards for college students on NerdWallet. I’d recommend the Journey Student rewards from CapitalOne. It provides 1% cash back (which is what most PFers use daily) as well as an extra 0.25% if you make your monthly payments on time, a whooping 1.25% total!

3. Free Money!


It takes 30 minutes but it can reward you with thousands of dollars in free money! If FAFSA grants you $1000 for college, we can break that down to: 30 Minutes -> $1000 thus earning you an effective “wage” of $2000 per hour! Okay it’s a hyperbolic comparison to working but it puts things in perspective.

4. Look for deals

Restaurants in college towns often have food specials. If you’re looking to eat out with your friends, take advantage of these deals. Usually your bookstore or a local town newspaper will list their deals. For example, at my school, Ihop had 50% off Tuesdays after 5pm on your entire check. Buffalo Wild Wings also had $0.25 wings on Tuesdays.

5. Need a part-time job? Consider university work

Working part-time for your school will give you more benefits than extra income. Often schools will supplement your income with free tuition credits or even room and board. Teaching assistants give you the opportunity to work closely with a professor as well as assisting students.

Also if you live in a dorm, consider being a residential advisor (or residential administrator). Since you’re living in the dorm anyways, you could take advantage of getting paid for a couple extra hours of work per week as well as earning a personal dorm room all to yourself.

Additionally, if you are working part time, you can start contributing to your Roth IRA. And get that head start on financial independence.

College is Timeless

One last thing, although personal finance is a very important aspect in life, don’t let it anchor you down. Sure saving money is a great idea and everyone wants to pay down those loans as much as possible. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying the best years of your youth. You’ll have the rest of your life to pay off the student loans but only four years to make ever lasting memories as a college student. Take advantage of that first.

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