Column: Financial tips for cash-strapped college students

Many students struggle to find a financial balance in during their college years. Photo Illustration by Ava Sanborn.

By Carson Lewis | Assistant Digital Managing Editor

It can be really hard to get an understanding of finances. If your high school was anything like mine, I never touched anything similar to a home economics class. I was lucky that I had several family members that were able to help me develop my own financial knowledge.

Thanks to them, I have three tips to help college students focus on managing their incomes and payments.

1. Focus on the long-term, and try to cut unnecessary costs.

A lot of the time, college students can get overly focused on the small things. Obsessing over the cost of everything you buy can get tiresome and can make you lose out on valuable experiences. My tip is to prioritize people over things. When you’re deciding between spending money on a brand-new phone or going on a spring break trip with your friends, choose your friends. A phone can be useful and in many cases you might need to replace it, but really try to have that internal conversation over what will do you well in the long term.

What will you remember of your college years? Try to make the most of this time, using your monetary blessings to make meaningful connections.

2. Regularly check your account summary, and utilize features from your bank.

When I got to college, I had a massive amount of things to think about. From scholarships to increased income and rent, it was quickly overwhelming. If you have a good relationship with your parents, and they’re willing to help, it doesn’t hurt to add them into your checking/savings account. That way, they can also offer tips and advice in managing your finances.

However, this might not work for everyone and may cause some problems if the relationship isn’t what it should be. That’s why students should always have an active role in their finances. Check in at least every week to make sure that everything looks right in the summary section, and make sure that credit card payments are going through without trouble.

Many banks have apps that can be installed on smartphones. They can help in a variety of ways, from safety alerts to weekly updates. It’s also important to monitor incoming direct deposits, whatever source they come from.

If students are holding down a job, they should check the amount paid out to them and make sure that it lines up with the expected value. Wage theft is a very real and serious problem in the U.S., and students should always be on the lookout for violations of their rights.

3. Take a deep breath, and realize that we’ve barely lived.

To be frank, most of my worries on a daily basis come from economic reasons. I’m always thinking about the rent that’s on the 1st, the current hours at my job and the all-overwhelming future. It can be really hard to calm down when thoughts of the next economic depression loom — especially in the age of COVID-19.

The one thing that brings me solace is the fact that I’m still young. I’ve got the world ahead of me, and if you’re my age, you do too. It can be scary — terrifying in fact — but we have no choice but to live in the moment.

Make thoughtful decisions, and don’t jump into big financial opportunities without carefully considering them. Talk with your parents and relatives or people you trust before undertaking any action that you’re worried about. Being young is great, but we can often lose the financial forest for the trees.