Smart Money Tips for Students: Financially Planning for your Bachelor’s Degree

  • Find a bachelor's degree

    Bachelors Degree Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Going to col­lege is an excit­ing time in your life. But when you dip your toes in the water of adult­hood, you’ve got to be able to sink or swim finan­cial­ly. Whether you’re a high school senior prepar­ing for the leap, or a cur­rent col­lege stu­dent seek­ing savvy strate­gies, mas­ter­ing mon­ey man­age­ment is key to your suc­cess. The truth is: finan­cial plan­ning for bach­e­lor’s degree stu­dents should be a top priority. 

For any par­ents won­der­ing how to pre­pare their col­lege-bound kids for finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty — imag­ine if you had a guide like this when you first stepped onto cam­pus. I cer­tain­ly wish I did. 

Twen­ty-five years ago, as a first-gen­er­a­tion col­lege stu­dent, I faced a lot finan­cial chal­lenges. Fig­ur­ing out how to finance my edu­ca­tion was scary, to say the least. Back then, resources and guid­ance were scarce. I often found myself grap­pling with the uncer­tain­ties of bud­get­ing, man­ag­ing stu­dent loans, and secur­ing finan­cial aid. 

When I look back on those years, I remem­ber how impor­tant it is for stu­dents to have the knowl­edge and tools they need to thrive in today’s col­lege. That means being able to focus on your stud­ies with­out con­stant­ly wor­ry­ing about mon­ey. I under­stand first­hand the dif­fer­ence that prac­ti­cal advice and sup­port can make in shap­ing the tra­jec­to­ry of one’s edu­ca­tion­al jour­ney. With these insights on finan­cial plan­ning for bach­e­lor’s degree stu­dents, I aim to empow­er you to nav­i­gate the finan­cial aspects of col­lege life with con­fi­dence and clarity.

Relat­ed Resources:

Work­ing While Study­ing: Bal­anc­ing Part-Time Jobs with Bachelor’s Programs

Schol­ar­ships For Bachelor’s Pro­grams: An Easy Guide for Students

First pub­lished in March 2024. All data was accu­rate at time of pub­li­ca­tion. Bach­e­lor’s Degree Cen­ter arti­cles are for infor­ma­tion pur­pos­es only and are not pro­fes­sion­al finan­cial advice.

Budgeting Tips for College Students

Col­lege is an amaz­ing time, but mon­ey wor­ries can hold you back from hav­ing the best expe­ri­ence. This guide on n finan­cial plan­ning for bach­e­lor’s degree stu­dents will show you how to be a col­lege cash whiz! We’ll cov­er how to track your spend­ing so you know where your mon­ey goes. Then, we’ll walk you through cre­at­ing a bud­get to make sure you have enough for every­thing you need. There are even cool apps that can help you man­age your mon­ey! Final­ly, we’ll share some tips for sav­ing mon­ey, because every dol­lar counts in col­lege. By fol­low­ing these steps, you’ll be a mon­ey mas­ter and can focus on enjoy­ing all that col­lege has to offer!

Track Your Spending:

Col­lege can be expen­sive! Keep a list of every­thing you spend mon­ey on, like books, food, get­ting around, and fun stuff. This will help you see where your mon­ey goes. When I was in col­lege, I did­n’t track my spend­ing, and I often ran out of cash by the end of the month!

Bud­get­ing is Key:

Make a month­ly bud­get based on your income (job, allowance, schol­ar­ships). Include essen­tials like tuition, rent, and gro­ceries. Leave room for sav­ings and some fun mon­ey too! This helps you avoid stress and pay for every­thing with­out need­ing too many loans or cred­it cards.

Bud­get­ing Apps Help:

There are apps like Mint or Pock­et­Guard that can help you track spend­ing, set goals, and even give you tips! These weren’t around when I went to col­lege, but they’re super help­ful for stu­dents today. They show you your finances in real-time.

Be Fru­gal!

Save mon­ey by buy­ing used books, cook­ing at home, and using stu­dent dis­counts. Every lit­tle bit counts! As a first-gen­er­a­tion col­lege stu­dent, I learned to stretch every dol­lar. Being fru­gal helped me make the most of my mon­ey and stay on track financially.

average expenses to help with financial planning for bachelor's degree

Managing Student Loans Responsibly

Don’t be afraid of stu­dent loans. Just be smart. Stu­dent loans can help you pay for col­lege, but it’s impor­tant to be smart about them. Here’s how:

  • Exhaust free mon­ey first: Apply for schol­ar­ships, grants, and work-study pro­grams before tak­ing out loans. This will min­i­mize your debt burden.
  • Fed­er­al loans are best: If you do need loans, choose fed­er­al loans. They typ­i­cal­ly have low­er inter­est rates and bet­ter repay­ment options. I did­n’t know this when I was in col­lege, and I relied heav­i­ly on loans I did­n’t ful­ly under­stand. Bor­row wisely!
  • Know your loan terms: Under­stand things like repay­ment plans, grace peri­ods, and defer­ment options before you bor­row. Ask ques­tions if any­thing is unclear! Not know­ing this stuff can cost you mon­ey later.
  • Pay on time, every time: Make your loan pay­ments on time to avoid late fees and hurt­ing your cred­it score. You can even set up auto­mat­ic pay­ments for peace of mind. Like me, you might feel over­whelmed by loans after grad­u­a­tion. Mak­ing on-time pay­ments is key to build­ing good cred­it and sav­ing money.
  • Get help if you need it: There are plans to help you repay loans if you’re strug­gling. Talk to your loan ser­vicer or finan­cial aid office if you need assis­tance. You don’t have to go through this alone!

Finding Financial Aid Resources

Col­lege can be expen­sive, but being finan­cial­ly smart isn’t just about tight­en­ing your belt! There’s a ton of “free mon­ey” out there in the form of schol­ar­ships and grants that can seri­ous­ly light­en your finan­cial load. Under­stand­ing finan­cial aid is a huge help when it comes to finan­cial plan­ning for bach­e­lor’s degree students.

  • Schol­ar­ship Hunt: Look for schol­ar­ships from your school, local groups, and online data­bas­es. Schol­ar­ships are basi­cal­ly free mon­ey that can save you big on col­lege costs. When I was in col­lege, com­ing from a poor fam­i­ly, the only way I was able to make it was by apply­ing to every schol­ar­ship I could. But back then, I had to ask around and real­ly research. The infor­ma­tion wasn’t all online. You kids have it easy! Don’t miss out – active­ly search for them!
  • Fill Out the FAFSA: The FAFSA is your key to fed­er­al grants, loans, and work-study pro­grams. Fill it out care­ful­ly and on time to get the most aid you qual­i­fy for. The FAFSA can unlock finan­cial help you might not have known about. Use this free mon­ey to pay for your education!
  • Ask Your School’s Finan­cial Aid Office: They can help you apply for aid, under­stand your award let­ter, and find oth­er fund­ing options. As a first-gen­er­a­tion stu­dent, finan­cial aid was con­fus­ing, and I was often embar­rassed to admit I didn’t know what I was doing and ask for help. But there are lots of won­der­ful peo­ple work­ing in every col­lege finan­cial aid office. They’re there to help you! Don’t be shy – ask the experts!
  • Look Beyond Your School: There are schol­ar­ships from pri­vate com­pa­nies, job pro­grams that pay for col­lege, and even com­mu­ni­ty grants. Don’t lim­it your­self to what your school offers. Explore all your options to get the most mon­ey possible!

Mas­ter­ing mon­ey man­age­ment is a vital skill that will serve you well beyond your col­lege years. By imple­ment­ing bud­get­ing tips, man­ag­ing stu­dent loans respon­si­bly, and tap­ping into finan­cial aid resources, you can pave the way for a finan­cial­ly secure aca­d­e­m­ic journey. 

Remem­ber, every smart mon­ey move you make con­tributes to your long-term suc­cess and finan­cial well-being. Start build­ing your finan­cial foun­da­tion today and embark on your path to a brighter future. 

As a first-gen­er­a­tion col­lege stu­dent, I under­stand the chal­lenges you may face, but I also know the trans­for­ma­tive pow­er of edu­ca­tion. With the right finan­cial strate­gies in place, you can over­come obsta­cles and achieve your aca­d­e­m­ic and career goals.


How do col­lege stu­dents man­age mon­ey?

Col­lege stu­dents man­age mon­ey by:
Track­ing spend­ing: Know­ing where their mon­ey goes (food, books, fun).
Cre­at­ing a bud­get: Set­ting aside mon­ey for needs (rent, tuition) and wants.
Find­ing free mon­ey: Look­ing for schol­ar­ships and grants to cov­er costs.
Bor­row­ing wise­ly: Only tak­ing out loans they absolute­ly need.
Work­ing part-time: Earn­ing mon­ey to help pay for expens­es.
Being fru­gal: Sav­ing mon­ey by cook­ing at home, buy­ing used books, etc.
By fol­low­ing these tips, col­lege stu­dents can man­age their mon­ey well and avoid debt!

How much mon­ey does the aver­age col­lege stu­dent have in their bank account?

Some stud­ies say around 1 in 3 col­lege stu­dents have less than $1,000 saved up.
It’s tough to say exact­ly how much mon­ey the aver­age col­lege stu­dent has in their bank account. There’s a big range depend­ing on things like:
Schol­ar­ships and grants: Some stu­dents have finan­cial aid that helps cov­er costs, leav­ing them with more spend­ing mon­ey.
Jobs: Stu­dents who work part-time will nat­u­ral­ly have more mon­ey com­ing in.
Liv­ing sit­u­a­tion: Liv­ing at home vs. on cam­pus can affect expens­es.
Spend­ing habits: Some stu­dents are more fru­gal than oth­ers.
Because of these dif­fer­ences, the aver­age might not be very helpful. 

How much spend­ing mon­ey does a col­lege stu­dent need per month?

Here’s a rough idea:
Low: $200/month might cov­er basic needs for fru­gal stu­dents liv­ing at home.
Aver­age: $400/month is com­mon for stu­dents who eat out some­times and par­tic­i­pate in some activ­i­ties.
High: $600+/month or more might be need­ed for stu­dents liv­ing on cam­pus or in expen­sive cities with active social lives.
The key is to track your spend­ing and cre­ate a bud­get that works for you! Aim to spend less than you earn and avoid going into debt for every­day expens­es.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for how much spend­ing mon­ey a col­lege stu­dent needs. It depends on a few things:
Your bud­get: How much mon­ey do you have com­ing in each month (from allowances, jobs, schol­ar­ships)?
Your expens­es: How much do you spend on essen­tials like rent, food, and text­books?
Your lifestyle: Do you like to eat out a lot or go to movies?

What is a good month­ly bud­get for a col­lege stu­dent?

Here are some esti­mates to help you get start­ed (based on U.S. stud­ies):
Aver­age col­lege stu­dent expens­es: $1,500 per month (includ­ing rent, food, and oth­er costs)
Low-cost bud­get: $800 per month (for fru­gal stu­dents, often liv­ing at home)
High-cost bud­get: $2,500+ per month (for stu­dents in expen­sive cities or with active social lives)
Remem­ber, these are just esti­mates. The best way to cre­ate a good bud­get is to track your own spend­ing and see where your mon­ey goes.
By cre­at­ing a bud­get and stick­ing to it, you can man­age your mon­ey well in col­lege and avoid debt!

Can you live off stu­dent loans? Is it okay to live off stu­dent loans?

Yes, you can live off stu­dent loans. Lots of col­lege stu­dents have done it for decades. But is it a good idea? No. That’s why the aver­age fed­er­al stu­dent loan debt is $37,088. That’s also why so many peo­ple have been call­ing for stu­dent debt relief. 
You can tech­ni­cal­ly live off stu­dent loans, but it’s gen­er­al­ly not rec­om­mend­ed. Here’s why:
Debt bur­den: Stu­dent loans can add up quick­ly, leav­ing you with a lot of mon­ey to repay after grad­u­a­tion. This can make it hard to afford oth­er things you need, like rent, car pay­ments, or start­ing a fam­i­ly.
Stress­ful repay­ments: Large loans can lead to high month­ly pay­ments. If you don’t have a good-pay­ing job after grad­u­a­tion, keep­ing up with pay­ments can be stress­ful.
Lim­it­ed options: Rely­ing sole­ly on loans might not cov­er all your expens­es. You might have to cut back on things you enjoy or strug­gle to afford unex­pect­ed costs.
Some sit­u­a­tions might make stu­dent loans nec­es­sary:
High costs: If your col­lege is very expen­sive and you don’t have schol­ar­ships or grants, loans might help bridge the gap.
Liv­ing expens­es: Loans can cov­er rent, food, and oth­er liv­ing costs if you don’t have oth­er options.
Here’s the key: If you do take out loans, only bor­row what you absolute­ly need. Be sure you under­stand the repay­ment terms and inter­est rates before you sign any­thing.
Alter­na­tives to liv­ing off loans:
Schol­ar­ships and grants: Free mon­ey to help pay for col­lege.
Work-study pro­grams: Earn mon­ey while you learn.
Part-time job: Earn extra income to cov­er expens­es.
Liv­ing at home: Saves mon­ey on rent and food.
Bud­get­ing wise­ly: Track your spend­ing and find ways to save.
By explor­ing these options, you can min­i­mize your reliance on stu­dent loans and avoid a heavy debt bur­den after graduation.