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Making Spending Money Last Longer in College

Making Spending Money Last Longer in College


Going to college is a whole new experience for most teenagers. It’s a whirlwind into adulthood and figuring it all out takes time! Something we feel is important to share with young adults getting ready to go to college is that you can still have a memorable college experience without spending a ton of money! It’s all about budgeting and being skillful in the way you choose to spend your money.

First things first – where are you getting your spending money?

Funding coming from your parents. If you’re getting or earning spending money for college with your parents' help – set expectations with them before going off to college. Never leave things ‘up in the air’ because they might consider one amount enough while you’re thinking a whole different number.

On your own by working on breaks or working during the semester. Having a job builds character, your resume, and it can build your bank account – you’ve worked hard for your money so spending it wisely will instill confidence.

Learning the difference between wants and needs is the next step in making your spending money last through the semester. This life-skill will also help you in the long run throughout your entire life. When you go to buy something, whether that be clothes, drinks, food or something else, ask yourself: do you truly need it or do you just really want it? Is there another option that will cost less?

Another way to make your spending money last longer is by tracking what you spend your money on and learn from where you’re spending the most. Keep track of receipts or look back in your account history. Where is most of your money going? Food, drinks, clothes? Evaluate and adjust.

College Activities:

We know college isn’t just about going to class and studying. When you’re bored and want something to do, consider free activities instead of doing things that cost money such as shopping or going out to eat. Here are some ideas to help save money:

  • Have a night in with your friends and make homemade pizzas.
  • Volunteer with a group of friends that is free and great to do for your community!
  • Join a school organization that won’t cost you money. Sororities and fraternities are often associated with fees so consider a club or group that you can later put on your resume but won’t cost you money.
  • Check out your school's beauty program to see if you can get your hair done by your peers – they need the practice and it’ll likely cost WAY less than a normal salon.
  • Look for free events if you do want to go out. There are often free concerts or other events happening in the community or on campus. Simply check your local or school event website.


For nearly all people, food is the category that we spend the majority of our money on. Groceries are expensive on their own, but when you look at how much you spend at restaurants and bars, it's crazy how quickly we can burn through a lot of cash. Here are some alternative ideas to help limit the amount of money you spend on food:

  • BREW YOUR OWN COFFEE! We said it. We love a Venti Mocha with 4 shots of Espresso just as much as the next person but purchasing your favorite drink every day will surely add up fast. Before you know it, you’ll be out of cash. Brewing your own coffee at home or in your dorm will save you a surprising amount of money. Get creative with it and try different flavors to make it more fun.
  • Cook your own food – it’s cheaper than ordering out. Or if you still want to go out with your friends, you can eat at home beforehand and still meet up with your friends later while not spending as much money at the restaurant.
  • If you do go out to eat, consider what specials the restaurant is offering or go during happy hour to save a few bucks. You might even consider splitting meals with friends.
  • Ditch bottled water and invest in a good reusable water bottle you can fill. You’ll save money by buying less, and help the planet.

College Life:

Figuring out other ways of saving money during your college stay can be critical to having enough money to make it through an entire semester or year of school. Here are some other tips and tricks we feel important to highlight for our college-aged members:

  • Pick up a side job so you can have a consistent income which will help your spending money last longer. Look for jobs on campus so you don’t have a long commute or have to pay for gas, such as your campus gym or library. You’ll want to look into these before school starts so you have a chance at applying before the jobs are filled.
  • Buy used books instead of new, or rent them!
  • Use your student discount whenever possible! You’d be surprised how many businesses or organizations have a discount for students.
  • Avoid overdraft fees by actually managing your money. Monitor your accounts with free mobile apps1 and understand how your accounts work so you don’t go negative or pay fees.

At the end of the day, it's your money, so you can do what you want with it. However, creating good, responsible money habits at a young age will likely help in future financial endeavors. Life only gets more expensive as you move to the next stage(s), so begin preparing for those next steps now!

For more recourses on budgeting check out these helpful tools:

Banzai | CSE’s Interactive Financial Education Program 

Creating a Budget | Banzai Interactive Coach 

How to Create A Budget Worksheet 

1. Data and other wireless carrier charges may apply.


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