Having Cash on Campus: Student Finances While Attending School

Young man college student celebrating his smart savings and student finances.

Managing student finances during your college years can be challenging, but it’s also essential. Establishing financial stability while in school is not only about making ends meet, but also setting the foundation for a secure future. Here are ten key strategies to work towards and maintain financial stability while on campus.


  1. Create a Realistic Budget:  Start by writing down your income sources and fixed expenses. Be realistic about your spending habits, including both necessities and discretionary items. Don’t forget to plan for expenses that come up less frequently, like school books, vehicle registration, and holiday gifts. A well-structured budget is one of the most fundamental elements of financial stability.
  2. Emergency Fund Essentials:  Life is unpredictable and emergencies can arise when least expected. Establishing an emergency fund, even if it starts with small contributions, provides a financial safety net for unexpected expenses like medical bills or sudden car repairs. Start with a small, attainable goal like $500 or $1,000, and slowly raise your goal until you have at least 3 months of expenses saved.
  3. Part-Time Employment:  Consider part-time employment opportunities on or near campus. Many colleges offer work-study programs that allow you to earn money while gaining valuable experience. Balancing work and academics is crucial, so choose opportunities that provide flexible scheduling. Having a source of income – even if it can be irregular – can provide your student finances with the flexibility they need.
  4. Explore Financial Aid Options:  You have likely filled out your FAFSA and have been able to take advantage of potential grants and student loans. You can also research and apply for scholarships that match your qualifications. Not sure where to look? Try the financial aid office at your college or career school, the U.S. Department of Labor has a free scholarship search tool, religious and community organizations, and even your local credit union can offer scholarship opportunities.
  5. Live Within Your Means:  Resisting the temptation to live beyond your means is essential for financial stability as a college student. Avoid accumulating unnecessary debt and focus on making informed financial decisions that align with your student finances and long-term goals.
  6. Utilize Campus Resources:  Colleges often provide resources to support students in financial matters. From financial aid offices to budgeting workshops, take advantage of these services to enhance your financial literacy and get personalized advice.
  7. Smart Saving Strategies:  Explore opportunities to save money, such as purchasing used textbooks, cooking meals at home, and taking advantage of student discounts. Small savings accumulate over time and contribute to the overall stability of your student finances.
  8. Credit Card Awareness:  If you choose to have a credit card, use it responsibly. Pay attention to interest rates, avoid accumulating high balances, and make timely payments. Instead of paying your credit card bill once per month, consider paying it at the end of every week. This can help keep you accountable and reduce the chances of accumulating high balances that are difficult to pay off. A credit card can be a helpful tool for building credit when managed wisely.
  9. Plan for the Future:  Start thinking about your financial future early on. Consider opening a savings account, explore investment options, and think about long-term financial goals. Building good financial habits around your student finances sets the stage for a more secure future.
  10. Seek Financial Guidance:  Don’t hesitate to seek advice from financial advisors or mentors. They can provide valuable insights, helping you make informed decisions and navigate the complexities of personal finance.


Achieving financial stability as a college student is a proactive and ongoing process. By applying these strategies to your student finances, you can lay the groundwork for a stable and resilient financial future, ensuring that your focus remains on academic success rather than money stress.


As always, if you have questions or would like to discuss your unique situation, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Nichole M. Coyle, CFP®, CSLP®

Financial Planner

20333 Emerald Pkwy

Cleveland, OH 44135

216.621.4644 x1607



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