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Financial Advice for New College Student


I’m Anna, I’m heading off to college in a month and realized I haven’t addressed . My parents have always just handed me money whenever I ask for it and when I’m not paying attention, I find myself justifying indulgences (ie buying a diet soda when free water is available or buying the imported yogurt that costs twice as much as a pretty comparable brand) based on emotion. I’ve also never had to fill out tax forms, any of the legal documentation, or deal with banks. Obviously, my parents won’t be there to hand out cash or fill out my forms (although they’re trying to help me do as little as possible).

I know and am trying some basics like setting a budget, tracking expenses, creating set shopping lists to prevent mindless spending etc, but do any of you guys have other, more unconventional tips/hacks that come from experience?

Also, any other college life advice is welcome.

Learn a trade or marry a rich man.

Where will your money come from when you are off to college? Parent, part time job.
Get a basic bank account, put money in it. See how much stuff really cost. No name stuff is no so bad when you spend your own money.

My parents will give me spending money. For the first year, I’m thinking a budget of $50 a month since my meals are covered and books, housing, wifi etc is accounted for in the tuition.

I’ll also look for an on-campus job for extra spending money.

Student here. I’ve been at it a few years now.

Budgeting is probably a good idea though I just generally keep track of my spending.

I get weird satisfaction from buying stuff on sale so I always go by the sale/marked down section and walk around looking for on sale stickers. Like today I got 60% off chicken kebabs and that’ll do me for two days just by itself.

I don’t buy much in the way of snacks at all so save a decent chunk of money there. Still all the main meal stuff I buy on sale is stuff I really enjoying eating. I guess if I was even more strapped for cash I could budget harder but I wanna enjoy my foods. My food is yum and supports my training so is all good

I’ve invested in a rice cooker and a bulk bag of rice. Water is covered in my rent and for only like 40 AUD I have a carb source for half a year.

I’m not swimming in cash and not saving loads for the future rn but that’s only working a smidge part time. I can go out and eat with mates often enough if anything comes up.


Also protein powder is probably cheapest source of protein by weight.

MyProtein for life

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But really, as a tiny woman weighing less than 90 pounds and who has a kidney issue requiring a restricted protein intake, protein powder is low priority. Being a student on a budget is even more reason.

How close to your current recreational spending is this? Cutting back is obviously essential, but if your target budget is unrealistic (like if you’re currently spending $100+), you’re going to crash.

If food, “rent”, and “utilities” are already covered, then it’s really just a matter of luxuries and fun money (and transportation/gas), which is entirely habit-based and come from conscious decisions. That’s a really good position to be in.

We also had a good Personal Finance thread a few months ago with more info about avoiding debt and building savings, which is never too early to get a handle on.

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I’m thinking eggs and powdered milk have this beat (assuming you can stomach powdered milk - military made me figure out how to get past the disgust). You can make powdered milk 2X strong and it’s roughly 80% as much protein as quality Biotest stuff. Mildly disgusting, but you can buy powdered milk by the 5 gallon bucket for pennies.

A standard college meal for me was some sort of cup of noodles (drained of water) with two or three scrambled eggs in it, some chopped up onion and diced jalapenos.

It’s actually delicious.

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Pay for stuff with cash…using cash as opposed to a card has the tendency to make you think more carefully about what you are spending.


I think paying for cash helps, but def have a few go-to surcharge free ATMs near you
Debit card usually helps because you don’t have to worry about surcharge fees, and unlike a credit card, you’re limited to real money.

Do your banking through a local credit union. They’re non-profit, and generally won’t gut you with fees.

Open up a credit card, find something good with a 0% intro APR, but don’t use it much. Just enough to start building credit. Buy something and pay it off right away. Credit card companies are shady as hell and will probably approve you for a really high limit just hoping that you’ll default - don’t fall for it.

Spread out your clothes purchases, don’t drink alcohol or smoke weed, make your own coffee, use your dining hall (or cook your own meals), and your money will take you far

Also consider some low time investment money opportunites like Fiverr or Task Rabbit

Protein powder has value in ease of consumption/preparation, quick absorption (depending on the powder), quality of protein and amino acid profile, and low amount of calories from carbs or fat. If you aren’t concerned about those things, lots of things beat protein powder at grams of protein per dollar. Fresh milk, whole chicken, variety meats, cottage cheese on sale, etc. as well as powdered milk and eggs. I don’t think the OP is concerned about getting enough protein, though.

You’re a girl so you won’t need to buy booze. You didn’t have a summer job? Get an ADHD diagnosis and use some of the medicine to help you study, sell off the rest… Protip- hoard till the week before finals and then sell the bulk at a premium to a friend who can then sell to individuals.

Don’t join a sorority. Keeping up with the Chantelles and Megan’s will bankrupt you.

Apply for any and all scholarships whether or not you qualify. I had business school scholarships despite being an engineering student since day 1. I had scholarships for which my GPA was too low to qualify. The little $250/semester ones add up. I used to spend 2 days at the end of winter and summer breaks and binge on scholarship applications. Saved me about $50k over the 4.5 years I was in school.

Thanks for all the advice!

How much would that be?

Yeah, I’ve found this out too. I now only take as much cash as I need

I’ll check this out!

Works, but risky, haha.

just don’t blow it all on cocaine and you’ll be ahead of the game Anna.

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I can’t afford cocaine

You’re a chick, typically alcohol and drugs are provided for you free of charge in college.

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Is that Busta Rhymes in the GIF?