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On your Own for the First Time: Financial Tips for College Students

Because life wellness includes your wallet.

I want to be clear that I will not be talking about tuition or student loans in this post, mainly because I haven't fully grasped all there is to know about loans yet. But! I will share with you all how to avoid being young, dumb, and broke. Being young and dumb, I don't mind so much, but broke? Let's try our best to stay away from her!

Also, I'm a huge advocate of leaning into all of the privileges your life affords you. If your parents can afford to give you spending money every week in college that's great! No shame in that! But for me, I realized that when I wasn't spending my own money, I didn't really have 100% say on what I was buying. I had to fight for my cute but overpriced dorm décor🤣. College is a time when you're transitioning into complete independence and I think it's good to have to hustle a little bit and learn how to manage your own money.


Save your Summer coins

This is one of the biggest reasons I make sure to snag a summer job, even if I have to wash dishes or change dirty diapers. You're gonna need a buffer/fallback when you start school to hold you over until you figure out your money situation on campus. You're gonna need stuff for your dorm room, textbooks, and possibly some new supplies so definitely save enough to at least cover those things.

When I was going to college, I needed a new laptop so I saved as much as I could to be able to buy that. Luckily, my parents covered other things for me for the first month or so, but after that started slowing up I realized I was BROKE.

Always have a job lined up

The big turning point for me, was when a ton of my friends were going to a Halloween party but I didn't have the money to pay the admission price or to even buy a costume. I sat in my dorm alone while I watched all of my friends have the time of their lives on social media. That taught me that as much as it sucks to have to work, being broke is so much more painful. It's not about being well off or anything like that. You just need to make enough so that you can enjoy yourself a little. So that if your friends want to do something off-campus you can afford to split an Uber or buy lunch.

Now don't get me wrong, I could've called my parents and asked for money but at that point, I felt kinda stupid asking for money from them if it wasn't something essential. Being at RIT was my first time seeing many people my age who were paying for their own shit. A lot of the people I met were paying for their Spotify, phone bill, car insurance, etc. All my sister and I had to pay for was gas. While I am very thankful to my parents for covering the majority of those costs, it just made me realize how little I worked for what I had. It lit a fire under me, and now I make sure that I am always on someone's payroll because I never want to miss out on fun things just because I don't have the money.

Live below your means

The other day I caught up with one of my hometown friends who moved to Hawaii over the pandemic just for funsies!? She's one of those go-getter adventurers who doesn't let anything get in the way of her dreams. When I asked her how she afforded it, she said she still has savings from a job she worked in high school... as in she still had savings from over four years ago... That blew my mind because when I started working in high school, I always found a way to spend my little $60 paychecks😂.

But we're grown now and we're not doing that anymore! I highly encourage you to make a rough plan for your paychecks. A big chunk of it should go into savings or at least shouldn't be touched right away. Set aside money for groceries or personal care items, and get into the habit of telling yourself "no" when you want to buy something that just isn't a good use of your resources. Live way below your means so that you've always got a little money in savings in case something fun pops up that you want to splurge on.

For the love of God do not buy textbooks

Rent, share, or borrow if you have to but don't buy textbooks! Of all the card-sucking things associated with college, this is the biggest one! Dropping $180+ on a book that you'll barely read and then never use again just doesn't make sense. I do want to be clear though, I find having the required textbooks is imperative for learning and actually doing assignments, just never pay full price for them. If you do end up buying one, make sure to sell it back to someone else taking the class the following semester or year.

There are tons of sites where you can find textbooks for free, and you can always ask upperclassmen if they have textbooks from previous classes that they can lend you.


I hope this is useful to you! I wish you the best of luck in college, you'll be great! If you want to chat or see more of my day-to-day, go ahead and follow me on insta @ariels_view. ✨Also check out my other college content below (I've got a few free planners and you can find cute desktop calendars on my Pinterest)!



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My name is Ariel and I'm super passionate about mental health, self-help, and personal growth...

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