As a college student, managing your finances can be a daunting task. But it’s important to establish good financial habits that will help you succeed in the long run. Knowing where to spend your money (and not spend your money) doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you love. It just means being mindful about your spending, which can actually help you afford more of what you want.
Knowing exactly where to allocate your money is more art than science. Everyone has different wants and needs, and of course not everyone has access to the same amount of money. While there isn’t a precise formula for knowing what to spend your money on, there are some general guidelines to follow as a young adult.
What should you spend money on?
Education-related expenses, housing and utilities, food and groceries, transportation, and health and wellness are all important to prioritize. These are all basic necessities and it’s usually not a good idea to skip on any one of them.
However, there are ways to minimize how much you’ll end up paying for these necessities. When it comes to tuition, consider applying for financial aid, scholarships, or grants. Living with roommates or in on-campus buildings can be a great way to minimize housing costs. Cooking for yourself more often than you eat out will save you lots of money (and it’s better for you, too). Biking, walking, and public transportation are all far cheaper than owning a car, and health and wellness expenses are often covered by the school. Gyms and workout classes may have student discounts available if you ask.
Making sure you can cover all of these necessary expenses is just the first step. Once that’s done, you can move onto the fun stuff! You shouldn’t feel bad about spending money on things you want but don’t need - like shopping, movies, subscriptions, travel, you name it. It’s just important to make sure that you’re living within your means and covering the expenses you need to cover first.
What shouldn’t you spend money on?
While you should absolutely feel ok treating yourself to things that you want, you should avoid going overboard. Book that trip, but maybe don’t fly first class. Get the less expensive meal. Shop the sale section. Just be mindful of your spending and you’ll be ok. Set hard limits for yourself if it helps, too. Overspending is typically the biggest issue when it comes to deciding what not to spend money on. If you limit the size and frequency of your purchases, you can make room for lots of what you want.
The one thing you should absolutely, at all costs avoid spending money on is credit card interest. If you open a credit card and make purchases you can’t afford to pay back, you’re going to end up paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of interest and getting nothing in return. If you’re worried about this kind of thing, get a Fizz card. Fizz doesn’t have fees and doesn’t charge interest. Plus, Fizz keeps you from overspending. It’s the perfect solution to help keep money in your pocket.
Budgeting reigns supreme
It’s not necessarily a sexy concept, but budgeting is at the core of figuring out what you should and shouldn’t be spending money on. You don’t have to have a spreadsheet that tracks every one of your purchases to start budgeting. Instead, just be mindful of what you’re spending, don’t go overboard, and remember to take care of your necessities before indulging your wants.
If you want to make budgeting even easier, try using a Fizz card. Fizz connects to your bank account and won’t let you spend more than you have available to you. It’s a great way to stay on top of your finances and budget effectively - all while building credit and earning rewards!
Sam is a Kenyon College alum and is head of content at Fizz. He's been a go to personal finance resource among his peers since getting his first credit card during his sophomore year of college. He hails from Washington, DC, loves all things aviation, and currently lives in Los Angeles.