8 Ridiculously Easy Ways for the College Student to Budget & Save Money (Or Anyone, Really!)

Aug 11, 2021 | Budgeting, Budgeting Tips

Do you have a teen heading off to college soon? Or a sibling you'd love to help? Whether you are a college student or you know one, this post is for you! Learn how to set a college student budget and save money the easy way!

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There's a common misconception that if you attend college, you have to walk out of graduation with a mountain of debt. Real talk? That's just not true! Does budgeting require sacrifice? Yep. But it's worth it!

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In this post, we'll show you how a college student budget works and offer up some crazy easy tips for saving money, too! From budgeting principles to ways to earn extra income, we're covering it all. So bookmark this post, grab your favorite notebook, and let's go to school! It's time for College Student Budget 101, and class is in session.


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Want to know a little secret? All of the budgeting principles we teach here on the blog and through Budget Boot Camp (use the code FCFBLOG for 10% off!) work for all ages! We've seen teens, retirees, stay-at-home moms, and even full-time six-figure earners have success with these tips because they work, and they work for any budget. So, here are five pieces of college student budget advice that can really work for anyone:

  • Start Small – If you're new to budgeting, don't try to change all your habits at once! Start small and work up to doing more. For example, focus first on setting a food or grocery budget. FYI: Our rule of thumb is $100 per person, per month.
  • Set Goals – When you try to lose weight, you set goals, and when you're budgeting, you should do the same. It's one of the best ways to stay motivated! If you're not sure which goals make sense, check out these tips and learn how to start budgeting.
  • Follow the 70% Rule – We definitely encourage you to peruse all the budgeting advice that's free here on our blog, but spoiler alert: the 70% rule is one of our most famous teachings! Why? Well, because it works for any income. The rule is simple: you can only spend 70% of what you make each month. The rest goes towards savings/debt and tithing/investing.
  • Set and Track a Budget and Write Everything Down Unpopular opinion: nothing can replace good old-fashioned pen and paper. Don't get us wrong; we love our phones, too, but there's something super motivating about tracking all your finances by hand. Seeing it all on paper is the best way to assess the situation, so give it a try. Our handy Budget Planner can help!
  • Follow the 3-Month Rule – Once you've got your budget set in stone, follow this piece of advice for anything you want to buy that doesn't fit into that budget: wait three months! You'll save SO much money by curbing your impulse buys. Read all about the 3-month rule in this post!

These five tips are pretty simple, but they're all game-changers! So follow these budgeting principles and watch your savings account grow in no time.


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Now that you're well on your way to budgeting, we bet you'd love to find some clever ways to pay those bills. Well, you're in luck! Here are super simple ways to pay the bills while you're in college:

  • Start an Online Business – There are SO many ways to create an online business these days. If you're crafty, sell jewelry on Etsy. Good at writing? Offer up your proofreading services. The sky's the limit!
  • Tutor – These days, you can tutor kids from the comfort of your couch. Sign up for a service like VIPKids or Skooli, and you can earn up to $20 per hour helping kids read or practice math.
  • Babysit – Good with kids? Put some flyers up around campus or set up a profile on Care.com! Professors always need good babysitters, and local residents look to college students for help, too. Afterschool babysitting gigs are perfect if you can work them into your class schedule.
  • Apply for Scholarships – Can you say passive income? There are thousands of dollars on the table if you only take 2-5 minutes and throw your name in the ring. $500 here and there adds up–especially when you have textbooks to buy. Check out these easy scholarships to apply for!
  • Deliver Food/Groceries – If you like shopping, sign up to become a Shipt or Instacart shopper. You'll earn an hourly rate plus tips. More of a foodie? Deliver food through UberEats or DoorDash.

Just remember, whatever you earn, be sure you only spend 70%! The rest goes to savings. Speaking of which, want to learn a few easy ways to save more money on a modest budget? Then, let's talk about it!


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There's a common misconception that you can't save money unless you make lots of it. That's not true! College is a great time to start saving because, hopefully, you don't have a lot of debts to pay. Of course, if you're setting aside 30% of your income each month, you're already ahead of the game, but here are three more ways to put more money in your pockets:

  • Student Discounts – Never, ever pay full price! Check out this extensive list of student discounts and plan accordingly. A dollar here and a free drink there really adds up! If you save an extra $20 per month, that's $1,000 by the time you graduate.
  • Spending Freeze – Need to save a bunch of money in a hurry? A spending freeze can work wonders. If you know you have a big expense coming up, try doing a spending freeze to save up the extra funds.
  • Take the Penny Challenge – Start by saving a penny one day, then two pennies on day two, and 25 cents on day 25, and so on. You can toss actual pennies in a jar or set the funds aside in a bank account. By the end of a year, you will have saved $667.95. Not too shabby!

If you're looking for more ways to pinch pennies while still having fun (yes, college is supposed to be fun!), then check out these uncommon habits of frugal people and pick up another tip or two.


And there you have it! We promised these tips would be straightforward. Budgeting doesn't have to be complicated, and frugal living doesn't have to be boring, so spread the word! If you know a college student who could use this advice, please share this post.

Do you have a budgeting tip you'd like to share? Or a question? Drop us a note in the comments!

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Want to save even more money?

You've got this! Happy budgeting!


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