How to Balance a College Budget While Still Having Fun

The struggle is real. We want a spa day, all of the foods, new clothes, and insta-worthy adventures—all with only three dollars in our bank account. We worked hard over the summer to save for the constant stream of college spending, but it seems like we never have enough. Luckily, I, your personal finance guru, am here to give you some tips on how you can have your cake and eat it, too.


Don’t compare

Picture this: you’re daydreaming in class and someone walks in flaunting the new Michael Kors bag you’ve been drooling over all season. Jealousy bubbles up inside of you. She doesn’t deserve that bag. She won’t appreciate it or style it as well as you can. But here’s the thing: no one has the exact same financial situation, and you don’t know the full story at first glance. Maybe she saved up all summer by working a horrible job just like you. The first step to finding a good financial balance is setting your own monetary goals based on your own situation and no one else’s.

Think long-term

I’m sure every class, advisor, and adult has discussed your 5-year plan with you, and you’re probably tired of hearing about it. It’s terrifying to think about anything beyond next Saturday or what burrito you’re going to eat for dinner, but financially it’s probably a good idea. Obviously, you can’t plan for every extra expense (like 17 frappuccinos because exam week), but it’s a good idea to set realistic goals for every semester, year, and four years. For example, maybe you want to have a certain amount of money in your savings by the end of the year. Keep these goals in the back of your mind so you can #treatyoself while still being able to afford rent next month.

Predict weekly expenses

I know what you’re thinking: you aren’t Raven Symone and you can’t see the future. While you may not always be able to plan four years ahead, you can manage your weekly splurges. At the beginning of each week think about what you might be spending and set a limit for yourself. Again, obviously, you can’t predict for every expense like late night mozzarella sticks, but this is a good way to control unnecessary spending. If you know you’re going to a concert at the end of the week, you may want to cut back on little things so you can have the best experience at the concert.


These tips will help you to find a healthy balance between saving and spending in college. But don’t forget that this is college and you shouldn’t hold yourself back from creating memories and having some fun! The best rule for smart spending is to buy experiences, not things.


by Allie Lewandowski