Breaking the Mold of a Broke College Kid


This blog is contributed by the Center’s summer intern, Zach Gould, who is a senior at the University of South Carolina. He shares his take on how students can take charge of their finances:

Let’s face it, college students are notoriously broke. During the school year, I don’t have a job because I plan and budget so I can focus all my attention on school. That means, when summer rolls around, I work at least 40 hours a week for 10 weeks or more, which is what I’m doing at the Center this summer. While I’m working, I try not to spend much money. My goal is to save at least 80% of my summer earnings so I’ll have it to spend during the school year. Because who wants to eat cafeteria food for 9 months? And you have to have cash for dates, movies, and a very occasional trip to the bars (wink).  So, once school starts I see how much money I have left from summer and budget that over the 9 months that I’m in school. I also plan for extra spending in December because of the holidays. Can you tell one of my majors is finance?

It is not impossible to maintain a job during the school year. A lot of my friends work part-time while going to school and are, in many cases, more organized than me because they are forced to be. This also provides income during the school year, which if you are paying for college yourself, certainly is necessary. If you’re not paying for college out of pocket, it is simply more expendable income. But holding down a job while going to school does have drawbacks, like limiting your ability to be a part of a lot of clubs or teams. Either way, after three years of making ends meet on a college student budget, I've learned a few things.

This is what I’ve learned:

  1. Start saving early for spending money in college. You are on your own and expenses previously covered by your parents are now funded by you.
  2. Budget the money you make while working during summer so it can last you throughout the school year, especially if you don’t plan to have a job while in school.
  3. It is possible to work and attend school, which will give you more flexibility with income. You must, however, be very organized and limit your hours to make sure you are achieving social and academic balance as well.

I’ll head back to college in a month with most of my summer earnings in the bank. It takes budgeting and careful planning not to blow it before the end of the first semester, but I know the skills I’m using now will really pay off in May when I graduate and am truly on my own.

Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc., and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.