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How to manage finances in college


The subject about money is a fundamental part of our lives. As the saying goes, if you are earning Kshs. 50 and spend 49 you are safe. If you spend 51, you are digging an early grave and committing yourself to a lifetime of poverty. This saying is true in its sense.

Managing money is therefore an important skill that every college student needs to have. Because most students do not use credit cards in Kenya, this article assumes that students spend money which they have, either cash at hand or saved in current accounts.

According to 40 Money management tips every college student should know, taking charge of your life and money is the key to financial success. The financial decisions you make during college might range from handling a couple of bucks to thousands shillings, but no matter how much money you are dealing with, determining your finances helps you determine your future. When you know how to manage your money, you will be better prepared to successfully meet your goals and have enough money to make them a reality.

But even before managing money how can you make money? The author of 40 money management tips advises that students should make college their first jobs. There are a number of universities in the country which offer work study programs and this should be the first option to consider. Another option is to use your hobby to earn money. For example, if you can blog, sing, plait or dance then it is a good way of making money. Getting a part-time job could help and even becoming an entrepreneur is a smart way to financial freedom and a prosperous future. Most organizations in Kenya do not pay their interns and therefore applying for an internship as a means of looking for money may be a no go zone, unless you are seeking on gaining work experience.

When using your money, it is very important to separate needs from wants. Buying only what is necessary and saving the remaining is a sure way to financial freedom. Even ants store excess food during seasons of plenty and use it when seasons are unfavorable. The following are some of the lessons that you might require to manage your finances wisely.


Create a budget.
“No matter how little your budget is, it’s never too early to start a budget or spending plan,” says Galia Gichon, the founder of Down-to-Earth Finance, a financial resource for women. “Money from your parents, financial aid, and your job are the three main sources. Start setting up a regular savings account around those few line items. The first step is to figure out how much money you have to spend each month between your family contribution, savings, earnings from a part-time job, and loans or grants. Then figure out how much you will need for staples like food, rent, books, etc. Then add in a line for spending money and another for emergencies (like when your coffee budget runs out right before exams). Keep track of your expenses and the frequency of your visits to the ATM so you do not overspend.

Set priorities.
“Now is the time to decide what is important to you and what you can go without,” says Nicole Lapin, the founder of yourself some small indulgences will keep you on track from splurging on other unnecessary expenses.”

Monitor your ATM usage.
Start off conservatively when you are budgeting your living, food, and transportation expenses,” says Lapin. “Then, hit the ATM for any extra ‘fun money,’ but set a tight limit for example, 5 to 10%  of your monthly paycheck. Take out just that amount of cash and stash it somewhere safe.  Paying Kshs. 30 every time you take out money from an ATM might not seem like a big deal, but if you use the ATM three times a week, those fees can add up to Kshs. 360 a month or more. The same goes for overdue fees on DVD rentals and library fines, not to mention parking tickets, or penalties if you add or drop a class after the deadline. Remember not to overlook what may seem like the “little things” can save you a lot of cash in the long run.

Buy gently used textbooks.
“Your college bookstore will typically mark-up textbooks for convenience,” says Lapin. It is just as convenient to buy your books online and save money. There was a time when the university bookstore was the only place you could buy the textbooks required for your classes each semester. Those days are over. Online booksellers like offer significantly cheaper prices for most textbooks, and if you buy them used they will cost even less. Used books can often be found at your campus bookstore as well, and some bookstores even offer a rental option. Don’t forget to sell back the books you don’t need at the end of the semester.

Use apps to track your spending habits. is an excellent app to look at where your money went the prior month,” says Galia. “You can get a snapshot of your spending history. There are also a lot of apps like Pennies and You Need a Budget. Each time you spend, you can plug it into your phone and keep a tally.”

Plan ahead.
“A lot of students want to travel, whether it’s for spring break or a semester abroad,” says Galia. “If you save $50 a month towards that, it shows your parents that you’re taking on responsibility towards planning towards a future goal. You are communicating about money with your parents, which is something that students often don’t do.”


Avoiding situations that will make you spend a lot of money can help. Remember, always go to class. You are at college to learn and not skip classes. This helps to stop spending unnecessary. Hanging out with heavy spenders will probably put you in problems, therefore establishing friends who are at the same level with your spending ability is very important. Lastly, do not be the big man at the club buying everyone at the table a couple of beers. Be disciplined and let everyone pay for themselves.


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