Five Tips to Improve Your Finances While in College

December 7, 2020

The Happy to Help series offers quick tips for pesky issues—anything from how to fill out the FAFSA to what to watch when you’re feeling stressed. All CU Denver community members can ask a question or offer a solution by emailing alex.dewind@ucdenver.edu.


This week our subject matter expert is Chelsea Morgan, financial wellness coordinator in Wellness and Recreation Services. She would like to remind the CU Denver community, especially students, that the pandemic has greatly affected the economy. Many in the Lynx community may be struggling financially as we face unprecedented economic issues, including furloughs and joblessness.

Morgan offers these general financial wellness tips for college students, tips which were intended for pre-pandemic life but remain applicable. If you need more personalized financial help, you can schedule a financial coaching session with Wellness and Recreation Services.

For any student in urgent need of financial assistance, visit the Loving Lynx Fund to see if you qualify for emergency aid.

1. Pay Yourself First

[Morgan:] “In college, it is really easy to get caught up in the social pressure to spend beyond your means (spend more than what you can afford). Spending beyond our means may indicate that we aren’t prioritizing saving for the future. Paying yourself first means that the very first thing you do on payday is set aside a percentage of your income in a savings account. You pay yourself before you pay anyone else! Building up your savings will provide a cushion for any unexpected expenses. Tip: Start with a goal of building up enough savings to cover one month of expenses for an emergency fund.”

2. Start Building Credit

“Your credit score is a three-digit number that tells creditors how creditworthy you are. Once you graduate, your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life. Credit scores are checked by anyone who extends any kind of credit or loan. Employers and landlords may check your credit as well. Start building credit while you are in school with a secured credit card.”

3. Create a Spending Plan

“A spending plan is just another word for a budget, but it sounds a lot more fun, right? In order to spend less than we earn, we need to know how much money is coming in and going out, also known as cash flow. You can look at your bank statements from the past 30 days to see where you are actually spending your money. I recommend downloading an expense tracking app to do the legwork for you (like Mint). I want you to take control of your money instead of letting it control you!”

4. Come Up with a Plan for Conquering Your Student Debt

“Most students ignore their student loan debt until it’s time to make the first payment. Take the first step right now to log into your student loan servicer and write down the details of each loan. Figure out what your future monthly payments will be using the repayment calculator. Making small payments towards student loans while in school can also make a huge difference. Take advantage of the grace period that is given after you graduate college and create a plan to attack your student loan debt!”

5. Think About the Future

“Set a few financial goals that you want to accomplish in the next few years! ‘I want to be rich’ is not a measurable goal that we can works towards. Instead, write down how much money you want to have saved by the time graduation rolls around. What action steps are you going to take to accomplish that goal? Like the saying goes, ‘Failure to plan is a plan to fail.'”