Faith-Based Financial Wisdom for College Students

dallas college student and mentor having a conversation

Saving is challenging for college students because of limited income and numerous expenses. Tuition, textbooks, housing, and other living costs can quickly deplete your funds. Additionally, the academic workload often leaves little time for part-time jobs, restricting your earning ability. Many students also lack experience in managing finances, making it challenging to create and stick to a budget.

Building financial discipline is crucial because it establishes good money management habits that can lead to financial stability and success in the future. How can college students save money? Read on for practical tips for saving and budgeting for Dallas Baptist University (DBU) students, including how you can turn to God for support, wisdom, and guidance with your financial decisions. 

Start Small to Save Big

Being on your own and responsible for your financial future can be nerve-wracking, but it doesn't have to be. Managing small amounts of money early on can help you develop good money habits and strategies to carry into your future. While wealth abundance is usually not at the forefront of DBU students' minds, it is possible to save for the future, even with limited income. Proverbs 13:11 tells us, "Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase." (ESV)

The first step to saving money is to have some. Some ways students can earn money include:

  • Summer jobs in retail, food service, lifeguarding, camp counselor positions, and seasonal work at amusement parks or tourist attractions.
  • Part-time on-campus jobs during the school year in the library, cafeteria, student union, tutoring, or at local businesses near campus. 

Students fortunate enough not to have to work still need to be careful with the money provided by parents, student loans, and scholarships to live within their means. 

The Importance of Budgeting

Having a budget for your money is crucial to being in control of your finances. God makes this clear in Luke 14:28: "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?" (NIV)

Create a budget to manage monthly expenses and ensure you live within your means. Budgeting apps such as Dave Ramsey's EveryDollar, You Need a Budget (YNAB), or Pocketguard help you track your spending and set your savings goals. 

Tithing and Saving

Once you have an income, set aside a portion for tithing and saving — a good rule of thumb is 10% of your income for tithing and 20% for savings. Getting into the habit of giving and saving when money comes in will help you be a good steward of your money. Set up automatic transfers so you don't have to think about it and are never tempted to spend that money. 

What is the best place to build and keep your savings? According to The College Investor, student savings accounts should have no fees and make money easily accessible to students from anywhere. Based on these criteria, here is their list of best savings accounts for college students

Understanding Wants Versus Needs

Distinguishing between wants and needs is critical for effective budgeting. Needs are essential expenses such as tuition, rent, groceries, and utilities, while wants are non-essential items like dining out, entertainment, and new gadgets. To limit spending on wants:

  • Pause before purchasing. Consider whether the item is necessary or just a desire to prevent impulsive buying.
  • Check your budget. Ensure that any spending on wants fits within your budget without compromising essential expenses and savings goals.
  • Prioritize savings goals. Make saving a priority by setting aside money for your savings goals before allocating funds for discretionary spending. 
  • Take advantage of student discounts. Many places offer discounts for students, helping them save money on necessary purchases.
  • Avoid eating out. Using your meal plan or preparing your meals rather than eating out can significantly reduce food expenses.

Setting Fun Savings Goals

Saving can be more enjoyable when you have a goal in mind. While being responsible with your money is important, using your money for fun things, enjoying activities with friends, and creating memories are also important. Whether purchasing something for yourself or going on a weekend trip, setting goals and waiting until you have enough money saved is a great way to reinforce the concept of saving.

Cash Management Strategy

A helpful way to keep your fun money within your budget is to take it out in cash as soon as you get paid. While it is not common to use cash, it makes it easy to see how much you have left at any given time. Most people also find it harder to let go of cash than to swipe a debit or credit card.

A fun tip for creating a small savings fund is to save all the change you get back when using cash. Put it in a jar and cash it out to eat at your favorite restaurant, buy a special treat, or do something else you enjoy. You are unlikely to miss small amounts of change, and using it for something that would not usually be in your budget is especially rewarding!

Coping with Financial Setbacks

Even the best plans and budgets sometimes work out differently than you hope. How do we cope with financial setbacks and challenges? Turning to God should always be your first line of defense. Have faith that God will always provide and carry you through difficult financial situations and challenges throughout your life. "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" - Matthew 6:26 ESV

Saving and budgeting during college helps you manage your finances effectively and builds lifelong habits of financial discipline while still enjoying your college experience. Remember, even small steps toward saving can lead to significant financial security in the future. Trust in God's provision and use these tips to develop a solid financial foundation that will support you through all stages of life.

Additional Resources

Helpful apps and websites are available to assist with managing your finances:

  • Faith and Finance offers articles, tools, and resources to help Christians manage their finances.
  • Crown Financial Ministries offers resources, tools, and courses aimed at helping individuals manage their finances according to Christian values.
  • Albert is an app that guides you in your financial decisions.
  • Scratch helps borrowers understand, manage, and repay loans.
  • SaverLife helps you to create a habit of saving.
  • Greenlight teaches financial responsibility to children.

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