Preparing your finances for the second semester

Students eating lunch together

Help alleviate money woes and set yourself up for second semester success. Use our list to set some goals.

With your first semester in the books, you likely have a better idea of your spending habits while on campus. Were you a saver or a bit of an over-spender? If it’s the latter, you’re not alone: WalletHub’s 2020 College Student Financial Survey found that 30% of students consider themselves spenders.

The new semester provides an opportunity for a fresh start: It’s time to take back control of your finances. Use our list to set financial goals that will help you get — or keep — your finances in good shape for the new year.

Goal 1: Start tracking your spending

It’s impossible to manage your spending if you don’t know where your money is going. Use My Spending Report to help track your spending, budgeting, and savings, all in simple and straightforward charts.

Goal 2: Make the most of your meal plan

Did your report reveal that you’re spending way too much on eating out? Thankfully, this is an easy fix! Cut down on the fast food or off-campus restaurants, and stick to the dining hall or prepared-at-home options instead.

Goal 3: Lower your textbook costs

Buying all of your textbooks at the beginning of the semester can be a major expense. Cut down on the cost by purchasing digital copies or gently used books. Often, used textbooks through online retailers will be cheaper than those in the campus bookstore. At the end of the semester, don’t forget to sell back your used books. Companies like CampusBooks, Chegg, or BookScouter are popular with students who like to make some of their text book money back.

Goal 4: Take advantage of your campus perks

Are you aware of all the perks that come from your association with your college campus? From free fitness classes to private tutoring, the savings will really add up if you take advantage of all that your campus has to offer.

Goal 5: Save for today and tomorrow

It’s essential to have a minimum buffer amount in your bank account, often known as emergency savings. This “never-go-below” amount serves as an important mini emergency fund, so decide on a minimum amount you’re comfortable keeping and make it your goal to stick to it.

Goal 6: Cut down on clothing expenses

Do you find yourself buying a new outfit for every night out? Stop overspending on clothes by swapping with your pals, shopping at consignment stores, or using online marketplaces to resell the items you no longer want. For those special semi-formal and formal occasions, you can avoid purchases altogether by renting attire.

Goal 7: Dial in on discounts

Many places offer discounts just for college students. From retailers to restaurants, businesses will often give you a nice discount if you show your valid college ID, especially in college towns.

Goal 8: Start saving for any big upcoming expenses

Planning to travel over the summer or need to replace an aging laptop or phone before the next semester? The time to start saving is now. Set aside a certain amount each month to go directly toward your future big-ticket items.

Goal 9: Always know where your bank account stands

The absolute worst way to spend your money? Unnecessary fees. Don’t lose your hard-earned cash to an overdraft fee or ATM charge. You’ll be able to avoid these and other fees by keeping a close eye on your accounts at all times and using your bank’s ATMs. Make it a habit to check your bank account at least once a week. You can do this easily through mobile banking, which also offers balance alerts. My Money Map also helps track your spending.

Goal 10: Work on staying debt-free

Understandably, if you had to take out loans to pay for college, staying 100% debt-free may not be possible. To set yourself up for future financial success, work to ensure your student loans are the only debts you incur while still in school. If possible, earning income during school and in between school years can help offset expenses while working on your degree. Don’t rack up large credit card bills or other debts.

Goal 11: Talk to a professional

If you have money questions or want ideas to help move your finances forward after graduation, have a one-on-one conversation with a Financial Health Banker. These pros can offer personalized support and proactive guidance. You can find your Financial Health Banker at 1-877-924-8692.

Check out Your Financial Health Toolkit, a list of resources designed to help provide personalized guidance.

Want to read more about building a spending plan in school?

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