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Broke-ish: The Balling on a budget guide for College Students

By: Samoya Peters

We have all heard college students use the phrases: “balling on a budget” or “ramen diet”. Students want to go out on a Saturday night with friends and dress the very best, ideally wearing all the most expensive name brands in order to be the talk of the party that night. However, many college students struggle to afford textbooks for classes and are instead stuck on these Saturday nights eating fifty cent ramen noodles in their dorms.

Nationwide, young adults are dealing with their frustration concerning their lack of buying power, and their love-hate relationship with money management skills. With the lack of financial stability, many find it difficult to financially balance a vibrant social life, while funding basic necessities, as well as school supplies for the semester. This balance of fun and financial responsibility is an important factor in enjoying the college experience while also building good habits of being financially stable in the future.

Here are a few tips to not only help college students manage their personal expenses, but also to create opportunities to increase their cash flow using their tools, passions and skills.

Smartphone Apps can help you save

The widespread use of technology has enabled 'Millennials' and 'Gen Zers' to access and easily use a variety of mobile apps, everything from social media to streaming. It is also important for college students to be aware of apps that can make and save them money, as well as track their finances as to avoid being left behind while friends go out to Wing Wednesdays without them.

Digit for example, is an app that can be downloaded for free that helps you analyze your overall spending habits, achieve any personal financial goals by establishing a secure Digit savings account and help you manage your money in a responsible way. See Mint for another good option for tracking your spending and creating personal budgets. Your bank may also have their own mobile app that allows you to do the same tracking and analysis without linking to a third party company. The app should be free and allow for an online banking experience as it is directly synced to your checking and savings accounts.

Bargain shopping apps

If you do not already have a Groupon account, consider creating one. They have an easy to use app that allows you to search for discounted meals, local events, and online retail shopping. Depop is another app to consider. Depop lets you buy clothes for affordable prices and lets you sell clothes that are stuck in your closet which you have not or may never wear . Think thrift shopping/selling with your smartphone.

Start a side hustle

In today's world of social media college students now more than ever are becoming self-starters creating blogs, clothing brands, smartphone apps, and generally monetizing their artistic and creative talents. It is not uncommon for students who have the skill utilize their dorm rooms as barbershops, hair salons, and mini shops. Even hobbies such as photography, crafting, event planning, and any hands-on skills that come naturally can all be turned into a business where you can make some extra cash on the side of your academic studies.

If any of these hobbies are aligned with your major, there are even greater opportunities to convert projects, assignments, and information into content or a client deliverable. Using sites such as can help you keep track of expenses and revenue, send professional invoices to customers, and ensure your business is organized and growing. Again, web resources are your friend. Seek out free and capable solutions.

The gig economy

A car is a coveted possession when you are in college, but it's not only useful for getting to the mall, pulling up to the off-campus parties, or road tripping. Platforms like Uber, Instacart, and Grubhub allow you to utilize your car as a money making asset by doing deliveries or facilitating ridesharing. Sites like and also allow you to market any of those skills, hobbies, and talents we mentioned earlier to an international community of potential customers. Whether you do graphic design, edit audio/video, or make music, there is a lane for you to secure your bag.

Closing thought

We all want to “ball” and live our best lives, but it is necessary to keep an eye on your budget and not live above your means. Consider using your time and resources to work on lowering your debt, acquiring assets, building up a rainy day savings fund, and developing good spending habits. Now more than ever college students have the opportunity to monetize their skills and passions to help support their active social lives. The world is yours and money is literally at your finger tips. Now go out and get it.

Samoya Peters is a recent graduate of Syracuse University holding a degree in Communication and Rhetorical Studies. Samoya is currently building her brand, "Moya Studios", as a freelance photographer and creative director working with entrepreneurs in developing content for social media. 'Moya's goal is to create magic for outlets that incorporate social media, pop culture and television. 

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