Financial independence is:
🌈 More control over your life.
💖 Do not depend on others (for example, from parents or guardians).
🌞 Less stress and worry about money.
As a college student, you may not have a lot of money, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start working towards financial independence right now.
Here are nine tips to help you get started.
1. Decide what “financial independence” looks like to you
Have you ever thought about what you want to do when you are financially independent? Maybe you want…
- Be an entrepreneur so you have more control over how you spend your days.
- Take a break for a year after graduation.
- Become a digital nomad and travel the US in your Instagram-worthy sprint van.
Whatever it is, you must have a clear idea of what you want. before You can become financially independent as a student.
So, for this first step, define what “financial independence” means to you. Ask yourself:
- If I had a million dollars in the bank, how would I spend my days?
- How much money will I need to afford this lifestyle?
2. Look for ways to get into college for free (or at a reduced cost)
College is mega expensive. The average cost of tuition and fees at a four-year public university is over $35,000 per year.
So, if you want to become a financially independent student, be sure to find a way to get into college for free (or at a reduced rate).
There are many non-standard ways to save money on college, but first of all, it is worth exploring:
- Grants and scholarships: Complete the FAFSA form to apply for eligible grants, or visit your target school’s financial aid office to find out which local scholarships you are eligible for.
- Work and study programs: Your FAFSA will tell you if you are eligible for the Federal Work-Study Program (FWS). If so, check with your college’s financial aid department.
- Community College or Trade Schools: A four-year university degree is not the only option. Community colleges and vocational schools can be a great way to lower education costs.
- Employer Training Assistance Programs: Companies like Starbucks and Target offer training assistance programs to their employees. There may be related strings, but it’s still worth looking into.
3. Find a side job or side job
I know…your college schedule may already be packed with classes and extracurricular activities.
But even if you have a few extra hours each week, a part-time or part-time job can help you achieve financial independence as a student.
For example, you can:
- Find out if you’re a good fit for the on-campus study and work program.
- Find a part-time job on or near campus.
- Become an Uber, Lyft, DoorDash or Instacart driver.
- Sell your used clothes neatly on Poshmark, eBay or Facebook Marketplace.
- Walk the dogs.
- Become a freelance writer.
- Teach other students in your class.
Brownie indicates if you are moonlighting as something you enjoy. This way you won’t mind the extra work.
4. Invest now – even if it’s only $20 a month
If you want to achieve financial independence as a student, you have to start investing now. There is no way around this.
Even $20 a month can turn into thousands of dollars over time. Here is the proof:
Let’s say you start investing $20 a month at age 18. By age 65, you may have $256,384 set aside for retirement when technically you’ve only saved $11,280 (at an average rate of return of 10%).
This is the power of compound interest. This allows you to take $11,280 and turn it into a quarter of a million dollars..
Increase your monthly savings rate even more and you can become a millionaire with relatively little effort:
|If you start investing that much per month at 18…||…you will have the same number at 65.*|
*with an average yield of 10%.
5. Keep a close eye on your spending
Becoming a financially independent student doesn’t mean denying yourself everything you love in life. You can still enjoy that coffee, that video game, and that night with your friends.
But become financially independent as a student does require you to be more careful about your expenses.
This means planning your spending so that you can buy more of what makes you happy and less of what you don’t.
So, if you really like a good car, you can rent a smaller or cheaper apartment so you have more wiggle room in your budget to increase your monthly payment.
On the other hand, if you don’t care about cars at all but love international travel, you can drive a used car to spend money on what really matters to you – plane tickets.
Read more: When to spend money
6. Live below your means
“Spend less than you earn and save the rest.”
Becoming a financially independent student depends on this one life principle. If you can handle this, you will be better than many of your classmates.
There are many ways to save small amounts of money here and there:
- Find a cheaper phone service (my favorite Mint Mobile).
- Look for cheaper car insurance (if you pay the bill yourself).
- Stick to your grocery store shopping list so you don’t buy too much.
- Limit yourself to one party a week (or even a month).
- Shop at thrift stores and thrift stores for clothing and home goods.
Every time you save one dollar, you are buying one dollar of financial freedom for your future self. And as you saw in the tooltip, no. 4, even small amounts add up.
7. Make smart choices with credit cards and student loans
College is a time when many students make stupid mistakes with their money — mistakes that can take decades to correct after throwing their graduation hat into the air.
If you want to avoid these mistakes and truly become a financially independent student, learn how to handle credit cards and student loans wisely.
For student loans, this means that you borrow enough money to cover your tuition and expenses. Don’t take out the biggest loan you can just so you can buy a 4K TV and pay for your spring break trip to Panama City.
With credit cards, get in the habit of paying your bill in full each month. Avoid interest like the plague—high-interest debt makes it hard to experience financial freedom as a college student.
8. Sell used textbooks and other unwanted items.
When I was in college, I was the queen of Poshmark and Facebook Marketplace. I got the thrill of digging through my stuff to see what kind of clutter I can monetize. It made me a minimalist and helped me be more mindful of my spending.
What items do you have in your dorm room that you don’t use? It could be beautiful clothes, a bike you bought in your freshman year, or even old textbooks.
Create a bunch of things you don’t need. Then see if there are buyers on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Poshmark, or your local thrift store.
Read more: How to make sure that there is enough money for this semester
9. Invest in yourself
Even if you are in college, you may have interests and hobbies that go beyond the classroom. It could be freelancing, photography, or even improving your communication skills so you can get a great job after graduation.
Developing these skills can help you make more money in the future. So, if you have free time, consider signing up for courses on sites like Udemy, Skillshare, Coursera, or LinkedIn Learning. Your school or public library may even have a free subscription.
While many college students rely on parents or guardians for financial support, there are a number of ways you can become financially independent while still in school.
It takes a little time and upfront effort, but the payoff is more than worth it.
Featured Image: Personal Items/Shutterstock.com