How To Get Your College Budget On Track


Tips to get your college budget on track.

Many of us are coming out of the post-holiday haze and realizing that we’ve spent more money over the past few months than we anticipated.

We weren’t thinking about the textbooks we would need in January when we were buying all of those Moguards as Christmas gifts in December (yes, even Grandma got one).

What are we poor college students to do when our wallets, bank accounts, and bellies are empty in the New Year? Never fear! There are some simple strategies we can implement to get our income moving in the right direction.

New Year, New College Budget

It’s a new year, which means it’s a great time to get your finances in check. This could include anything from cancelling a credit card you use too much to transferring 10% of your monthly paycheck into a savings account.

Save money in college - Avoid using plastic

Leave the plastic at home and save money in college

And it’s time to make a budget. I know I know, it doesn’t sound like fun. But by devising a detailed college budget over the course of a few hours, you can wind up saving hundreds of dollars each month to put towards textbooks, living expenses, and fun.

The first steps to creating a budget are:

  • Know your income. Track your weekly and/or monthly salary so you know exactly what you’re working with.
  • Figure out your expenses. What do you pay in rent? Do you need to eat? Do you plan on buying textbooks this semester?

If you’re ready to dive deeper into making a budget, please read 12 Steps for How to Make a Budget – Personal Budgeting Tips for First Timers.”

Create SMART Goals

As good as your money-saving spectacular college budget extravaganza plans may be, you want to be realistic and make goals and decisions you can stick with. Be SMART about your goals by:

  • Writing them down. Studies show that individuals who write down their goals are much more likely to accomplish them than people who don’t.
  • Being specific. It’s a good idea for you to create tangible, detailed goals that clearly outline what your financial plans are as well as how you will implement them. 

An example of a SMART budgeting goal would be to take $20 from each of your weekly paychecks and deposit it into your savings account in order to prepare for an emergency (aka, one of these).

Okay, so maybe a Tesla doesn’t realistically fit into the your new college budget. But we can still dream, can’t we?

Get A Bank/Checking Account

If you’re serious about getting your money on track for the New Year, open a checking account. Setting up a checking account in college has advantages. Banks tend to cater to students by offering them the opportunity to open free checking accounts. With a free account, you oftentimes won’t have to worry about accumulating fees on fund transfers or withdrawals.

When deciding on which bank to use, think about if they have ATMs near campus. You don’t want to have to be worrying about out-of-network withdrawal fees when you’re trying to get your grub on at 3am. You know you’ll pay that $2 service fee to take out $20 to be able to buy your pizza. Speaking of pizza…

Make Your Own Food

Those 3am pizza runs can get a little pricey.  So what to do when your tummy is as empty as your wallet?

Learn how to cook! Hey, it’s an essential life skill to have. You can easily make some seriously tasty grub and take all of that money you save to the bank.

Sell Old Stuff Online

You likely have items in your dorm or apartment that you’re not using. For example, do you really need that cupcake pillow? Well, yes…yes you do.

But you can sell your less important stuff using sites like eBay, or other online buyback companies, to generate quick cash. To get started, set aside a time to take stock of what you have. What is essential? What can you live without?

Items that yield the most cash include:

By selling your unwanted stuff, not only will your wallet be fatter, but your dorm will be clean (well, cleaner).

Sell Your Textbooks Online

Another way to get your income moving in the right direction is selling your textbooks online.

You’ve got tons of textbooks laying around that you convince yourself that you’re going to need in 10 years. It’s not going to happen. And your textbooks are worth the most money now, so strike while that buyback iron is hot!

While selling textbooks on campus is convenient, you often get more money selling textbooks to online companies instead. The process is simple and easy with many companies offering to pay the shipping for you.

One excellent, expedient online textbook seller that you should sell your textbooks to is

Share Your Tips

We’d love to hear from you! What are some ways you got out of your financial pickle? Please share any helpful budgeting advice for college students by leaving a reply.


College Advice From Our Customers – Help A College Student Contest Winners

Help a College Student Writing Contest

Our customers shared their best college advice. Read their advice below.

Last month, we held a contest asking our customers a simple question:

“What advice would you give to a college student and why?”

They blew us away with the great advice they shared. Our customers come from varying degrees of college experience. And it’s safe to say based on their advice, we’d call them all college experts. While it was no easy task to pick five winners out of the bunch, we hope these winning entries help current and future college students.

Schedule Homework Time Backwards

“Do internships, because they give you job experience. Pay attention to what professors are looking for – because then you’ll get good grades. Finish what you start. Oh, and the best advice I ever got for college? Schedule backwards from when assignments are due, schedule time to do the assignments and then stick to your schedule. I had a friend in college who had all the same classes as I did for two quarters, and at the beginning of every week we’d sit down and schedule when we would do each assignment. I got everything done, on time! In the world of entrepreneurship and jobs, being able to set goals and meet your own deadlines is gold.”

- By Amanda M.

Visit Counselors and Create an Academic Map

“Classes are easy it’s the administrative hurdles that can interfere with your education! Be sure to visit academic counselors and create your own academic map with key dates and goals. Get a jump on planning and preparing by familiarizing yourself with the schools website. Many online systems will offer link to required texts when you sign up for classes. Ask lots of questions of different people around campus, this is a great way to great meet people and learn about campus resources! Make college work for you!”

- By Lorraine K.

Don’t Forget About Your Health

“My husband is an English prof and has worked with college students for 25+years. He always has two pieces of advice for incoming Freshmen. First, get some sleep. Yep, get in the bed at a semi-reasonable hour. Those late, late night talks with your roommate costs you down the road. By November, you have piled up a sleep debt and your body screams “Enough!” Usually, this rebellion expresses itself through a sinus infection, flu virus, or, at times, depression. By then your semester is in the throes of due dates and mid-terms. Not a time to miss a week of class.

Second, do what your momma has always told you–eat your veggies and drink your orange juice!! All these students coming in from all points of the world and living in close quarters exposes you to all sorts of new germs. So, load up on that vitamin C and save the pizza for the weekend.

By staying reasonably healthy, you can actually make it to class and stay awake–two KEYS to passing a college level class.”

- By Whit J.

Take It From a Runner – It’s Important to Pace Yourself

“Running cross-country for a major university taught me lessons that are applicable to anyone’s academic career.

Working toward a college degree is like trying to complete a marathon. While marathon finishers show that they have the physical stamina to grind their way to their goal, college graduates demonstrate to a potential employer or recruiter that they have the mental grit to persist in an academic or work environment.

Just as a long-distance runner learns not to start a race too fast, those embarking on a college career should learn to pace themselves. Don’t waste energy by striving for academic perfection – that’s the quickest road to intellectual burnout. Instead, the most useful bit of advice I have is to attend each and every lecture. Doing so is like the runner who maintains a steady pace throughout a race. Just as the crowd cheers even the slowest marathoner, so too does a professor mentally applaud those who show up day after day no matter where they fall on the academic scale. It is a college secret that professors will find a way to give at least a “C” to those who attend class everyday. So, to those just starting on their way to a college degree – remember that the steady students are the ones who win the college marathon.”

- By Mark M.

Your Schedule May Be Crazy Busy – But Don’t Forget To Enjoy the Little Things

“College is a completely different world than high school. I am a junior in college now, with a double major in Business Administration and Accounting. I have the ambitious goal of graduating in 4 years with 150 credits (which is equal to having a master’s degree). I also work and volunteer on the side. This story is typical of my other college friends as well. Life is beyond busy…it is hectic and crazy. But I have learned is that I need to live day by day. It is easy to become stressed and overwhelmed with my schedule. I can look at my week in my planner and feel like I can’t keep going. But it is possible to block out the other days and focus on today. Take joy out of the little moments in life, like grabbing a Starbucks with friends or just looking out the window at the gorgeous morning in your 8am class.

Life and college aren’t easy, but make sure you always take the time to smile and be grateful for the good moments, and even the bad ones that make you grow. Don’t let your schedules overtake you…don’t lose yourself. Instead, answer this question: “Why did I enter college?” Keep your answer in your mind as you live day-by-day and moment-to-moment.”

-By Katie M.

Thank you to everyone that submitted their college advice to the Cash4Books Help A College Student Contest. If you’d like to learn more about selling textbooks online for cash, a great place to start is our website, Want to never miss another Cash4Books contest? Join our monthly newsletter! You’ll be first to know about any contest. Plus, you’ll get exclusive bonus codes to add more cash to your buyback total. Sign up here.

Stolen Textbook Recovery Program

College Textbook Theft

College textbook

Your textbook. An easy target for on campus thieves. Photo credit: Scott Feldstein,

For college students, it should be no surprise that money, cell phones, and bicycles often catch the eye of on-campus thieves. However, there is an often overlooked item that can be just as valuable but not as closely guarded: college textbooks.

Even though the cost is high for college textbooks, they are often not protected in the same way as a cell phone or bicycle. For cell phones, we buy protective cases, phone insurance, and constantly keep them close to us. We buy expensive locks to ensure that our bikes can’t be easily taken. But can you say you take the same measures for your college textbook?

College textbooks are an easy target for thieves. With the bookstore often located nearby, they don’t even have to leave campus to cash them in. In fact, the college bookstore is often the most common target of textbook theft!

Start Protecting Your Textbooks Today

Here are 3 easy tips to start protecting your textbooks:

  • Think of your textbooks as currency. That is how thieves view them, and you should to. Would you leave $200 sitting on the table at the library? Of course not! But this happens daily with textbooks.
  • Always lock your dorm room or locker. Whether you live on campus or are just renting a locker, be sure to always lock up your belongings. If a thief can’t easily get to it, they’re likely to move on to an easier target.
  • Mark your textbooks. Create a unique marking inside of your books. For example, maybe you draw a smiley face and your initials on very last page. This will let you know that it truly is your textbook should you find it. Writing your name in the cover is okay, but these are often looked for and easily crossed out.

Cash4Books Textbook Recovery Program

We empower our employees to be aware and mindful of textbook theft. We do our best not to purchase any textbooks we believe to be stolen.

Has your textbook recently been stolen? Let us know and we will keep an eye out if anyone tries to sell it to us. Simply fill out our stolen textbook recovery form, and we’ll be on the lookout for incoming books that match your description.

Do you have more questions about textbook safety? Leave a comment below or contact us today.

Help A College Student Writing Contest

Help a College Student Writing Contest

You’ve learned a lot in college. Now share your best tips and win a Cash4Books prize package!

Share Your College Advice to Win a Cash4Books Prize Package

You’ve already proved your savvy student status by skipping the trip to your campus bookstore and selling your books online at Cash4Books. Now we wonder… what other helpful tips do you have for fellow college students?

Cash4Books Prize Package

Cash4Books Prize Package

We’re giving away 5 prize packages to the winners of our Help A College Student Writing Contest. Prize package includes:

  • $20 Starbucks Gift Card
  • Coffee travel mug
  • Reusable grocery bag
  • Your writing featured on our blog
  • Social props via our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

How to Enter the Help a College Student Writing Contest:

1. Write Your College Advice
Please be sure to share the following:

  • A little about yourself. Describe yourself to your fellow students. Are you still in school or a graduate? What is/was your major? What are your hobbies/interests?
  • Your advice. What is the one piece of advice you would give a college student in your shoes if you had the chance? Why? What experience led you to your advice?

Cash4Books customers come from all different backgrounds. such as busy moms going back to college, college students, graduate students, and more. No matter who you are, your advice will be appreciated!

2. Email your college advice by September 30th.

How to Win:

Knock our socks off with your college advice. Winners will be notified by October 3rd, and we’ll share the winning entries on our blog starting on October 7th.

Share Your College Advice Today!

College Fundraising For Your Club, Fraternity, and Sorority


Earn money for your college club, fraternity or sorority by using the Cash4Books affiliate program.

We’re all familiar with fundraising.

Maybe you have fond (or not so fond) memories of selling gift wrap door-to-door as a kid, or organizing a car wash to raise money for your sports team. Whether you’re in a college club, fraternity, sorority, or any other college group, at one point or another you’ll need to raise some cash.

We’d like to introduce you to the best kept secret in college and a fantastic way to do college fundraising for your organization… online textbook buyback.

Since 2004, we have bought college textbooks from college students across America. These students grew frustrated by the long lines, low buyback prices, and poor service provided by their campus bookstores.

We also offer an easy way for anyone to earn extra cash by referring fellow students to sell their books online at Cash4Books.

Here’s how your group can start earning extra money today:

  1. You or your club create a Cash4Books account.
  2. Visit our affiliate page to get your unique link.
  3. Share that link with your friends or anyone who has textbooks. For example, you could share it Facebook or put it up on your website.
  4. When they click the link and sell their books to us, your account is credited with the referral.
  5. Once their books arrive, we pay them and you get a paid a 5% referral commission.

Join the Cash4Books Affiliate Program today and start making cash for your college organization.

Questions about how to use the Cash4Books affiliate program for your college fundraising? Leave a comment below or visit our contact us page and we’ll be happy to help!