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12 Short-Term Financial Goals for College Students

Financial goal setting

Entering college is an important time in life, and adopting positive habits early on can help lead to success. Learning how to manage your finances in advance can help set you up for financial gain for the rest of your life. By starting with short, manageable financial goals suited for college students, you can gradually work towards long-term goals and save for future milestones, like moving somewhere new, saving for a house, or going on your dream vacation.

While college can teach you many different skills, you can utilize the need for scrimping and saving money to help build a financial literacy foundation that will carry you through the rest of your life. Read on to learn how to create short-term financial goals for college students.

1. Make a Budget

By setting up a budget, you can track your spending habits and understand your money flow better. You can visually see where the bulk of your money is going, such as paying rent, car maintenance, or food. It can also help you understand where you need to cut back and reassess expenses.

To make a budget as a college student, start with what you know will be a recurring cost. This could be tuition, rent, class supplies, phone, car maintenance or public transportation, toiletries, and food. However, living on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. After establishing your monthly expenses, look at what varied costs could come up. This could be considered your spending money. Make sure to set some aside for any activities you like to do, allowing some flexibility and confidence in your budget. Next, revisit your budget regularly to confirm you’re on the right track. If you realize you need to make adjustments, do it sooner rather than later to prevent overspending.

2. Create an Emergency Fund

A safety net is a sure way to prepare for emergencies, especially when money is already on a budget. To prepare for unexpected emergencies, start setting aside a part of your income (consider between 5 to 10 percent). Building an emergency fund can be used for:

  • Injuries or hospitalizations
  • Car repairs
  • Job loss
  • School or equipment expenses

If you get to the point where you feel comfortable with your emergency fund, you can begin to place your money into other areas, whether that is paying down debt or depositing money into a different type of savings account.

3. Get a Job You Can Grow From

Working while in school can present a challenge for your financial goals as you juggle classes and school work. Adding a job to the mix can seem daunting, but there are many advantages.

For example, having a job will:

  • Enable you to gain valuable experience while in school
  • Emergency fund savingsHelp you stand out when entering the work field in your desired career
  • Provide experiences to draw upon during an interview
  • Make it easier to manage money and monitor your budget

If you’re not able to attend college and work, picking up a job during the summer can be another great way to save. This will allow you to build up savings for college and any expenses that come with it.

4. Invest In Your Financial Literacy

College is a great time to learn and develop financial skills. Along with managing a budget, you can begin understanding the true value of money and work towards achieving long-term goals.

Consider taking a personal finance course during your time at college. A class will offer structure and support as you learn if financial classes aren’t offered in your college, or you don’t have the availability in your schedule for it, reading personal finance books can help your mindset grow. Blogs, podcasts, and TED talks can also be great resources for improving financial literacy.

5. Use Financial Planning Apps

While it’s a good idea to have your bank’s app downloaded on your phone, there are also apps designed with the sole purpose of helping you budget and save. Try out a few different apps and see which one suits you best. Some may be best for helping you achieve your short-term financial goals, while others will help you in the long run.

When it comes to financial literacy and planning, there’s always more to learn. It’s likely that your goals and income will be ever-evolving and need updating as you go through life.

6. Graduate With No Debt

If you need to take out loans for college, make sure you do so responsibly. Ensure that you have the ability to pay it back by a reasonable time so that you don’t have debts preventing you from your long-term financial goals. By setting up a repayment plan, you can plan ahead and be financially stable after graduation.


Your credit score determines how likely you are to pay a loan on time based on your credit history. Good credit can shape financial opportunities and choices after graduation, making it one of the most helpful financial goals for college students. With good credit, you’re more likely to qualify for low-interest loans and obtain better jobs and places to live.

Consider applying for a secured credit card or a student credit card. Pay your bills on time to raise your credit score—ideally in full, every month. Paying your student loans on time can also boost your credit. While building good credit takes time, starting the process in college ensures you’ll have a solid four-year history when seeking financial opportunities after graduation.


One of the most valuable examples of short-term financial goals for college students is becoming aware of situations that cause them to overspend. “Spending triggers” refer to any emotion, situation, place, or person that tempts you to spend money. You might observe that you tend to overspend right before exams. If so, this may indicate stress is one of your money triggers.

When you feel the strong urge to spend, pause and try to identify the underlying feeling that triggered this desire. Instead of spending, try seeking healthier outlets, like working out or reading a book. Gaining awareness of your money triggers is a step toward building better spending habits.


Most parents sacrifice their time, energy, and money for their children’s education. While they don’t usually expect something in return for their efforts, one of the best ways you can show your gratitude is through financial support. This financial goal for college students may look different for everyone. Depending on your parent’s unique needs, you can consider buying them something useful or helping them save up for their own goals, such as buying a new appliance or launching a new business.


Almost every list of short-term financial goals for college students includes creating a budget. However, you can go the extra mile by creating a money system that can work for you. Money systems are processes that help you automate the way you handle money. Examples are setting up automated fund transfers to your savings account or automatic bill payments at the end of each month. Determine your money system to allow you to reach your financial goals with less effort and reduce the complexity of handling your finances.

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When viewed in a financial investment context, pursuing higher education is one of the significant factors that can increase your future income potential. Learning to monetize your degree early on is one of the best financial goals for college students. If working full-time in your field is not yet possible, you can begin by looking for other lucrative opportunities related to your study. It can be as simple as partaking in paid research work in your area of interest, offering tutoring services, or working part-time in your industry.


Investing can seem intimidating for college students, but it’s an excellent learning experience. When approached cautiously, investing is a step toward increasing your wealth. There are different investment tools available to help students get started. Mobile apps like Stash and Acorns enable you to buy stocks early and diversify your portfolio. Then, as you learn about the process and the options available, you can increase your investment little by little.

How do you Meet Short-Term Financial Goals

Setting short-term financial goals as a student is the first step to long-term success. Taking this first step is important, but it means nothing if you aren’t willing to put in the effort to meet your goal. Keep in mind these basic rules of short-term financial goals for students.

Make time for financial success: Meeting your short term financial goal will require some time away from your everyday activities. Make sure to set aside some time to review, study, and achieve your goal.

Find a financial goal buddy: Financial goals are hard to meet, especially when you are a student trying to balance school funds with weekend activities. A great way to maintain your goal is to find a friend who can keep you accountable. You can set goals with them or simply tell them your goals so they can keep you accountable.

Make a plan: Whether you are planning on finding a job you can grow in or you want to improve your financial literacy, you will need to make a plan to get there. Write down the steps you will need to take and how you will accomplish the financial goal.

Financial Goals Are Worth It

When you start learning financial skills early and establish short-term goals at the beginning of your college career, you’ll be able to better navigate through college and beyond. By using these financial goals for college students today, it can lead to a better financial situation down the road.