Attending college is a very exciting experience, but also a very expensive one. Take some advice from a college student about how to manage your budget.
With continually rising tuition and textbook costs, accompanied by the costs of everyday life, the common saying “broke college student” has never been more true. However, there are many things you can do to make the college experience more affordable. That being said, here are some tips for getting the most out of college without going broke.
Create a Budget
If you have never managed your finances before, this may seem like a stressful or daunting task. However, in reality, it is not that difficult and can save you a lot of stress and money throughout your college experience. You do not need to keep track of every penny you spend, but rather have a general idea of how much money is coming in and going out every month. There are quite a few apps out there designed to help you manage your budget, such as Mint or You Need A Budget.
If you have work study, an off-campus job, or a regular allowance from your parents, you will want to keep track of how much money you are making each month. If you don’t have any source of money coming in, then keeping track of how much your spending is even more important. You will want to start by calculating all of your necessary living expenses (rent, utilities, food, gas, etc.) for the month. Once you know how much money you are going to need to spend on living expenses, you will know how much money you have left for the month, which you can save, or spend on late night food orders, going to the bar with your friends, or whatever shenanigans you wish to spend money on.
Take Advantage of Student Discounts
Student discounts are all over the place, you just have to ask. From local restaurants and movie theatres, to international businesses such as Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft, many businesses offer generous student discounts,which can save you a lot of money if properly utilized. Amazon offers its “Amazon Prime Student” at a 50% discount compared to standard Amazon Prime, while still offering all of the benefits of free two-day shipping, amazon video and music, textbook rentals, and much more. Apple and Microsoft often offer student discounts on laptops and other electronics. Additionally, a few times a year Groupon offers a student discount for 25 percent off all local deals.
Whether you are buying a new laptop, or just going out to dinner or the movies, it is always worth asking if they have a student discount.
Make Shopping Lists (and don’t shop when you’re hungry)
Once you have a budget created, you will know how much money you have to spend on food and can keep a running list of what you need from the store. If you have a meal plan, this is a simple task, however if you are cooking for yourself, you will probably want to plan your meals ahead of time to assure you are only buying food that you will be able to eat before it goes bad. For products you will be using regularly, such as paper towels, toilet paper, and trash bags, buy them in bulk and split them with your roommates (as long as you have the storage space), in order to save you some money and save you the hassle of picking them up regularly.
In addition to making lists, it is always a good idea to steer clear of the grocery store when you are very hungry or you may end up walking out with Oreos and Reese’s Puffs, rather than the chicken and vegetables you intended to buy. By avoiding shopping when you are hungry, you can limit impulse purchases, assuring you are making the healthiest and most economic shopping decisions.
Keep Snacks With You During the Day
Food on campus is often quite overpriced, so if you are regularly buying food in the campus union or out of vending machines, the money you spend can really rack up. This is why buying snacks in bulk and keeping something with you during the day can be a very effective way to save money, without going hungry.
Going out? Only Take Money You Are Willing To Spend
There are definitely going to be times when you want to go out with your friends on the weekends, whether you are going to a restaurant , a club, or a party. Before you leave it is important you only take money with you that you won’t regret spending. This may mean leaving the debit or credit card behind and only taking the amount of cash you will feel good about spending. Doing this will pay off in the long run, as you will not be able to spend more money than you intended, and in the case that your wallet would ever get lost or stolen, you will have much less at risk.
Get Involved with Campus Activities
Included within your student tuition is a fee for campus activities, which are regular events on campus offered free-of-charge or at very little cost. You have essentially already paid for these activities, and many of the events, such as bingo or trivia night, include great prizes (TV’s, giftcards, college gear, etc.), so why not get involved? Campus Activities provide a safe, affordable, and enjoyable alternative to going out on the weekends.
Oh, you and your roommate both eat food and are going to need to go to the grocery store? Save money on gas and go together. If you go off campus for shopping or an internship, carpooling with friends can save everyone money and make everyday tasks more enjoyable.
Establish Credit, But Use it Wisely
As a college student, you are at the age that it would be great to start building credit, but you must be careful in doing so, otherwise it may be counterproductive and result in a mess of debt. The best way to do this is to own a credit card, but have a set plan for how you are going to use it.
One effective strategy for establishing credit without overspending is to only use your credit card for specific purchases that you know you can afford, such as gas or a netflix subscription, and set up automatic payments on the credit card so you never miss a payment. Using this strategy, you will establish credit, avoid overspending and accumulating debt, and never damage your credit score with missed payments.
Nothing about college is cheap, but if you use these tips and make sound financial decisions, it can definitely be affordable. Enjoy the little things like hanging out with your friends and making memories. You are going to make financial mistakes along the way and that is okay, accept them and learn from them. Learn to embrace frugality at this point in your life and know that it will pay off down the road.