College is a time for learning new things, socializing with new people, and preparing for life’s many challenges. But as you may know, it can be quite costly. Tuition rates have risen steadily as universities struggle to make ends meet in the wake of the economic downturn.
So how can you make it through without burying yourself in student loan and credit card debt?
You’ll need to establish a monthly budget to ensure that there’s not a large debt hole waiting for you after graduation day. A good budget will make you feel happier and relaxed because you have made a plan. You know where you’re income is coming from, and where you are spending your money. No budget will make you feel stressed and worried because you haven’t planned. You might know where your income is coming from, but if you haven’t planned to spend it wisely, you might find that you are spending carelessly, and running out of money, which can cause a myriad of problems.
Consider these Six Simple Ways for College Students to Live On a Budget:
1. Make a Budget before You Start School
First things first: you’ve got to be prepared before day one. Many college students spend money more freely in the beginning of their first semester—sometimes without realizing the implications of the spending until months later. A few are fortunate to receive money from their parents throughout the school year, others must plan to work during school to cover expenses. That means many students can find themselves in serious difficulties unless they get their personal finances in order. It’s really difficult for an incoming freshman to anticipate expenses, but asking advice from other students that have gone to the college or university a year before them can help. Think about your circle of friends or family and ask around to find out more about what your college expenses could look like. Establishing a budget ahead of time can help you avoid taking on unnecessary debt later on.
2. Use Student Discounts
University area businesses often give student discounts to boost their business. Just flash your student ID at restaurants, bookstores, movie theatres, travel agencies, clothing stores, and more—to get your student discount. This could be anything from 5-15% or more depending on the business. Student discounts benefit both students and local businesses. The businesses benefit because they hope you’ll tell your friends about their store; you benefit because you get a discount.
Make sure you apply for any other student discount card you are entitled to, such as travel cards to give you anything up to 30% off your train or bus journeys.
3. Avoid Credit Cards
Students may feel the need to get a credit card for college. Yes, they’ll help build credit, but they can destroy it as well. If you do opt to get a credit card, be sure to pay it off in full every month. Many college students fall into the credit card trap early on, which only adds to their student loan debt. So avoid them if you can, and use them responsibly if you can’t.
4. Work for the University
Students can reap some serious rewards when they work for their school. Even if it means swiping meal plan cards at a nearby dining hall, they could receive discounted food, books, and even tuition. To take it a step further, explore the possibilities of working in one of many university offices around campus – many institutions have paid internship programs. You could earn some great real-world experience, from the comfort of your campus. Also, many universities have their own student-run credit unions, where you can learn everything you need to know about finance—and get paid for it.
5. make a Meal Plan
If you’re not using a university dining rooms or canteens, be sure to plan your meals in advance. For one, it saves you trips to the grocery store and allows you to avoid overpriced mini-marts on campus. By making a shopping list and sticking to it, you can keep your food purchase within your budget. It also allows you to eat healthier because you are planning ahead of time and can purchase healthier options. If you have roommates, share the burden and shop together. It will also help you avoid eating out because you are hungry and don’t have food in your room.
6. Buy Your Books Online, or rent if possible
It’s convenient to buy books at your campus bookstore, but it’s not always cheap. Unless you’re looking for a rare book offered only at your school, look online first. Amazon.com should have most of the books you need. If you do need to buy your books on campus, pick out a used copy. Some students may try to share a textbook with a classmate and can be a great way to save some cash, but you will need to work out a rotation for the actual reading time, which can be difficult. That doesn’t just apply to books—gas, meals, appliances, and laundry can all be shared, too. So if possible, consider sharing. It could give you a serious financial boost this school year.
While having a budget can’t solve all of your financial issues, you still need to have an income that will cover expenses, it is the first step in financial responsibility, and can alleviate unnecessary stress.
I’d love for you to share other tips you have in the comments!