I have a secret for you. College is expensive.
Don’t believe me? Between paying for tuition, parking, textbooks, extra fees and to top it all off, living expenses! Now you tell me. How much money do you have leftover?
If you say “I have plenty of money leftover”, tap yourself on the back, you’re doing well for yourself. Parents helping you out? Go home, give them a hug and thank them for the opportunity they’re giving you to pursue what many dream to do.
However, if you are like the vast majority of college students who will graduate with mounds of debt, well this article will help to make that mountain a little smaller. All these costs are likely quite new to you so you may not even know how to survive on a budget, let alone a college one.
Whether you are trying to survive the whole year off what was made over the summer, or you have a steady job throughout the school year, there are ways to budget what you have and not gain any more debt than you have to.
Below are the tips I used to survive on a college budget.
Using coupons to stay on a budget
I used this strategy daily while I was in school and it literally saved me hundreds of dollars.
Now, I definitely got some grief over these, but I’m convinced they were jealous I was saving money when they weren’t.
If you get a daily or weekly paper in the mail, chances are you’ll receive some coupon books. I highly recommend looking through it even if you don’t think you need anything. You’ll be surprised what you can save on things you use daily and might be able to stock up on.
Always check online for deals. I use Honey on my Chrome browser. Whenever you shop online it will automatically scan and look for codes when you’re checking out. I recently saved an extra $5 at Office Depot because of a promo they were running. It’s easy to use and once it’s installed you don’t have to worry about it again.
DO NOT Impulse Buy
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen people pay full retail for something and they didn’t even bother to check if they could get it for less.
Here’s a secret: Those things you see in store? You can usually get it for less online – if you have the patience to wait a little longer.
Whenever I am purchasing items, usually over $20-30 I will always check online first. If you can wait a little extra longer or many even plan ahead you will find you can often save quite a bit by buying online.
Amazon and eBay have proved to be quite reliable places to price check and I use these sources every week, if not every day when I’m looking to buy something.
Most importantly, if you don’t think you can wait at least stop for a moment and think. Do I REALLY need this? Will this have a positive impact on my life if it will leave a burnt hole in my wallet? If no, then resist the urge and wait a week. Often times that impulse won’t last long and you will have saved yourself some money.
Eat out less
Now, this may come as a surprise to you but eating out every day can take a toll on your finances. Before the Chipotle outbreak, I’m sure numerous ones of you would make weekly, if not daily trips to Chipotle for their giant bowls and burritos. If you’re still a die-hard fan, well you probably still go there on occasion.
Lets put this in perspective. Say you ate out one meal every day for a whole school year (typically 3 quarters or 2 semesters for your average student). On average, there are around 30 weeks per school year. If one person went to Chipotle every day that’s roughly 160 days. Your average chicken burrito, at least in my area runs $6.70 cents before tax.
That’s over $1,000 just on your daily lunch fix. Now imagine if you drink coffee in the morning or need your ice cream or bubble tea at night and you can see how quickly these costs can add up.
Now I’m not saying you should stop eating out entirely, I know how it is to want to hang out with everyone. These are your college years after all. However, you should try to eat in as much as you can, make your own meals and if you do go out, at least try to go during happy hour when food is cheaper.
Have a roommate
The more people you live with, generally the less you will pay when it comes to rent and utilities. If you find yourself living alone, I highly recommend finding roommates so you can split costs with them.
This is an easy way to save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per school year.
You may even make some awesome friends along the way.
Use your student ID
Being a student has its advantages! Your ID is often good at many places beyond your college campus. Before you buy I highly recommend looking to see if they offer one.
Your student ID can often be used to save money at restaurants, clothing stores, electronics, at the movies and many attractions like parks and museums.
You pay a lot while you’re in school, you may as well reap some of the benefits of those costs.
Good Luck, Newbies
What college budget tips do you have?