For many students, heading off to college means new, exhilarating independence–as well as increased financial responsibility. Here are some personal budgeting tips for students for how to best manage your money during this exciting, challenging time.
1. Create a Budget
First, create a realistic budget for yourself: List all forms of income (including money from loans, your parents, your part-time job, etc.) followed by all outgoing expenses. It helps to differentiate between your “needs” (such as rent, groceries, textbooks) and “wants” (money spent going out, clothing splurges, and other fun but unnecessary purchases).
2. Don’t Overbuy
One way to save big when going to college is to avoid overspending on unnecessary items. Don’t lose yourself in the excitement of moving to school and end up buying half of Bed, Bath & Beyond. Recognize that you really won’t need more than one to four of each item, including glass and utensil sets (in the event of a party, you can always buy paper or plastic). It’s best to limit your purchases until you can gauge the amount of space you’ll have available. Once you settle into a routine, you will be better equipped to decide what still needs to be bought.
On the other hand, some pricey purchases may be worth the expense in the long run. If you’re an avid coffee drinker, for example, daily runs to Starbucks will quickly out-price buying a coffee pot. Think carefully and purchase wisely.
3. Learn to Cook
One of the biggest ways you can save money is by learning to cook for yourself. The ability to pack a lunch and make simple dinners will cut out inflated prices, tips and delivery fees. As with shopping to move into school, think carefully about what you will actually eat or be able to cook before venturing into the grocery store — it’s best to write up a list and stick to it. Focus on buying staples and versatile foods that can be utilized for more than one dish, avoiding the waste of any excess ingredients.
4. A Plan for Student Loans
When it comes time to pay back your student loans, make sure you do as much research as possible to ensure your repayment plan makes the most sense for you. Check out different repayment programs that are more outside of the box, such as Upromise by Sallie Mae, a rewards program from which you can earn cash back on purchases and apply your money directly toward your student loan balance.
5. Used Books
While your books are a required expense, there are plenty of ways to cut down on how much you pay for them. Search out other students who have previously taken your classes so you can borrow, try buying used from sites like Amazon or eBay, or explore book-renting companies like Chegg. If you do need to buy directly from a bookstore, do your research — some campus bookstores are overpriced, while others offer incentive student discounts.
6. Student Discounts
Inquiring about student discounts shouldn’t be limited to the bookstore — numerous museums, movie theaters and even restaurants will offer discounts, particularly if they’re located near a school campus. Keep your student ID on you at all times and take advantage of this resource while you can!
7. Public Transportation
Capitalize on any available public transit, particularly subways and buses. A bike could be worth the investment if your location allows (and if you’re a confident biker). If driving is your only option, create a carpool schedule with friends or neighbors, and be sure to use mobile apps like Gas Guru or GasBuddy to help you find the cheapest deals or Gas.
8. Money-Saving Apps
Skip expensive smartphone games in favor of useful money-saving apps. Stay on top of your bills and avoid late fees with apps like Manilla.com, and keep track of your spending with the aptly named Spending Tracker app. Regularly scout deal-finding sites like Groupon and Savored, that way you can save even while splurging on a night out or fun daytime activity.
9. Part-Time Job
If your class load allows, look into finding a part-time job — it can both help boost your resume and pay the bills. Plus, having that much more responsibility may compel you to better value your time and stay organized in other areas of your life.
10. Start Saving
Last but not least — if you are fortunate enough not to be too worried about money, you should still be mindful of your spending. It’s a good rule of thumb to put at least 10 percent of each paycheck (or other form of income) into your savings account. Once graduation day comes and you are faced with today’s tough job market, you will be extremely grateful for every dollar saved over the past four years.
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