This fall, thousands of eager freshmen will step onto their new college campuses for the first time.
The newfound independence and social opportunity that going to college provides students can be exciting, but can quickly become troublesome.
With college tuition costs going up every year, students are becoming overwhelmed by historic debt levels, and high day-to-day expenses. Some students just can’t keep up with the rising costs, and others think that they need to live on a Ramen-only diet just to get by.
Though these costs are not going away anytime soon, if a student manages their money correctly, they can drastically reduce their overhead.
1. Set A Budget:
The first mistake that many students make is not knowing exactly how much money they have. After obligatory costs (tuition, mandatory fees, etc.), how much will be left for personal spending?
Budgeting is even more important for students that do not have a regular income. Not only does having a regular budget help students plan for expected costs (food, leisure activities, etc.), but also allows students to prepare for the unexpected challenges.
Budgeting tools like Mint.com and PNC Virtual Wallet provide students with an easy-to-use platform to visualize exactly where their money goes, making it easy to spot problem spending areas and have a broad overview of their financial health.
2. Put Money In The Bank
There are many banks that offer free accounts for students. Traditional checking account fees may seem small, but they really rack up over the four (or maybe more) years that students spend on campus. Having a checking account helps track your spending, set up online bill pay and gives you liquid access to available funds.
Also, open a savings account. Putting away $10 a month while in school gives you $480+ for when you graduate. No matter how you spend that money (down payment for a new car, moving expenses or a great graduation party), you will be happy to have it.
3. Decide On A Meal Plan
Depending on the school, a university meal plan offers students a somewhat affordable, but very convenient, option for putting on the freshman fifteen. There is no point in paying for something that will go unused, however.
Many students pay for meal plans, while still eating out most of the time. In dorms with kitchens or in off-campus housing, cooking is a very cheap alternative to eating out or having a meal plan. Cooking is also typically healthier than the traditional options available on meal plans.
Again, there is no point in buying groceries that will end up rotting in the fridge. Setting realistic expectations on eating patterns is incredibly important.
When eating out (or doing anything in a college town), be sure to ask if there is a student discount. Students can save a lot money every year using their exclusive discount, and many major companies give students a break at checkout.
4. Find A Job
Many students will look at this tip and think “Duh! Having a job means you have more money,” but having a job while in college also helps save money. The time spent working is time that is not spent with friends thinking up fun, yet expensive things to do.
Students that have jobs while in school also learn the importance of time management, considering the limited time left after studying and work.
Applying to be a Resident Assistant is a great job for students interested in working on campus. RAs are typically compensated with free housing, a meal plan and are sometimes provided additional income.
5. Take Summer Classes
Taking summer classes can help students graduate faster (i.e., less tuition money), plus those classes are typically less expensive. Jobs in college towns also open up during the summer while many students are away, so it's easier to make money on the side.
Just like the rest of the year, students should strive to be the best they can be. Scholarships open up to top students and can easily make school more affordable.
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