Last Updated: February 11, 2015
by Holly King
As a college student, you probably don’t have a big stash of cash, and maxing out your credit cards can ruin your credit score. But you hate to turn down a good concert and spring break is right around the corner. So how do you avoid financial disaster without living like a recluse? Our tips for creating a college budget will prove that all you need is a dash of discipline and dose of creativity to make your cash stretch further than you ever thought possible.
Money waster: Compared to other entertainment options, you might think going to the movies is cheap. But the cost of admission is just the tip of the iceberg. Once you’re there, you’re sure to head to the snack bar where you’ll fork out cash for popcorn, candy, and soda.
Penny saver: Grab an “almost new” release from Redbox or Netflix and invite a few friends over to your dorm room. Split the cost of pizza, soda, and chips and you can enjoy a Friday night movie marathon for half the price of going to the theater. Bonus: You can take a bathroom break whenever you want without missing a thing. If you need a theater fix, go during the day when ticket prices are generally cheaper and don’t forget to ask about a student discount.
2. School Supplies
Money waster: No doubt that fancy pen looks cool and you’d like to upgrade your computer, but spending money on unnecessary school supplies can put a serious drain on your budget.
Penny saver: Consider buying school supplies in bulk and splitting the cost with a few friends. From notebooks and highlighters, to USB flash drives, buying in bulk is a smart move. And instead of charging a new computer on your credit card, start a savings plan and, once you’ve saved enough, pay in cash. Keep in mind that there’s a best and worst time to buy things you’ll need as a college student. For example, school supplies and computers are often discounted in August and September when retailers offer back to school deals. And don’t forget that some retailers offer additional savings to college students, so shop with your college ID in hand.
3. Food and Drink
Money waster: According to a survey by the Bureau of Labor, the average college student spends over seven percent of their income on dining out and nearly two percent on buying alcohol. That’s roughly twice the amount someone in their 40’s or 50’s spends. From nixing your daily latte to avoiding a late night burger, there’s a good chance you can free up cash by making better choices when it comes to food and drink.
Penny saver: College-aged or not, we all make the mistake of eating out for convenience sake. Instead of running to your favorite fast food joint, consider getting on a meal plan and using it. Your college’s meal plan may cost a pretty penny upfront, but it will likely save you a lot of money in the long run. For dorm snacks, buy in bulk with your suitemates and stash a few goodies in your backpack so you won’t waste money on that snack machine outside the lecture hall.
Money waster: Having a car at college is a nice perk, but car insurance, parking permits, gas, and regular upkeep can take a toll on your meager budget.
Penny saver: If you must have a car at school, keep it parked as often as possible and opt for public transportation. If mass transit isn’t an option, carpool whenever possible and “just say no” to that pal who is constantly nagging you for a lift.
5. Consider a Cheaper College
Money waster: Going to a prestigious college can offer some benefits, but only if you can afford it. Unfortunately many college-bound seniors don’t consider the long-term financial impact of going to a pricey college, not the least of which is being saddled with exorbitant student loan debt that could take decades to pay off.
Penny saver: There are a few reasons to consider transferring colleges, and saving money is one of them. Believe it or not, a handful of affordable private colleges and universities offer an excellent education. You might also consider going to a budget-friendly community college and then transferring to the university of your dreams at the start of your junior year. If you decide to stay put, boost your money management IQ with an online course like the “Money Matters” course a few colleges in Minnesota offer.
Start saving money today by creating a budget.
If this is the semester you’re going to get serious about cracking down on your spending, you need to establish a budget. A budget will not only reveal where you’re wasting money, it can also help you get your spending under control and keep it that way. Best yet, you’ll develop amazing money management skills that will serve you well throughout college and beyond. To get started, use an interactive budget worksheet or a convenient budgeting app created especially for college students.
Build a budget and use these tips to spend your pennies wisely. Then explore more ways to be a money savvy college student.
image credit: moneytalksnews.com
Original Post Date: February 3rd, 2015