In college? Need simple money saving tips? We all know that college life can be overwhelming at times; you have to focus on staying on top of your homework, getting to class on time, enjoying a social life, and staying on trend, while simultaneously staying on budget. But there is a way to manage your finances to make sure you have enough to cover your basic expenses and save, as well as splurge every now and then on new clothes or a night out. It’s a valuable skill that many people don’t learn until it is too late, and their life has become unaffordable, so now’s the time to get it under control. If you’re ready to take money matters into your own hands, read on to learn how to start a basic budget and our favorite tips for managing your college expenses.
To start creating a basic budget, you will need to list all your sources of income, including:
- Wages and tips you make from your main job
- Part-time summer job or side hustle
- Money from your parents
- Student loans, grants or financial aid
Then, once you’ve figured out how much money you have on hand, determine which college costs are fixed. Examples of fixed cost are:
- Tuition and fees
- Room and board if you live on campus
- Rent and utilities if you live off campus
- Car loan
- Credit payments
- Car insurance
- Extra bills like cable or Netflix and your phone
Once you subtract your fixed costs from your total income, you will know how much disposable income you have left over for things like:
- Coffee or tea from a cafe instead of at home
- Manicures and pedicures at a salon
- Dresses from Lulus (of course)
- A Sephora run
- Wine or drinks at home or the bar
Now that you’ve determined where your money goes each month, you have your budget! If you want to start saving, start off small with allowances for fun things – give yourself a weekly goal and see how close you come to guessing your accurate cost of living, and put any extra in a savings account. If you run out of funds in the middle of the week and are forced to live off a loaf of bread and jam until Monday, you’ll get a taste of real adult life about what happens when you don’t budget correctly.
Speaking of food, that might be the one place where more money is wasted than any other item on your budget. Obviously, a girl’s gotta eat, but whether you choose to cook at home with roomies or go out for meals, your best bet is to find ways to get the most out of your money. Our best tip for keeping your food costs affordable is to create a meal plan and grocery list each week and stick to it! Give yourself enough variety so you don’t get bored eating ramen noodles and PB&Js each day because inevitably you know a pizzeria or pub that serves hot wings is going to call your name and cause you to blow your budget on a single meal. If you do like to go out for meals, try using apps like Pocket Points to get discounts on your food, or make it a special occasion with your friends where you can all split a few things (including the bill).
Now that you’re feeling more in control of your finances, here are six more easy money saving tips you can start using today!
TIP #1: Shop the bulk section at the grocery store. You’ll save money on the cost of packaging, and you can still get the same amount of granola and nuts. Good for your wallet and the environment!
TIP #2: Cut coupons. You don’t have to be extreme, but seriously, coupons are one of the best ways to save on food and household items. The local papers are packed with manufacturer coupons you can use to save money on items you use every day. Don’t be afraid of the store brand either!
TIP# 3: When buying textbooks, BARGAIN like your life depends on it! Shop online at places like chegg.com or valorebooks.com to rent or compare lower used prices. You don’t need to spend $180 on that required textbook if you can rent a textbook online for $25. Whatever money you might be able to make during book buyback at the end of the semester is likely going to be disappointing, so manage your expectations by knowing your total cost up front.
TIP# 4: Get roommates. If you live off campus, roommates will make your rent and utility costs become a lot cheaper, not to mention it will make your life a lot more exciting (for better or worse – share your roommate horror stories in the comments).
TIP# 5: Swap cable for Netflix, if you decide if you really need television in your life at all. Split your Netflix account with your roommates to save even more money (or borrow your parents’ password, we won’t tell).
TIP# 6: Take the bus! Busses are a great and inexpensive way to get to school. Many schools offer free transportation from off-campus apartments to different parts of the school. Learn their schedule and make some bus buddies, but also get to your pick-up spot early as you can expect them to run a little late some days.
How do you keep life affordable in college? Share some of your tips and tricks in the comments below!