College is a fantastic experience, but a pitfall to having so much independence can be forgetting about one’s budget. It highly important as a college student to stay aware of your spending to prevent being pulled into a deep cycle of debt. With student loans piling up, rent and utilities checks written off rapidly, and bank accounts dwindling away for drinks for the cute girl at the bar, unconscious spending can make college a furnace for your cash. There’s a difference from being cheap and being smart about spending. Here’s how you can hang on to a little extra cash throughout college.
The biggest mistake for any student is buying textbooks at the campus bookstores. Prices are jacked up so painfully high on campus that it would be silly to even consider purchasing anything. Amazon.com should be your best friend. Ordering books online can reduce costs up to half the price, and you can sell back your books when you are finished with them. It’s a complete win-win! You could even split purchasing a textbook with a friend in your class, which also automatically gets you a study partner.
Nowadays, some professors are becoming so cool that they are photocopying the pages you need from the textbook and posting them online. Get in touch with your professor before classes start and ask them if they have made the book available online. During my senior year I put off buying a textbook for one of my classes. But to my surprise, the professor had generously made the textbook virtual in order to give us a break on spending. The students who did purchase the textbook were not happy, but now they know that times are changing and to ask their professors beforehand.
Food is a huge necessity and something that most dollars are spent on, especially when you are a starving, bottomless pit such as myself. Eating healthy can be expensive as well and can force you to sacrifice your bodyweight for cheap fast food. A salad does indeed cost more than nachos. But there is a solution to the mayhem – Go to the grocery store and cook your own food! It is much more cost effective and healthier to buy ingredients at the store and whip up a delicious dish. Cooking is extremely rewarding and can keep your waistline and wallet happy. Bring snacks or a packed lunch to class to avoid spending on campus.
Stop making daily Starbucks trips and buy a bag of coffee to make at home. An $11 bag lasts up to a month, when you would have been spending $3 a day or more for mediocre lattes.
Have a meal plan? Use it! It’s free food! Take advantage of everything that your parents and the school provide you with.
Going out to eat with friends is a blast, though it should be done in moderation. If you are really in a pinch, snack a little before your dinner date to refrain from purchasing a large entrée. Check out all of the downtown happy hours – $2 Taco Tuesdays? Heck, yeah!
Partying is expensive, especially if you are trying to buy drinks from the top shelf. Save your fancy cocktails for when you are old and financially stable – Pabst Blue Ribbon and Yellowtail Sauvignon Blanc are pretty dang tasty! Drink moderately. There is no need to finish an entire bottle in two hours in order to have a good time. Try to make your liquor store purchase last for the entire weekend. That way you not only avoid blacking out, but also act more responsibly during the evening, feel less crappy in the morning, and of course, save money.
Do not, I repeat, do not buy all of your drinks at the bar! Eight dollars for a well drink? No thanks. Get more bang for your buck at the liquor store and enjoy a pre-game party with friends (and drink responsibly!) If you must spend money out then give yourself a budget. Perhaps leave your debit card at home and take a reasonable and limited amount of cash out with you to refrain from spending more than you wanted.
Having a car in college is very helpful, though friends without cars may be asking for favors more than you’d like. Make sure to always ask for gas compensation if you are driving around a buddy too often. You can also give up driving all together and walk, bike, or skateboard to campus instead. Add some extra exercise into your routine by only using your car to travel far destinations. Even if the weather isn’t great, enjoy your surroundings and let the fresh air and exercise boost your endorphins, metabolism, and brain function for free. Not to mention decreasing your chances for parking tickets. Most college students are given a bus pass so take advantage of the free ride as well. You may drop a few pounds in process, while fattening up your wallet.
OFF CAMPUS LIVING
You are an adult now and bills will fill your mailbox at an alarming rate. Make smarter decisions about where and how you live – Live with a roommate or a few; living alone can usually be more expensive, particularly when paying for internet, TV, and utilities all on your own. You do not have to live in the hottest spot in town. Most likely, the housing further from campus or downtown the cheaper the living can be. You can find nicer and bigger places that cost less further from the popular areas. Shop at thrift stores, they are goldmines! You can find an extremely functional couch for a silly price. Retail stores like Marshalls or Ross provide amazingly cheap kitchen supplies and décor. No need to spend a fortune on wine glasses from Pottery Barn when they will probably break anyways. Try not having cable. Who needs TV when you have a computer, an HDMI cord, and Netflix? Be stingy with the heat, turn off the lights when you leave, and take shorter showers. And most importantly, always pay your bills on time to avoid late fees!