For students that have previously only ever lived at home, college is likely the first time they’ve had to manage their money alone. There are also many temptations for young people away from home. Stretching their tuition money to make it go far enough is tough, even if they do manage to find a job with flexible hours that fit around their study time. To help manage the situation, here are six budgeting tips for college students.
Take Advantage of Online Discounts
Look for websites that offer better prices than in the retail world. Remember that it’s less expensive to afford a warehouse and staff than a high-profile retail space in a shopping mall. Subsequently, the operating costs for online sites are lower, and the online prices offered can be too. Therefore, there’s a competitive advantage when shopping online. Look for sites that cover interesting products and software that might be useful for college students. Some of these sites are relevant for students studying specific topics, so check sites like Upgraded Reviews to see if there’s something suitable.
Improve Your Budgeting
Budgets are simply a plan for tracking any money coming in and expenditures going out. For college students, there is only so much money available. A budget should reflect both the plan of what you were planning to spend and what was spent. Rarely do they match up cleanly. Update numbers based on past spending, rather than sticking to initial estimates that proved to be overly optimistic on the downside. Use a budgeting app like Mint or You Need a Budget to track spending on the smartphone. That way, spending can be entered as it happens or based on debit card transactions. Often, banking transactions are imported from bank records to avoid needing to manually enter them too.
Decide on Your Priorities
Plan spending around priorities at college or in life. Avoid getting swept up in college activities to the point that the budget is bursting at the seams. Not everyone has the same financial means, and some other students don’t appreciate that reality. Use the budget to set parameters around what’s affordable and what is not. Learn to say no to things that don’t match your priorities.
Avoid High-Interest Credit
Do not get into the habit of spending using a credit card and planning to pay it off the following month. As a student, you’ll have limited access to income. Paying debt interest will only make matters worse for you.
Purchase Second-hand, Not Always New
While you may ‘need’ certain items and have a few ‘wants’ as well, see what can be purchased second-hand. Previously owned items are often barely used and sold off cheap. Cut the cost of some items by over half by not buying new ones. For example, textbooks can be purchased online from previous students on the course. Other books may be accessible through the library system. Thrift stores provide affordable clothes, shoes, and other donated items at a fraction of retail prices. Get creative about what you need and where you can purchase it. Avoid being addicted to fashion labels or brands to impress others. The latest iPhone might not be affordable until you’re working full-time. And that’s okay.
Reduce Food Costs
Find creative ways to eat for less as a student. Making food from scratch instead of eating out or getting food delivered is far less expensive. Learn to cook. There are cookbooks and YouTube videos for making favorite dishes. Don’t be afraid to try them, and if a fellow student is a good cook, ask them to teach you.
Lastly, always check whether there is a discount for students. Many online and offline stores have standard discounts for people studying. For instance, Amazon Prime and Spotify both have regular student discounts. So, don’t be afraid to ask. Retailers and online stores are happy for your business; they still profit after the discount.