- Create a Budget
- Get a(nother) Job
- Buy Used Textbooks
- Alternative Transportation
- Financial Aid
- Mastering Your College Finances
No matter how much or how little you earn, creating a budget is Step 1 in taking control of your finances and making smart choices with your money. It’s one of the foundations of personal finance. You can create a computer spreadsheet or use free online tools such as Mint.com to track your budget and update it each year. The important thing is for you to be able to see the total amount of your money in one place, so that it is easier to track how much is being earned versus spent.
Once you see where your money is going, you can decide where to cut back.
If you have any funds “left over” after paying for basic expenses, then consider saving that extra money to help pay for unexpected expenses during or after you graduate college. Setting up automatic deposits into a savings account can help make this easier.
This article on budgeting basics may also be a helpful resource.
A great way to bring in extra funds is to get a job. Because the student body keeps changing, plenty of establishments in the food service and retail industries in and around your college will likely be looking for help.
Another great way to earn some money and keep on top of your studies while in college is to work at your college’s library. It’s a quiet place to work, so you can read for class and get paid at the same time.
New textbooks from your college bookstore can be costly, so to cut down cost, purchase used books instead. College campuses typically have second-hand bookstores since most students will return their textbooks at the end of each semester. Prices for these books will be heavily discounted, and often the books will be in good condition.
Choose a Campus Meal Plan and Grocery Shop
An excellent option for saving money on food is to buy a campus-sponsored meal plan. Dining off campus can become costly fast. In addition to honoring the meal plan, campus eateries provide opportunities for meeting and bonding with fellow students.
If a meal plan is not available on your college campus, seek out weekly sales at local grocery stores and use manufacturer’s coupons, instead of purchasing each meal from a restaurant. Buying items in bulk and in season also can help save on grocery costs. Planning stay-at-home dinners with roommates and friends is an affordable and fun alternative to going to restaurants.
Not everyone can afford to live on a college campus. If you are commuting to classes, then it may be best to rely on public transportation or to join a carpool. These options can help save money on gasoline and parking costs.
If you are just starting the application process or want to transfer to another school, it’s important to research opportunities for financial assistance. A simple way to do this is to submit a free FAFSA application to see if you qualify for Federal student aid.
Federal loans tend to have lower interest rates and better payment schedules than do private loans. They are also the first step toward possibly obtaining scholarships and grants offered by a college or university.
Once you master financial savings tips while in college, you’ll find that money becomes less of a stress and that college classes and other important matters in life become the focus. Most importantly, you will be better prepared to save money in the real world after you graduate.