7 Essential Money Tips for College Students on a Budget
Step One: Eat out as little as possible.
This means, using your meal plan that you are already paying hundreds of dollars if you live in a dorm, or hitting the grocery store with a list if you live in an apartment.
Make going out a “treat” once a week or once every two weeks.
I am fully aware that the school’s cafeteria food is not the best but, there is something there you can eat. If you live in an apartment or have special dietary needs and have to do something else, discount grocers such as Aldi will become your best friend. The prices are so cheap and they really have everything you need! Spend the money on cooking multiple meals rather than feeding yourself just once.
Step two: You don’t owe yourself a shopping trip every week.
New shoes? No. That sweater? No. It’s November, why do you need a swimsuit? Learn that just because you see something you like, does not mean you need to buy it.
My best friend has become Pinterest because I find outfits on it with clothes I already have!
If you must go shopping, google which shops offer student discounts. There is a list online but it does not hurt to ask if you are already there! Also, go second hand. How can you pass up getting a $40 shirt for $8? (No one besides you will even know). If you’re in the STL area, Hut8 and Refresh are amazing.
Step three: Don’t think you need to go out every weekend.
I know, I know, “what else are we supposed to do to have fun?”
Find college discounts, girl’s night, guys night or, happy hour specials to take advantage of if you want to go out to be a part of the fun.
Weekends out tend to cost more than eating out a couple times a week so, if you choose to go out, take that into account if you want to eat out the week after.
Step four: Carpool.
Filling up in gas is one of the easiest ways to blow through money. Want to site see? Want to be adventurous? Get a group of people together and rotate who drives each time you do something.
I understand what it is like to want to visit your new town and see all it has to offer but, unless you are in walking distance you’ll be going through some gas.
Make a list of all the things you want to see or do, create a full calendar, and choose who drives each time you go!
Going to a sporting event? Going to get groceries? Ride together. That way, not only are you not alone, everyone saves!
Step five: Utilize your school’s gym.
Why spend $50-$80 a month on a gym membership when you are already paying for one in your school fees?
Wanting to workout but not wanting to deal with the crowded gym? Trust me, nothing is worse than needing to use a machine someone has been using for the last 20 minutes in between scrolling through their social media. Learn the hours the gym is usually empty (definitely not before dinner time), find a workout plan that allows you to use free weights so you can separate yourself or. Opt for a workout class in which everyone is doing the same thing.
Step 6: Air Conditioning and Heat Management
Ever get so mad at your parents for the house being cold during the winter? Or the house not being cold enough during the summer? I sure did until I had to pay for my own electricity bill.
Every time my mom would say “put a sweatshirt and socks on” I would get so frustrated. After having to pay my own bills I learned the importance and reasoning of keeping your heat and air at a stable level.
Seriously, put a sweatshirt on and some socks. Open the windows or turn a fan on because when your electricity bill comes, you’ll be so thankful you did. Not saying freeze yourself or make yourself sweat like a sauna, just put it at a sustainable lower level.
Pro Tip: Turn the air down when you leave!! Why are you heating and cooling your house when you are not home?? Set your temperature down a couple of notches when you leave and turn it back to normal when you get back home for the evening. The little things make a big difference when the bill comes (all from personal experience!).
Step 7: Save!
Even if its $10 a week, that’s $160 a semester, $320 a school year!
Saving not only helps you prepare for a rainy day but also, life after college. As a freshman it is hard to look 4 years ahead and convince yourself to do so but, I can’t express how much I wish I would have started earlier. The real world racks up really quickly and there’s no stopping.
How many holidays have come around and you found yourself scrambling for the cheapest gifts for your family? If you put just $10-$15 away a week (that is one meal out, one night out), you’ll be prepared and stress free when it comes to buying gifts!
My tip? Buy early. Buying gifts for birthdays, anniversaries or, holidays, will be easier, stress free and most likely cheaper when you buy in advance. The earlier you start buying, the less noticeable it is when the money goes out.