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Simple ways to budget money and spend wisely in college

Coming back to school every fall, many students say goodbye to summer jobs, which makes it hard to go through college on a budget.  Chances are you’ll definitely be missing that paycheck a few weeks after you return to campus so it’s important to learn good budgeting skills.

In college, you’ll definitely want to budget and spend wisely to make that money that you do have go as far as possible. Even money you get from your parents should be budgeted wisely. With that in mind, we present four simple ways to attend college on a budget.

College on a budget tip 1: Buddy up and carpool

You should definitely walk or take public transportation as much as possible whilein college, but if you plan on heading outside of the city, then look into carpooling.

College on a budget is not just about credit cards and bank accounts. Things like transportation, and other living expenses, matter too. Not only will you budget away money on gas, as well as other minor up-keep expenses, you will also be able to spend more time with friends – even if it’s something as minor as a trip to the grocery store.

Additionally, you should consider carpooling when breaks and vacations roll around. If you and your friends live near one another, splitting the costs of driving home and back will save both of you money.

Most colleges also have some sort of a ‘travel board’ where students will inquire whether others will be heading their way or they will offer rides to those who live near them. One example is Southeastern Louisiana University. You could probably also use Facebook to find people to carpool with and there are also national services like

If you don’t mind splitting travel expenses and heading out on a road trip, then this could be a great alternative to driving alone or spending money on an airplane ticket.

College on a budget tip 2: Avoid ATM surcharges

ATMs are incredibly convenient, but they can also stick you with unnecessary fees if you’re not careful. If you use them enough, those few extra dollars can really add up. In order to avoid those annoying extra fees, do some research and see what ATMs are available on or very near your college.

If you’re able to locate one that is through your bank or credit union then make a conscious effort to use only that one. If there aren’t any ATMs provided by your bank or none that are conveniently located near your college, then you might want to open a checking account – to use specifically at college – that is through one of the available ATM’s providers.

Another option to go through college on a budget is to find out whether your college is partnered with any banks. PNC Bank, for example, has recently joined with a number of colleges to provide students with services like direct depositing, free checking accounts and debit cards that to be used on campus and at local businesses. See for more information. If your college has teamed up with a bank, then do yourself a favor and open a checking account through that bank.

College on a budget tip 3: Take advantage of campus provided computer labs

Sure, for the most part we all have our own computers and printers in our dorm rooms or apartments, but if you anticipate having to use a printer more than normal for academic purposes then you should look into using the college computer labs.

Not only will you budget by using college provided internet, – something that’s especially nice for those living in non-college housing – you will also save money by using college supplies. You probably were charged service fees in addition to your tuition at the start of the semester.

Those fees are used to buy and supply things like printer paper, ink, toner and other necessities that you, as a student, will probably be using throughout the semester. So, get your money’s worth and take advantage of them. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll budget away by reducing the amount of ink cartridges you buy!

College on a budget tip 4: Find out about student-focused promotions and offers at local businesses

Although they may seem a bit annoyed with students sometimes, the local businesses in your college town really rely on student-based business for most of the year.

Convenience stores, grocery stores and movie theaters all rely on campus-driven business and, often, they will offer special promotions and sales for college students. This is definitely a huge help for students wanting to get through college on a budget.

A thrift store in my hometown offered a discount for customers who showed them their student ID and many restaurants and local businesses had similar offers.

Do some digging and find out through friends, classmates and the faculty whether any of your favorite retailers give breaks to college students. There may be more deals out there than you realize!

Similarly, some restaurants and shops will team up with colleges, allowing students to use their meal plan money towards their food. This is a great alternative to the same old cafeteria food and it won’t require any extra money out of pocket.

If you follow at least these steps, you will definitely save some cash and go through college on a budget.

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