College is an exciting time for many reasons. In addition to learning the skills you will need to land an amazing career after graduation, it is also a chance to gain some independence away from home and set up your own little life. The trap that many graduates fall into is that they get some extra money from side gigs or student loans and spend it too fast or waste it on the wrong things. If you go down the wrong path for too long, then you could find yourself in financial ruin.
The solution is to create a budget, see what is left over, and then make smart money decisions that will allow you to get what you need without landing in financial hot water. Let’s talk about how students can change how they think about money.
Create A Budget And Focus On School
The first essential step toward financial security in college is to create a budget. You need to sit down and look at every dollar you have coming in from side gigs, financial aid, and anything you get from your parents and then compare that to your monthly expenses. Factor in everything you pay every month, from tuition and room and board to your food budget, costs for extracurricular activities, and books. Consider using a personal budget worksheet to make these calculations.
Look at how much you have left and make the proper adjustments to your lifestyle and buying decisions. Remember that while you are in college, your schooling is the top priority. If you need to decide between spending one hundred dollars on a pleasure trip to Denver or on a class that can help you in the future, then go with the educational opportunity.
Also, if you need to decide between different electives, then do your research so you can spend your money on the class that will further your career. So, if you are going into business and you want to start your own company someday, then an accounting class is a good use of your money. If your future career might involve public speaking, then consider presentation design classes. These seminars can teach you how to put together facts and create attention-grabbing presentations. Public speaking is a great skill that could give you a leg up in your career.
Get Smart About School Supplies
Even if you avoid extracurricular activities and just stick to your classes, you will find that college gets more expensive by the day. That is why you must be smart about what you need to buy and also consider alternative solutions.
For instance, while many new students get excited about buying new books for all of their classes, a trip to the cash register can be a sober reminder that the average college textbook costs between $80-$150. Multiply that by six classes, and you could go through all of your money before you know it. Instead, consider the idea of buying your textbooks used, or you can ask about renting the books that you need. You can rent books on campus or use popular sites like Amazon Textbook Rental. Renting is a much more affordable option, especially if you never plan to read the book again after the class ends.
You can also save money by avoiding the purchase of electronics and costly devices instead looking at inexpensive online apps. As an example, many students may purchase the Microsoft Office Suite so they can use Word and Excel for their classes. As an alternative, you can use free apps, like Google Docs and Google Sheets, and perform the same actions for a fraction of the cost.
Also, if you find yourself scanning a lot of schoolwork into your computer, you may be attracted to the idea of buying an expensive scanner. However, you can save a fortune by using a mobile scanning app that allows you to simply take a picture of your document and add it to your electronic files without the need to carry around bulky hardware.
Handling Miscellaneous Expenses Outside Of The Classroom
Of course, handling your finances in the classroom is only half of the battle. You also have a personal and dorm life to afford. The good news is that for just about every expense, there is an alternative. For instance, decorating your dorm can be fun, but the expenses can quickly get out of hand, so find an affordable way to make this space your own by making DIY decorations and buying furniture and bling from the thrift store.
Food costs are also a big issue for many college students. If you have a busy schedule, then you may think that eating out at a fast food restaurant is all you have time for, but if you go out to eat every day, the expenses can get out of control. So, consider the idea of going to the grocery store to get all of the food that you need for the week. In addition to saving money, if you try this tactic, then you will have all the food that you need right there in your dorm, so you don’t have to leave when you get hungry.
When you do need to travel to the store or to the library for your study group, consider the costs of taking public transportation versus using Uber or Lyft. Taking the bus may not be the most luxurious way to travel, but you could be spending a fraction of the cost. In Illinois, the cost of public transportation is close to $3 versus the average Lyft ride, which costs closer to $20. The point is that there is always a more inexpensive way to do things. You just need to do your research.
As you can see, it is possible to make a smart budget that can make college much more affordable. Consider the tips here, and you’ll be able to buy everything you need and have some cash to spare.