by Lauren, our college blogger
After completing my sophomore year in college, I am starting to become more aware of how much living away from home can cost. Gone are the days when laundry and groceries are done for me by dear old Mom. Any little bit of spare change is practically gold!
I am still far from being completely independent, especially financially, but I have figured out some tips that help make handling money less scary.
- Take Advantage of the School Meal Plan:
- Many colleges offer a built-in meal plan freshman year. As a sophomore, meal plans differ from freshmen and are a great way to curb the desire to dine out and spend money on food. The declining balance is the way to go. As a sophomore at my university, we are still required to have a campus meal plan, except this year instead of a set amount of meals we have a declining balance. Many schools offer this option and the money is applicable to anywhere on campus
- I have become especially fond of our campus grocery store. Instead of spending extra money at the real grocery store, I am able to pick up essentials at the campus grocery store with money that was already paid to the school. I know that the declining balance has already been paid for and the money will go to waste if not used, so my friends and I make every effort we can to use that money before spending our own.
- If You Have a Job…
- Save every other check you get from the job and put it into savings. This way, the money you earn is not as easily available to spend. This makes it easier to keep track of how much to spend and helps you try to stay within the amount of the “spending” paycheck until the next one comes.
- Travel Cheap
- With discounted bus trips that a company like MegaBus has to offer, a round-trip ticket can be as little as three dollars if booked early enough. If that is not a sure-fire way to save money then I don’t know what is! Keep your eyes open for good deals.
- Student Universe is a great student travel company that has tons of discounted prices on airfare, hotels and other modes of transportation.
- Textbooks can be the biggest budget breaker of the semester. Buying used books can be much cheaper than new, but shop early before the stock runs out.
- Look at your syllabus and only buy the books you are sure you’ll need. There is nothing worse than seeing an unopened expensive psychology book on the desk. You can always go back to the bookstore and purchase the book later.
- If you have a friend in the class, or who has previously taken the class, share the book.
- Sell back your books at the end of the semester either at the bookstore or online. Usually you will get some money back, which is better than nothing! Online tends to have better deals, but can be more of a hassle.
- Say NO to Credit Cards
- Use a debit card instead. This is an easy way to access your money without having massive fines waiting for you, and you can still practice managing money by using a card.
- Social Time
- Looks for student discounts! Many restaurants and theaters will have discounts for college students who show their student ID. Many times they are hidden and you have to ask about them. Once you find them though, they are a great way to have a great time while saving money!
- Spending money on partying can put a large dent in the wallet. Instead of always going to bars or paying cover charges for parties, cut back a bit and move the fun to home with a small group of friends. This way there are no fees and a good time can still be had.
- Take advantage of your location. Many cities have free events available throughout the week. Search them out and try an event or activity that is exciting and different!
- Colleges and universities understand their students don’t have a lot of money and offer lots of free or very cheap events on campus. These are a great way to get involved with your school and meet new people.
Photo Credit: Pablo