College is the time when you probably start earning for the first time and hence you need to be knowledgeable about finance basics to cruise through. You need to learn to juggle paying for tuition, living expenses and partying too. College is a heady time so you should try to keep your feet firmly on the ground especially with regard to spending. In this article, we offer useful tips on how to manage your college budget.
Prepare a Budget before You Start College
Make a rudimentary budget before you land on the campus. List your “income” (student loans, part-time job paychecks, help from parents) and expenses (tuition, books and living costs). Make sure the income column is more than the expenses column. A basic budget can help you stay in great financial shape through the academic year.
Get a Part-Time Job
For additional income, find yourself a suitable part-time job on or near the campus. On-campus gigs are preferable because the employer would be clued into your needs (flexible hours, extra time for studying and assignments, etc). Some jobs like minding the library or gym can actually provide you time to finish homework.
Scout for Student Discounts
Be on the lookout for student discounts offered by clothing shops, salons, travel agencies, movie theaters, bookstores and restaurants near the campus. These businesses gain by word-of-mouth publicity from benefitting students. So carry your student ID at all times and don’t be scared to flash it and ask for available discounts. This is a pleasantly surprising method to save money and enjoy yourself too.
Think out of the box about ways to save money. You can buy used books or borrow them from the library, opt for less expensive meal plans and eat pizza less often to start with. Make a list of opportunities where you can scrimp and save money. Be creative and come up with options that can help you save your hard-earned moolah.
Be Careful with Your Credit Cards
Credit card companies throng campuses to offer credit cards to students without charging a fee for using them. It can be a heady feeling for a student to flaunt their credit card and buy whatever they wish. But indiscriminate buying can boomerang and you quickly rack up a huge bill in no time. So be judicious with your credit cards and pay off the due amount on time to avoid paying exorbitant interest on the unpaid balance. Use your credit cards wisely as an aid to balance your monthly budget.
Keep an Amount for Emergencies
Life can throw up unexpected surprises and it pays to be prepared for them. So keep a fixed amount handy for emergencies like car problems, medical treatment expenses, etc. Most schools offer a small amount in emergency funds that you can utilize in your hour of need. So do your homework and learn about this facility beforehand so that you can be on top of any emergency situation if it arises.
Track Your Purchases
Preserve all your bills and count your expenses at the end of the month to know exactly how much you have spent. Allot a specific amount of a few dollars for each day to spend on miscellaneous stuff like coffee, snacks, etc. Try to limit your daily spending to within this fixed amount. You can relax a bit during the weekends and spend a bit more as long as it is within your monthly budget.
A penny saved is a penny earned. So don’t be extravagant with your spending or try to impress your friends with fancy gadgets, clothes and more. If your finances are under control, you will be able to study and party with a happy mind. So err on the side of caution when it comes to spending money at college.