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How to manage your college budget

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 Creatively

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.

Summary

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.

6 Tips for saving money at college

College can be quite expensive even with financial aid. Students and recent graduates often find themselves with enormous debt. However, it is possible to avoid the predicament by managing expenses and money responsibly while at college. Given below are a few tips that will help you live cheap and save money:

1- Track your expenses

The first thing to do at college is to get a good checking account with a bank. Most banks today provide free student checking accounts. A checking account will allow you to keep track of all your purchases and manage cash better. Understanding the nature of your expenses is the best way to stay within your budget.

2- Get a job

Most students have a job today to support their expenses at college. Working part time does not ideally affect grades. In fact, a job will allow you to be engaged in activities that will further your career and provide you practical experience that will make you stand apart from others at an interview. More importantly, it will provide you a good source of income to manage your expenses at college.

3- Buy used textbooks

One of the biggest expenses at college is textbooks. New textbooks tend to be really expensive since new editions often cost up to $300. The best alternative to this major expense is to try and find bookstores in your town that sell used textbooks. College campuses often have several used bookstores and their prices tend to be considerably reduced. You can also check online for textbooks. The prices tend to be much cheaper even when you include shipping charges. Another option is to ask friends and past graduates if you can borrow their books.

4- Student discounts

Being a student has its own perks so make the most of it. A student ID can get you discounts on just about everything from computers and movies to travel tickets. Use your student ID to get discounts on your leisure activities and even for Greyhound and Amtrak tickets if you plan on traveling anywhere.

5- Accommodations

Although living an independent life outside the campus with a few friends sounds very promising, it can turn out to be a very expensive affair. Compare all your accommodation options carefully. Living in the dorm may actually turn out to be cheaper. However, if you decide to rent an apartment, get a few roommates so you can share the expenses. For furniture and appliances, ask friends or parents for their old furniture or appliances they do not use. Heating, water and electricity bills tend to be quite expensive so learn to live frugal. Turn off the lights, use water carefully and use heat and air conditioning sparingly.

6- Transportation

A car can turn out to be very expensive at college considering the money you will have to spend on gas, tickets and parking passes. Instead, take the subway or local bus. Your student ID will generally get you good discounts on public transit. If public transit is not available, consider carpooling with friends. You can also bike or walk to your classes.

What Not to Do When Apply for Financial Aid and Scholarships

Applying for Financial Aid and scholarships can be tricky at times, and downright confusing. There are many lists on tips on how to successfully apply for such aid but there are even fewer lists on what NOT to do. So, the following is a list on what NOT to do:

DO NOT apply late

Applying late can drastically hurt your chances at obtaining a scholarship. Many schools have their own financial aid deadlines. The official application deadline for the Free Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is June 30th but students living in certain states have different deadlines to meet. Many other countries also have similar programs with similar deadlines.

What is worse is that if you are applying for a scholarship being late in your application indicates that you may not be hardworking or deserving of the scholarship. This is exactly the opposite of what you want them to think!

DO NOT forget to check all sources for a scholarship

Scholarships can come from many unlikely sources. Thoroughly check all of these sources. Many religious schools will offer ‘matching scholarships’ where the school will agree to match all funds donated by the student’s congregation. Unlikely scholarship sources also include banks. Also, many companies offer scholarships to the children of their employees. If you are a part of a minority or a disabled person there are scholarships available that can be used to your benefit.

DO NOT forget to check application for any potential errors

Nothing says “do not give me a scholarship or grant” like handing in an application with bunches of errors and mistakes. You want the scholarship committee to see the best side of you. You want them to see the polished, professional side of you.

Also, if you make a mistake on your financial aid application packet it could mean that you may miss out on money. It helps to have a family member or friend look over your application to see if there are any obvious mistakes being made. If you are dependent upon your parents for financial aid it is important to have your parents check to see if their section of the application is correctly filled out.

DO NOT forget to have the necessary paperwork available

Having the necessary paperwork available means that you can successfully avoid some of the common mistakes that people make. Applications like the FAFSA can be tricky and remembering the detailed numbers and codes can be a challenge. Having your paperwork organized, ready, and available will greatly reduce the stress associated with submitting the application.

DO NOT forget to be creative!

Okay, so it may be impossible to be creative when filling out the FAFSA but when it comes to individual merit or achievement based scholarships you can truly let your creativity shine through! Do not be afraid to talk about the strange and unusual experiences that you have dealt with in your life. No matter what the scholarship is for, the scholarship committee loves seeing things that prove that you are bright, witty, and creative. Everyone has some sort of quirk that helps them stand out from the crowd!

DO NOT be afraid

Applying for scholarships can be very daunting at times. It is important to remember that you are not the only one going through the scholarship and financial aid process. There are millions of students who have gone through this process unscathed. Chances are, you will do just fine and you will come out of it with great life experience even if you do not get any grants or scholarships.

Five Frugal Living Tips for Students

As a student you do not have to lead the life of an ascetic to make ends meet, whereas it is imperative that you are financially comfortable, to be able to better focus on your college coursework, indulging in a few luxuries does not have to break your bank account. A key contributing factor is the amount you manage to save on your daily expenses. Keep in mind no saving is too small, and every bit adds up. Below are some broad guidelines to help you keep on top of your expenses and make your money go further.

Student Discounts

Availing student discounts is a great way to save money. For example, the campus restaurant usually provides the best value for money in terms of price and quality. If you live in a college town, there are regular student discounts on offer for shopping, pizza delivery, event tickets and even laundry services. You can find details in the local magazine or the campus newspaper. Travel discounts for students are valid for airfares, trains and buses, as well as group tours. Amtrak, for example, offers a Student Advantage Card that gives students 15 percent off the lowest price offer.

Get Group Discounts

You can get group or bulk discounts – for shows, exhibitions, concerts and even restaurants – by buying in a group rather than individually. Many venues offer larger group discounts on certain dates or during specific hours of the day.

Books and Stationary

Your student card makes you eligible for a host of discounts on textbooks, stationary and everyday items at various stores on and off campus – your seniors will definitely know about them- keep a tab on such stores. Make optimal use of public and university libraries. These are free but excellent sources of books and other research and study materials like computers and the internet. Make extensive use of the internet in the libraries if you have a limited budget and would not like to pay for a subscription. There are several online websites offering used textbooks in good condition, so you do not have to spend money on material for each course. Don’t hesitate to ask students who have taken same courses before if they would sell you used textbooks. Computer shops also have regular student deals. You can find help with finding an affordable laptop in your area on the Lenovo website.

Get the Shopping Done Together

If you are sharing an apartment and are keen on saving money by cooking and eating at home, you can shop in groups. Find a person who has a car, or if nobody has one, get a taxi to the closest discount store together. This will save you money, as you can get BOGOF offers, as well as discount vouchers on the next shopping trip.

Get Your Coupons Together

Some people think that coupons are only for housewives, and students would surely not have enough time to collect them. The key is to “divide and conquer”. Designate teams to hunt down coupons and offers for a specific product or service. E.g. you might be in charge of “eating out” offer hunt, while another team could be in charge of supermarket or book offers. This is an effective way of stretching the dollar.

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