If you don’t want to get into debt while working towards your degree, you need to have a budget and stick to it. Setting up a budget may feel like the last thing you want to do but it can help you to develop good financial habits.
Whether you receive money from your parents or you have a job, divide the money you receive in a semester by its length to see how much money you can spend each month. See how close you come to accurately estimating your expenses.
If you run out of cash during the month and have to live on cornflakes, you start feeling the consequences of mismanaging your money. Once you’ve set a realistic budget, here are some ways you can save money.
Research the price of on-campus dorms to off-campus houses and apartments. If a campus is in a big city where rent is high, it is probably cheaper to live on-campus but in a small town, it may be cheaper to live off-campus.
Living off-campus with a roommate will cut expenses even more, saving you on rent, utilities and groceries and living at home will put even less strain on your wallet.
A single new textbook can cost several hundred dollars. Buying or renting used textbooks can save you a great deal of money. There are online services, like BooksRun, that allow you to easily rent, buy and sell textbooks all over the country.
After you’ve finished with them, you can sell your books for cash and get paid quickly by check or PayPal. If you sell in bulk, you receive further benefits and better prices.
If you have a vehicle, you have to consider a range of costs - loan payments, insurance, fuel, parking, maintenance and repairs. Think about whether you really need a car or whether it’s possible to use public transportation (bus, train, light rail etc.) or share costs as part of a carpool. If you live near campus, riding a bike is probably the best option.
Many universities also have bus systems where you can hop on and off. Take advantage of ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft to get around when you go off-campus.
Campus meal plans tend to cost more than preparing your own meals. Paying for meals and then eating takeaways instead because you don’t like the food is a real waste of money. If you aren’t required to have meals, it helps to cook with roommates and share the cost of ingredients. If you do eat out, look for special deals and student discounts.
There are a number of restaurants that offer discounts for students, such as Burger King and Chipotle. You may also want to consider working part-time at a restaurant as many restaurants provide free meals to employees.
Check out activities on campus. You may be able to attend everything from fitness classes to movie nights, concerts, sports and open-mic nights without having to pay anything.
Think about sharing membership of streaming services, like Netflix, with friends or family. Remember you can use your student ID to get discounts at movie theatres, museums etc.
Bank accounts and credit cards
In addition to budgeting, tracking your expenses and reducing your spending, it is important to learn more about bank accounts, credit cards etc. Some products, especially those marketed towards students, may have high interest rates.
Make sure you read terms and conditions and find out about annual fees, interest rates and minimum account balances when opening bank accounts or using credit cards. If you don’t, you could be in for some unpleasant surprises.