Making ends meet
Heading off to college is an exciting time in a young person’s life. Embarking on a new adventure, spreading your wings, and reveling in your newfound independence is wonderful – but that freedom does come with extra financial responsibility too.
Happily, if you’re willing to make the effort there are some simple ways to stretch your money.
The first step is to make a budget. Write down all your forms of income (including money given to you by your parents, any loans that you may have, and money from part-time jobs). Next, list all your needs – expenditures that you have no choice but to make. These include rent, groceries, loan repayments, transportation and school expenses like textbooks and supplies. Finally, list your wants – things that you’d like to spend money on, like going out, clothes, and other fun things that are not necessities. Subtract your needs from your income amount, and that’s what’s leftover for splurges on your want list, and to put into a savings account.
- Use cash. Credit is handy in absolute emergencies, but get used to paying for things with cash. Carrying credit card debt is a terrible way to start your adult years, and not paying off the full balance at the end of each month can affect your credit score, making things like buying a house or financing a car difficult later on.
- Eat wisely. Check out our article on healthy, inexpensive meals for students to find out how to stretch your grocery money and eat well on a budget. Most importantly, learn to cook so you don’t have to rely on takeout and other expensive – and often unhealthy – prepared foods.
- Look for budget-friendly ways to have fun. Entertainment doesn’t have to cost a cent! We have some great ideas for frugal fun that you and your friends are sure to enjoy. And don’t forget to check school bulletin boards for free activities, clubs, and meetings happening around campus. They’re a great way to get involved and meet new people without spending a dime.
- Buy used textbooks. Next to tuition and lodging, one of the biggest expenses a college student has is textbooks. Check for used bookstores on or near campus that may specialize in textbooks, search for social media groups dedicated to students selling their used textbooks, or try online sites like textbooks.com and AbeBooks that sell used. Remember that you can supplement your income by selling your textbooks when you’re finished with them too!
- Explore thrift shops. Books aren’t the only things you should try to find secondhand. Thrift stores have great home décor items you can use to spruce up your dorm and unique trinkets you can purchase when you need to buy a gift. Be sure to check out the clothing section for fabulous fashion finds too. If you’re patient and willing to keep going back, you can sometimes even find designer clothes and accessories hiding in the racks.
- Don’t buy more than you need. It’s tempting to spend a ton of money on items you think you’ll need before you arrive at your dorm. But just buy (or better yet, borrow) the bare necessities, then determine what you really need once you’ve lived in your space for a bit and have settled into a routine.
- Take advantage of discounts. Scour store, restaurant, museum, theatre and transportation websites near your campus to find out who offers student discounts. Make sure you always have your student ID on you so you can take advantage of any deals that are on offer.
- DIY. Instead of spending money on brand new shelves, storage, and home décor for your dorm, get crafty and make your own from inexpensive items or things you already have. Have your family pitch in and help source, build, and paint along with you! Not only is it a thrifty way to fill your space, but it also means you can be surrounded by cozy things from home made by people you love. Check out Babble for 25 simple and fabulous DIY décor ideas perfect for the dorm.
Remember that as a Foresters member you have access to Everyday Money, Our toll-free financial helpline that connects you to an accredited counselor who can help answer your questions about your personal financial matters such as debt management and budgeting. It’s never too early to start planning for a sound financial future, so now is the perfect time to get things in order and take control of your finances. Just call 800 444-3043.
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