If you’re in college, budgeting can be especially difficult. Aside from the fact that you probably don’t have much income…there’s also the fact that a lot of students only get paid once a semester instead of one every week or two weeks. This makes it easy to spend too much too quickly and not have enough for later in the semester.
Follow these money-saving tips, and you should be able to stretch those dollars as far as needed:
Tip #1. Use a Separate Account for “Spending Money”.
If the debit card you use to go out and have fun with is attached to the same account your student loans are in, you’re bound to overspend. It’s just too difficult to keep track of spending in the heat of the moment.
One way of solving this problem is to get a prepaid debit card or a second bank account. Then you can split up your spending money into a series of 1-week or 2-week increments that become a kind of “allowance” you pay yourself.
Even if you end up running out of money before the week is over, you can transfer more from your main account. But at least this way you are aware of what you’ve done. Often times, this awareness by itself is enough to get you to slow down your spending. Need a new account? BBVA Compass offers free checking accounts.
Tip #2. Stock up on Groceries.
Let’s face it, college life is hectic. You’ve got classes to attend, textbooks to read, tests to study for. It’s easy in all of this commotion to run out of groceries and take a long time before restocking them.
To make matters worse, it can seem like you don’t have time to cook anyway. So you may wonder if it’s better to just put off the restocking until later. However, eating out also takes precious time – especially if the place you eat at is far away or busy.
So stock up on groceries as soon as they get low, and make sure to go to the store with a specific list and an idea of what you’re going to cook – that way you’ll have a better chance of avoiding impulse purchases. When you have groceries at home, you’ll find that you naturally cook more often – if for no other reason than you don’t want to go through the trouble of driving.
As a result, you’ll save a little bit each week. And this small amount can add up a lot over time.
Tip #3. Get a part-time job.
In the past, it’s often been hard for students to find jobs that were not too demanding of their time. But with so many stores today faced with declining revenue, many of them can no longer afford full-time employees.
This is bad for people who are trying to support a family. But it creates an opportunity for students. Many companies need workers willing to come in and work for just a few hours a week during peak times. College students often make great employees for this reason.
If even a part-time regular job seems like it will be too inflexible for you, consider freelancing on a site like Upwork or Guru. This will allow you to take on short-term projects for a little extra cash when you have time. But you can still stop working during finals and other high-stress times when you need to focus on school.
Tip # 4. Cut the cord.
A recent FCC report stated that the average cost of expanded basic TV service is around $69. This means that it can save you as much as $276-$345 per semester just by cutting out cable TV.
And what makes it even better is that you probably won’t miss your favorite shows. Many channels now offer an online version of their programming for $10-$12/month. And since most people only watch two or three channels anyway, you can save significantly by replacing your cable TV package with online alternatives.
Tip #5. Invest your cash.
If you have cash laying around that you can’t spend because you need it for later in the semester, consider investing it in the meantime. Depending on how you invest, this can be risky. But if you learn how to do it correctly and base your decisions on thorough research, it can sometimes provide you with a little extra money each semester.
It’s a good habit to develop too.
Eventually, you’ll be out of college and have a job. And at that point, you’ll need to start investing if you want to grow your wealth over time. So you may as well start practicing now.
Tip # 6. Ask about student discounts.
Many stores and venues offer student discounts. But often, these discounts are not advertised. So you won’t know about them unless you ask.
Make it a habit of always carrying your student ID with you. And when you shop at a new place, just ask “do you offer a student discount?” You’ll be surprised at how many places say “yes”. In addition to one time student discounts, you can also find deals like Amazon Prime’s Free Trial for Students, as well as things like Overstock.com’s Club O for Students.
Saving money and budgeting while in college can be difficult, but follow these tips and you’ll do better!
Check out our new downloadable Excel Student Budget Worksheet