Incoming college students (and returning students) often don’t realize just how expensive college will be; sure, we know about the tuition, room and board, and textbooks that we have to pay for—but it’s easy to forget about all of the other expenses that college entails, such as going out to eat with friends, buying new clothes, and going to fun events. Before we know it, only a month has gone by and we’ve already spent all the money we had planned to use throughout the entire semester! That’s why it is so important to carefully budget our money and find easy ways to save money. Younger siblings often give great advice, so I talked to my little sister about ways that I could save money in college. Here are some of the ideas she came up with, with which I totally agree.
1.) Budget properly: figure out what percentage of money in your bank account you are able to set aside for college expenses each semester. Whether you choose to set aside 50% or 10%, know the amount of money you are willing to spend per semester, and keep this separate from the rest of your money. This will keep you on a stricter budget and make it less tempting to spend all of your money.
2.) Don’t go out to eat. Eat on campus instead. Yes, we all want to go out to eat sometimes instead of eating the dining hall food, but eating in is an easy way to save money, especially if you already have an unlimited meal plan. When your friends suggest going out to eat, just ask if you can eat on campus instead; you might be surprised to find that they are actually relieved because they are broke as well. If you decide to go out to eat, order a glass of water with your meal instead of paying for a beverage. This can easily save you a few dollars each time.
3.) Participate in campus-sponsored activities, because they are cheaper. Colleges offer a lot of great opportunities for students at lower costs than you would be able to find on your own. Take advantage of these opportunities while you can! For example, my friends and I were able to purchase school-sponsored Phantom of the Opera tickets for only $15 each—including transportation and snacks beforehand—whereas the tickets were $95 at full price.
4.) Buy only on a must-have basis. This seems fairly obvious, but remember to buy only what you need, not what you want. It can be really tempting to buy that soft, cozy sweatshirt at the bookstore—but if you already have a dozen sweatshirts, don’t buy it! When you are low on cash and willpower, you might have to avoid stores altogether so you won’t be tempted to purchase something you don’t need. If you absolutely must go to the store, enter with a list of needed items and only come out with those items!
5.) Don’t drive your car or pay for public transportation if you can walk or use the campus shuttle. Sometimes college students forget about all of the great transportation services that are available for free! Make sure you know when the campus shuttle runs and where it goes—you might be surprised to see how much money you can save! Also, don’t forget that you can walk places as well—this is great exercise and it saves money!