Real Talk: How to Avoid Going Broke in College

When you don’t look at your bank account for a while, it’s easy to assume your cash flow hasn’t changed no matter how much you’ve been spending on Uber, online shopping, midnight snacks and rum buckets — as so it seemed for me I checked my Schwab account one day to find I was down to $31.19 for the entire month of March.

I gasped at my phone screen, struggling to think what I’d do for the future and how my lifestyle had caused this. Where had all my summer job savings, contributions from my parents and birthday money gone? Here are some tips I wish I’d taken to avoid going broke in college.

1. Don’t spend more than you need to on food.

Meal plans are your friend. Whether you’re on the university meal plan or a sorority one, take the food you’re provided; you’re already paying for it after all. While fast food and casual restaurants don’t feel like a high expense at the time, those twice-a-week visits to Grill Fresh add up. You can easily make a well-rounded meal at a dining hall or a sorority house if you pick and choose foods that will satisfy your stomach and your tastes. It beats the costs of regular grocery store trips with no cooking skills required either.

2. Sell some stuff.                                                                                                             

There are lots of local Facebook groups and apps where you can get rid of almost any of your belongings for some quick cash without pricey shipping. Look around your room for any clothes, decor and books you haven’t used in a while and upload them online. You’d be surprised what people are willing to buy or looking for. The profits you earn on these sales will give you money to shop other people’s items too. Just don’t spend more than you make, or you’ll be back in the hole!

3. Avoid expensive transportation.

It can be intimidating when you first get to campus to learn all the nearby locations, but it will be worth it. Most places are a lot closer and more convenient than you’d think. Sure, Uber can be convenient, but taking the time to get to know UF’s free transportation options can save you a lot in the long run. Always walk as long as it's not too long of a trip and you feel safe (weather permitting). Follow bus routes on the Rider app to get anywhere in Gainesville, and if it’s past 6:30 p.m., take a SNAP to get around on campus if you can’t walk there.

When you’re out and about at night, don’t sleep on the awesome Uber feature for UF students, UF Safe Rides. It cuts down your trip price in half for the same exact experience as an UberX. The UF Safe Rides discounted rate runs Wednesday through Sunday from 9 pm to 3 am.

4. Be frugal when buying drinks.

Attention partiers: You don’t need to be the girl who treats everyone to shots every night. If you’re on the lookout for alcohol, try to pregame before going out to the bars to avoid the expensive upcharge in Mid or Downtown. If you do have to buy a drink while you’re out, split one with a friend. It can be too easy to dip into the ATM outside a club when you’re less than sober, so don’t wake up the next morning $60 poorer.

If you pay attention to these simple aspects of your spending, you’ll be light-years ahead of the kids who are burning through their money without realizing it.