Going to a university is a huge step for every student out there. You are starting a new chapter of your life and you might be independent for the first time ever. But education is expensive, so you need to prepare yourself for anything that might come your way.
Learning how to save money while earning your degree can help you out a lot in the long run, especially if you are dealing with a student loan. So here are ten dos and don’ts which will most certainly come in handy if you are trying to manage your budget on your own.
1. Do Plan Your Budget Ahead
Before you even start saving money, you need to know your available budget. This includes your loan, financial help from your parents, scholarships, or your own income if you decide to work while enrolled in a university. Once you figure out how much money you will have at the beginning of a semester, calculate your expenses. Food, rent, and school supplies can be pricey, and there might be some unplanned purchases along the way. Get your weekly budget and try not to spend more than planned.
2. Do use apps to track your spending
Since we live in the age of technology, use that to your advantage, and download one of the apps that will help you keep track of your monthly spending. They are more convenient than writing everything down and keeping the receipts in a notebook. You will be able to have a better overview of your expenses and identify unnecessary purchases so you can avoid them in the future.
3. Do borrow handbooks and study materials
Ask around and see if your friends took the same classes as you. You can borrow you their textbooks so there will be no need to spend extra money. Of course, you can always look for second-hand textbooks in bookstores or online. Also, don’t forget to ask if there is an e-book version of the study materials you need for a class because they are cheaper than physical copies.
4. Do inform yourself about student discounts
A large number of companies offer discounts to students so use that to your advantage. All you need to do is show your student ID, and you can get a product at a lower price. Student discounts are usually available in gyms, bookstores, theaters, etc. You can find out the list of student discounts online. And keep in mind that you can download some expensive software (like Microsoft Office) for a really low price if you use your academic e-mail.
5. Do save change
Saving your change and putting it in a special jar can become your emergency fund. So next time you go shopping and come back home with some coins in your pocket set them aside. Don’t spend your emergency money unless you really need it.
6. Don’t get a credit card if you are unemployed
Credit cards do sound cool, but they are a bad idea if you don’t have a steady income each month. It is another type of a loan because you will end up taking the bank’s money if you don’t have enough funds to cover your expenses. And you will be required to get that money back sooner or later. There is always the interest which will increase that number significantly as time goes by.
7. Don’t dismiss financial aid
Financial aid is available to all students out, so don’t give up immediately. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid because you might qualify for financial aid. Check with your school to see if there are additional scholarships or grants for you. And, look for outside scholarships. Any amount of money can be helpful if you are on a tight budget.
8. Don’t eat in restaurants all the time
Yes, the food in your university cafeteria might not be as appealing as going out in a restaurant, but it is more affordable. So don’t hesitate to eat there at least a couple of times a week. You will get a nutritious meal and save some money along the way. Cafeterias often have a special meal plan which is even cheaper than paying for a single meal separately.
9. Don’t use expensive broadband
While the broadband internet is available to you in student housing, you might have to pay your own internet connection if you live off campus. However, there are ways to reduce the bill. You can use free internet on the university grounds, or ask your internet provider if there are special packages created for students which are more affordable. Besides, you can always go to a coffee shop and download everything you need.
10. Don’t refuse used things
Buying new things is not always an option, especially if you are trying to pay off a student loan. So if you want to purchase new furniture for your accommodation, don’t spend a lot of money on an expensive couch or a chair. Instead, go through the local listings and see the offers.