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Finding ways to make ends meet in college is not always easy. Between rising tuition costs, living expenses, and other random expenses that pop up, it can be hard for college students to stay on a budget. To help, here are four tips on how to create a budget or savings plan, even when you are in college.
Talk About Money
Before you can start building a budget, talk with someone who might be financially involved in your life. Make sure you and others (spouses, parents, guardians, etc.) have clear expectations on the following topics:
- Who is paying for college: Will you be splitting the costs? Or will you need to rely on loans and financial aid?
- FAFSA and taxes: Will your parents claim you as a dependent, or will you file your taxes on your own? This will determine who can fill out the FAFSA and claim any tax credits or deductions.
- Credit cards: For those who are under the age of 21 and don’t have a full-time job, you’ll have to have a cosigner. Talk over the rules and expectations for the credit card, such as who is responsible for paying off the bill.
Figure Out Your Expenses
You should determine how much you spend each month on things like textbooks, school supplies, room and board, transportation, clothing, and spending on entertainment and social activities.
By writing out how much you currently spend, you can create a more effective budget.
Reduce Your Spending When Possible
To start saving money—or at least living within your means—identify where you can cut back on the spending. Use a budget app or online banking tools to get your spending in check. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your spending:
- Buy assignments online or rent used textbooks. Sell back last semester’s textbooks.
- Pay bills on time to avoid paying late fees.
- Pay off your credit card each month to avoid paying interest.
- Shop where student discounts are offered. Use your student ID; many stores (and your local movie theater!) will give you 10-percent off or more when you show it.
- Look for free entertainment on campus. Many schools will have free movie nights, concerts, or other forms of entertainment. Take advantage of the campus gym rather than paying for a membership.
Set Yourself Up For Success
If you manage to minimize your debt while you are in college, you likely have done a good job. Keep this financially healthy mindset and continue to set goals, keep to a budget, and continue to save as you plan out your career path.
Most importantly, remember not to stress yourself out. Some months you might go over budget. Just remember to get on track the following month and keep to your budget when possible!