As a college student, you should have the time of your life. After all, you have new freedom, opportunities, people and much more. Instead, most undergrad students worry about how they’re going to afford the experience.
If you’re a college student — even a broke one — there are ways to spend less, save more and manage money like a pro.
1. Create a Budget
Do you track your spending? With cash, credit cards, Paypal and more, it can be difficult. Now add in expenses like monthly bills and automatic withdrawals. It’s tough to know how much money you have — and how much you can spend — without a system.
A budget is easy to make and requires nothing more than a spreadsheet. If you prefer digital solutions, try an app. To start, input your net salary — how much you make after taxes. Then, list all your expenses. Certain costs, like groceries and gas, fluctuate each month. Keep track of how much you spend in one month and use that figure in your budget.
2. Avoid New Textbooks
Have you looked at the cost of new textbooks? From 2006 to 2016, prices rose a staggering 88%.
Don’t put your education or financial security at risk. Instead, buy used books online or in your campus bookstore. Ask professors if the previous version of the text is acceptable. Authors update books often — sometimes each year. The price increases, but the content remains the same. Buy an older copy to save tons of cash.
3. Apply for Scholarships
Think of scholarships as free money. If you’re awarded $2,000 toward tuition, for example, you don’t have to pay it back. Try to apply for as many as possible — the wider net you cast, the more likely you’ll catch some free money.
Scholarships are available from schools, businesses, nonprofits, community groups and much more. When you find an opportunity, the first step is to look at eligibility requirements. Are you able to apply? If so, determine what you need to submit. Some scholarships require an essay, while others might ask for a poem, photograph or video.
4. Ask for More Money
Finally, you’ve received your financial aid offer. Only it’s not enough to cover your expenses. What’s a cash-strapped college student to do? The answer — appeal the decision. It may sound like a legal proceeding, but the process is simple.
You’ll need to write a letter to your school’s financial aid office. Your goal is to talk about your current income and inability to cover college costs. Mention life changes that may affect your ability to pay, such as the loss of a job or outstanding medical bills. You have nothing to lose by asking, but a lot to gain.
5. Take Online Classes
The traditional college experience — dorm rooms and ivy-crested halls — is expensive. Many students are taking online classes to save money. Plus, they’re personalized to meet your specific needs. Those who want to work ahead can complete an online degree program in as few as 100 weeks — that’s under half a year for an associate’s degree, which can save you major money even when you continue your education further. Others can study on a part-time basis.
Some students choose to live at home or off-campus while taking online classes to avoid the cost of dorms. You can prepare for your future career and save money from the comfort of your own home.
6. Compare Bank Accounts
You’ll need a bank account if you want to make and save money. When you get a job, your employer can deposit money into your account. If you receive a check instead, you can cash it at your bank without paying any fees. You should also get a savings account to gain interest and build up your emergency fund.
When looking at checking accounts, consider the following factors:
- Account minimum fees: If your account balance drops below a certain amount
- Overdraft fees: When you spend more money than what’s available in your account
- ATM fees: When you use a machine outside your bank’s network
Most banks offer student accounts without balance requirements. If you have no money in your account, you won’t be charged. Others require only one transaction per month to avoid fees, which is manageable for most.
7. Borrow Wisely
Paying back student loans seems eons away when you’re an undergrad. Still, it’s crucial to start preparing now. Most students need to take out loans when they go to college. The goal, though, is to borrow as little as possible.
In 2018, almost 70% of graduates took out loans, with an average balance of $29,800. Cut costs by applying for grants, saving birthday money and getting a part-time job. You can also knock some credits out at community college or online before heading off to your dream school.
Save More Cash in College
College is the time to live life to the fullest — not stress about finances. Fortunately, there are ways to cut your costs and save money. With the help of the seven tips above, you’ll be on your way to more effective money management in your undergrad years — and after you graduate.
About the Author:
Alyssa Abel is a student life and education blogger who offers tips and advice on living your best college life. Read more of her writing on Syllabusy.