I’ll never forget the advice my dad gave me when he sent me off to college: “Make a budget sheet and stick to it, unless you want to starve or find yourself a job.” Talk about ruthless.
I was so scared that I actually ended up finding a budget sheet template online and filling it out. Believe me, it helped.
Many college students find themselves spending way more money than they should. If you’re one of them, don’t worry, I have some tips on how to set a realistic budget and how to stick to it.
Start by calculating what your monthly expenses are. Things such as tuition, food, cellphone, school materials, and gas will go under your necessary expenses. Other expenses such as eating out, movie tickets, and your favorite ice cream can go under miscellaneous.
The first month of the semester is usually when students spend the most money since it’s when you have the longest list of books to fulfill and you need to stock up your dorm. With this in mind, remember that the first trip to Walmart or Target can be extremely dangerous. Make a list of the things you need to buy rather than the things you want. This will help you keep that receipt way shorter.
I compiled a list of some of the most common mistakes college students do with their money and some tips to help you avoid making them.
1. Eating out. Stop eating at your school’s food court. The food is usually overpriced, unhealthy, and you can probably prepare cheaper, better-tasitng meals yourself.
2. Starbucks. Studying for midterms and Starbucks are synonymous. However, did you know that if you drink coffee 4 times a week, at approximately $5 a cup, you’re spending $960 a year. Try brewing your own coffee at home. You’ll be surprised at how much extra cash you’ll have in your pocket.
3. Sororities and fraternities. A friend of mine spent about $2,500 during his first two years in college by being in a fraternity. With Greek life, comes initiation fees, monthly dues, plus having to make 20 shirts with Greek letters. Sure sororities and fraternities are fun, but they’re also a money pit. You can make the best out of your college experience by joining clubs and volunteering.
4. Having a car. If you live on campus, a car is totally unnecessary. And if you don’t, chances are you can take a bus or carpool with a friend or classmate. Most universities give discounts and preferential parking spots to those students who carpool.
5. Partying. The pressure of making friends and keeping up with them can get really expensive. But if you can’t meet up for drinks at the local bar, then you can’t. Don’t give into the pressure of going out every single time you’re invited to if your current financial circumstances don’t allow you to.
6. Not applying to enough scholarships. There are so many scholarships available that college students aren’t aware of. Websites such as Scholarships.org are a great source for all different types of students to find scholarships. There are even scholarships for being left handed and for being tall.
7. Buying new books. Why buy brand new, overpriced textbooks at your school’s bookstore, when websites like Chegg.com and Amazon.com offer used textbooks for half the price? If you’re looking to save even more money, e-books for your Kindle or iPad are cheaper, plus you’d be doing a good dead for mother Earth. It’s also good to ask around your circle of friends and classmates. You’ll never know if your friend’s boyfriend has that Biology book you’re looking for if you never ask.
8. Storing your old books. Let’s be real, you’re never going to use that Earth Science book ever again. Sell them online on half.com or Craigs List for some extra pocket change.
9. Not having an emergency fund. It’s always good to have an extra $50-$100 set aside for emergencies such as a flat tire or a last-minute art project.
10. Having a credit card. Avoid using your credit card and use cash instead. It’s way harder to see your cash go than it is to swipe a card.