If you’re heading off to college, you’re probably meeting friends, setting up your mini-fridge and choosing your meal plan. But, you may also need to think about the cost of tuition, books and other fees you’ll have this upcoming semester. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average college graduate has accumulated more than $35,000 in debt.
If you want to lessen the burden of debt after graduation, you might want to make an effort to budget and save now. By planning today, you may be able to save some money later in life.
Everyone needs a budget. I learned that lesson the hard way. With 3 to 6 percent interest on my student loans, every purchase felt like it was taxed to me. Suddenly, a cup of coffee cost more each day. Even if you’re not working while you’re in college, you can still budget. Start with monthly expenses. What do you need to spend each month? Include items such as rent, food, car payments and insurance. Total this amount. If you are working, set a budget that can allow you to save every month and put it into a savings account. If you are not working during the school year, set a budget that can allow you to cover your bills throughout the year while still leaving some in savings.
It’s always a good idea to look out for ways to make a few extra dollars when you’re on a tight budget. One way I made extra money was by participating in paid research studies. Universities frequently have science, psychology and marketing departments that conduct research. Those labs often pay participants. All you need to do is search your campus’ website for research opportunities. As a student, I participated in 15 studies one summer and made nearly $1,000! This money helped me save for travel expenses and pay off bills. These studies may pay quite well (hundreds of dollars sometimes), and you’re contributing to science.
Colleges often have transportation systems for faculty, staff and students. Take advantage of them, as they are usually free with a student ID. You can ride to and from campus (if you’re nearby), and that may save you hundreds of dollars throughout college. For example, in the last seven years, I’ve biked to school nearly every day. I’m staying fit, being a good steward for the environment and spending less on maintaining my car.
Joining clubs and participating in your campus community can be a great way to make new friends and have fun without spending money. Occasionally, these same organizations have pizza parties and other free meals. You’ll be surprised to find guest lectures, special events and group meetings that may serve food for attending, and you’ll learn a thing or two while you’re there.
Part of college living is making new friends and finding new opportunities. College can be a tempting time to overspend. But there’s another way. With a little budgeting, you can enjoy the college experience while minimizing your expenses.