Trying to balance the cost of living with tuition, car payments, and basic living needs while you are going to school can be tricky. With all of the different expenses students are responsible for, it is often necessary to cut back on some items and get creative with your budget. Setting ground rules and goals is imperative to putting away some extra cash.
The first rule of thumb is to eliminate excess. Excess can be defined as any extraneous or unnecessary items that you can live without. For example, do you really need cable TV? With programs like Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, you can often stream television on your computer for free or with a small fee.
Additionally, reduce the number of times you eat out during the week. Eating out can cause an enormous drain on your budget. Get creative with your meals and try new things. If you have a stove available in your dorm or rental, host an ethnic foods night. Foods like lentils, rice, and beans are very cheap and easy to prepare. Sharing with other people means you won’t waste anything and you may be able to get your friends to host on other nights saving you both time and money.
Shop at discount stores. Hit up thrift stores for vintage clothing or discount racks for reduced price items. Look for bulk bins at grocery stores or co-operatives or try to buy non-perishable items like toilet paper and paper towels in bulk. You’re going to use it at some point, so you may as well buy it at a good price.
A car can be a source of major financial drain. Gas and insurance alone can cost you a bundle, not to mention the hundreds of dollars in repairs, which you will likely need to make at some point if you own a used vehicle. Ride your bike, use public transportation, or consider carpooling to school with friends or roommates and your monetary decline will literally disappear.
Don’t make impulse purchases. This applies to everything from clothing to electronics to groceries. This doesn’t mean don’t eat or clothe yourself, just be mindful of what you want to buy before you enter a store. Better yet, make a list of the exact items you need and do not divert from that list for any reason. This will ensure that you get in and out of a store with exactly what you need, no more, no less.
Live with other people. In some cases renting a house or apartment can be more cost effective than living in a dorm. If this is the case, you should consider getting roommates. Living with roommates can be especially helpful if you want to cut down the cost of rent, share utilities, or even share rides. One word of caution: if you can, try to live with someone you already know. If your roommate bails on you mid-lease you don’t want to be financially responsible for their part of the rent or any mess they may have left behind. Having roommates can be fun and save you a lot of money, just do your research before you live with someone!