As a college student, you probably find that your pockets are more often empty than full. So when you do have some pocket change, you want to do everything you can to make it stretch. This is no easy task. There are, after all, so many interesting and fun things to spend your money on. But nightly pizza breaks add up quickly.
To save money, you need to get serious about how you spend your money. This begins by being honest with yourself. Take one of your spiral-bound notebooks and write in big, fat marker on the front "Monthly Budget." Then track all your expenses for the entire month. Every dime should be accounted for in this notebook. After the first month, review your expenses and figure out how much you spent on necessities versus non-essential items. Most students are surprised by the result. Small habits such as a daily frappuccino add up to a surprising amount of dough.
Once you have identified your weaknesses in spending, you can work to address them by finding cheaper alternatives. This guide provides you with a starting point to boost your savings and maintain your budget. That means more money to spend on your college education—including the late night pizza runs.
One highly effective way to control your spending is to use what is called the envelope budget. Get several envelopes and label them with the main categories of your monthly budget. For example, you might have "food," "entertainment" and "basic living" envelopes. Put in the money that you have allotted for each activity based on your monthly budget. During the month, take money from the appropriate envelope; but once your envelope is empty, you must stop buying. If you run out of your "entertainment" funds mid-month, you'd better start looking for some free options to use for having fun.
This simple budget has helped thousands of students save money and develop good spending habits. The effect of using the envelope budget is that it trains you to pace your spending and to live within your monthly budget. Since you can carry any extra money over to the next month, it encourages you to save (what a concept!) for special purchases such as a spring break vacation.
If you're a college student, you've already been bombarded with credit card offers. Sometimes they arrive in the mail. Other times, representatives of credit card companies are on campus enticing you with a free t-shirt or gift certificate. As a college student, you know how easy it is to obtain a credit card. While credit cards are virtually a necessity in our society, they can also lead to a lot of trouble if used irresponsibly. Anyone with a credit card can be tempted to spend indiscriminately, but putting it on the plastic means you have to face the consequences 30 days later when the bill is due. If you don't pay your balances in full at the end of each month, you subject yourself to interest payments and late fees that can potentially destroy your budget (and perhaps your credit score as well!).
Credit cards are convenient, but you risk spending beyond your means and paying exorbitantly high interest rates. Avoid potential disaster by paying for everything in cash or (preferably non-bouncing) check. One student who got into trouble with his credit cards turned his spending habits around and instituted a 100 percent cash system. He discovered that he became acutely aware of how small impulse purchases could drain his stash. In fact, he became so cost conscious that he ended up saving money each month. By the end of the year, he had a pile of extra cash in the bank.
Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.
By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
Need money for college? Stressed over how to pay the next tuition bill? Searching for a way to get a degree without going broke? Whether you need a full-tuition scholarship or a little extra cash to make ends meet, 1001 Ways to Pay for College provides students and parents with the answers.