Freshman Week: 7 Money Tips for College Students
With summer in its final weeks and school around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to fit in an awesome semester on a tight budget. Spending in college adds up — whether it’s on textbooks, rent, groceries, or especially, nights out.
However, saving money and budgeting shouldn’t be something to fear; it should be the lifeline Regis Philbin and “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” forgot to include. Here are some helpful tips to get better with money this semester so that you don’t run out before it’s over.
Books and More Books
Buying books used can save you a ton. Shop early and check out online retailers for the best selection. Renting is also a good option that can save you even more money. Just be sure to keep your notes out of the margins — you wouldn’t want to be charged for all the smiley faces you drew.
Lastly, if you’re feeling high tech, try renting a book online. You can print pages, save chapters and even write digital notes.
Dining on Dimes (Well, Sort Of)
Let’s face it — most college dining plans are pricey and leave something to be desired (like real food). If you don’t mind cooking, you can save big. Become a member of your local Co-Op for cheap, quality groceries, but any old supermarket will work fine. If you feel too attached to ditch your meal plan, make sure you get one that fits the way you eat, study and socialize.
Late night snacks are always a must for those long nights studying (or stumbling). Make sure you buy in bulk to save on all that ramen and cereal. It’ll also save you from spending on restaurants — which brings me to my next tip…
Related: How to Use Your Dining Hall
Get Your Budget On
Ever wake up on a Saturday with an empty wallet? Whether you remember spending or not, it’s pretty crappy. Creating a budget and sticking to it may sound hard, but it doesn’t have to be. While the old paper and Excel budget sheets work, there are easier ways to make sure you’ve got money in the bank.
The company I founded, Kiboo, has a budgeting tool that automatically places the money you spend into budget categories so you can see where all your money is going and set limits easily. Another trick is to only take a set amount of cash (and ID) with you when you go out so that you will not be tempted to spend more than you intended. No matter how you decide to budget, you’ll spend less and have more money for things like spring break or paying for the massive cost of college.
Free is ALWAYS Good
It sounds like a no brainer, but why spend money when there are so many awesome things to do for free? Try out campus events like movie showings and free meals that are usually listed in the Student Union. Joining clubs that interest you or Greek life are also great ways to find things to do that may not cost you.
Lastly, if you’re near a city, many parks have free events and a number of museums, zoos, and other attractions have free options or are at least discounted for students. Worst-case scenario, there’s always chilling in the dorm with friends and watching a movie.
The Internet = Student Discount Goldmine
You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to find great student deals. The Internet is full of deal sites you probably know, like Groupon, LivingSocial and GILT that offer discounts on food, shopping, vacations and more. There’s also CollegeBudget, which offers deals only to students, and Savored, which gives you up to 40% off restaurants when you make a reservation.
You should also look online for discounts when booking travel on Greyhound, Amtrak and StudentUniverse, as well as entertainment like museums and movies.
Start Planning for Spring Break
Everyone wants to go on spring break – after all, you have to “fight for your right to party” and it’s part of the college experience. Luckily, it doesn’t have to break your wallet. Planning early by booking flights and hotels while they’re cheap can save you big.
Try creating a savings plan if you don’t have mad cash to drop. Once you know the cost of your trip, set aside a certain amount each week until you have enough. Kiboo Goals make this easy by telling you how much you need to save and automatically setting the money aside every week for you. Friends and family can also use Chip-in to help you get there, so you can actually get the gifts you want instead of Grandma’s sweaters.
“Get a Job” -Every Parent Ever
While you’re probably on a tight schedule, getting a job for even a few hours per week can make a big difference. Work-study, tutoring, and babysitting are all great ways to make some cash. But finding a paid internship is an even better way to make money and boost your resume.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try your luck at being a lab rat. University science, psychology and sociology departments often look for volunteers for their experiments and may pay you.
While there are plenty of ways for students to save money and budget, you have to do what works best for you. Try some of these tips and see what is worth it and what isn’t. I founded Kiboo in order to make budgeting and saving both simple and easy for students, so you can focus on school and enjoying college life without money holding you back.
About the Author: Lisa Halpern is the Founder and CEO of Kiboo. Founded in 2008, Kiboo is a social banking platform that brings you closer to your money so that you have the power to easily spend, save and give smarter. Through online and mobile tools including Budgets, Goal setting with the ability for others to Chip-In, spending alerts, and a money and lifestyle blog, Kiboo gives you everything you need to know your money. As a Kiboo’er, you’ll also get your own Kiboo MasterCard® Prepaid Card for safe and convenient spending.