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Budgeting when starting out in College
Budgeting is hard, especially when you’re starting college. Now that you’re out on your own, you’re busy managing not only challenging school work, but living arrangements, eating schedule, sleeping schedule, cramming schedule…you get my point. So where does budgeting come in?
If this is you, then this will help you tremendously. Keep reading.
There are so many unknown aspects of budgeting when you are a new college student. Let’s look at the list, shall we?
-Managing your college financial package
-Work study earnings and why you should use them
-Rent or Dorm payments
Managing your college financial package
I don’t know about other countries, but if you are in the U.S., depending on the school you chose, they provided a financial package that either offered grants, loans, work study, or a combination of all of the above. Congratulations! This is your first toe dip into money management! I hope for your sake, you decided to get the most minimal loan to finish school. If you didn’t, go back to the financial aid office immediately and adjust it. Yes, yes you can still adjust your loan package if they haven’t paid it out yet and if they did, then pay some of the money back!
Believe me, I’m saving you years off of your debt that you’ll pay after you graduate. I wish I had someone who gave me this advice in college. I, being the naive college student that I was, took the whole college loan package I was offered, even though I didn’t even need 10% of it.
You wanna know what I did with the rest? Well, I went shopping of course! I bought clothes, shoes, you name it, I bought it. And I did that every semester until I spent my $13K loan I signed up for. Then, I spent the first 5 years of my life throwing all the money I could throw at it, because I realized that I was never going to get ahead if I had this loan on my shoulders.
It was a hard lesson learned. I don’t want you to have to learn it the hard way, take my experience and be smarter, take only what you need. And if at all possible, work nights, weekends, and anything available in between to avoid the loan altogether. It will make such a huge difference between starting your life as soon as you get out of school and starting with a heap of debt and no extra cash to enjoy life. Your call.
Work Study Earnings
What are work study earnings and how do you get them?
The direct definition is “Federal Work–Study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses.”
The great thing is that almost every college student is in financial need of some sort, so, many of you qualify. Just ask your Financial Office and they should be able to offer guidance on how to get it.
Work Study is great in many ways.
First, it provides some much needed moola at a time where you, my friend, are a broke college student.
Second, it can provide some work experience that may be useful to your studies or future career. If you’re lucky, you may be able to choose where you work, so research to see the positions that may help you gain experience in your field of choice. If it does, than score! You get to add that to your resume and get a better chance of scoring that dream job when you graduate!
Third, you will have the most flexible employer that you’ll ever work for. Your boss will be fully aware that your education comes first, and they will give you time to study for finals, adjust your schedule based on your class load, and give you time off just about whenever you need it. You can even take school breaks as a break from work (although I would urge against it since this would be the perfect time to get in MORE hours to make a little extra cash).
It’s definitely an option to explore. Again, this is an option I didn’t take advantage of, and looking back, that was a big mistake. Learn from my failures folks, I assure you, I would do things quite differently if I had to do it all over again.
I was a commuter who lived off campus with my brother rent-free (thanks big bro!). This was probably my saving grace (pun intended) and the one aspect of my college life that saved me a ton of money. Who knows how much more in loans I would have racked up? I don’t even want to think about it!
But, for those of you that need to rent near campus or even live in the dorms, you have several variables. Let’s discuss them.
If you’re a renter, chances are you will have roommates. Roommates reduce the amount you have to pay out of pocket to live in that apartment.
If you are renting or dorming through the school, you will minimize the amount of financial issues that come up. You ONLY have to deal with your contract, so if the other roommate defaults on their payment, the school will simply provide another roommate for you and you don’t have to face the burden of paying anything other than your share. This is by far, the easiest method, but it’s not always the most affordable.
If you decide to rent on your own (which is usually cheaper), make sure to get to know your roommates from a financial perspective. You’ll need to ask the following questions about your prospective roommate:
Are they reliable? Will they end up borrowing money from you? Do they have a job? How many other roommates have they lived with? Have they rented before?
I would also suggest that you thoroughly look at your rights and responsibilities on the lease agreement, so you don’t have to suffer the consequences later.
If its at all possible, rent a studio on your own. This can help you build credit and can give you peace of mind that you’re in full control of your situation. It’s not the most frugal method, but if you can’t find anyone you trust enough to rent with you, then do what you gotta do.
This is a big one. They don’t say, “Starving Students” for nothing. Chances are you’ll probably have a few ramen noodle nights if you’re not careful with your money. But, here’s where this article come in! I’m going to help you figure out a budget and tips on how to save money!
For an average person, you should plan to spend $100 per month on groceries (not eating out, just groceries, we’ll get to the eating out part in a future post). This equals just $25 measly dollars per week. How the heck are you supposed to eat well on that? Well, here are some tips!
The #1 way to save a boat load of cash and get a ton of groceries is by couponing! I do this now for my family and save on average $200 per month! Every time I’m at the cash register, I get stares of wonder and the “wow!” expression from people in line. They always ask “how did you do that?” It’s not rocket science folks! It’s paper money, so learn how to spend it to your advantage!
You can find coupons in your local paper, online, and through grocery ads. Just keep your eyes opened for them.
Look at your local grocery ads and stock up on things you like to eat when they go on sale! They have a ton of deals each week that you can take advantage of. Heck, you can even stock pile on your regular items so you can always have a full pantry and never have to resort to ramen again.
If you combine this tip with tip#1, you are seriously golden! The possibilities are endless and you will eat so well, your friends will get jealous!
Buy more fruits and veggies-
The original fast food! Fruits and veggies are usually cheaper than many of the processed junk food and they’re easy to prep for when you have no time. You just wash and go! Can’t get much simpler.
If you have a meal package with your dorm package, then you’re good to go. Although, you are paying a premium for meals that you may not get through by the end of the term, so be careful. I’ve seen many students cash their extra meals at the end of the term for bottled water and/or pizza. MANY Times!! So, be realistic, in college, you won’t have time for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so don’t opt for the large meal package. Save some money and get the smaller package to start with. If you need more down the line, you can always upgrade (Shhh, housing offices don’t like people to know that part).
Of course there are more topics to discuss (such as textbooks and supplies, transportation costs, and budgeting in some fun), but I’ll leave that to a future post.
I’d love to know if you’re a college student, recent grad, or if you reminisce on college life like I do! What did you take away from this article and what advice can you give if you’ve been through college recently! Sound off below!