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budgeting in college

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How to Manage Bills as a College Student

December 30, 2021

College can be a challenging time for students, but it doesn’t need to be stressful.

College students often struggle to manage their money and pay their bills on time as they move to this new chapter in their life. We are here to help you learn what you need to know about managing your finances as a college student.

Take Note of Every Expense

The first step in budgeting your money is to figure out what your monthly expenses will be.

You will have to pay for housing, utilities, phone service, internet access, and food while you are in college – it’s just the way things work! While different students have different living arrangements, most students will need to pay for these things. You may also need to consider the costs of transportation, textbooks, and other school supplies. Also, don’t forget the costs of any extracurricular activities or hobbies you want to pursue, like joining a club or participating in intramural sports.

From Netflix to the water bill, write down every single monthly expense you have. The more you know about how much all these things cost each month, the better prepared you can be for managing your money.

Begin with Your Fixed Costs

The first type of expense in factor into your budget are the ones that don’t change, or changes very little from month to month. This can include any bills you pay that are not negotiable (meaning the payment cannot be negotiated by a credit card, check, or cash, such as rent payments and car insurance premiums. These are important to remember and can serve as the foundation of your monthly budget.

List your Flexible Expenses

The next step is to determine your variable expenses – these are the monthly bills that change from month to month depending on how much you use. Common examples include utilities, groceries, transportation or gas, and even some cell phone plans. It can be very easy to go over budget with these types of expenses and is crucial that you pay attention to how much you are spending each month.

Plan on Unexpected Expenses

Life happens and you can’t always plan. One thing you should plan for is unexpected expenses, like car repairs or doctor visits. You can do this by setting aside a small amount each month (e.g., $20) in an emergency fund using your checking account. Another way to help the unexpected is to set aside money each month in to a savings account. This can be used for unexpected things you may need, or want, such as trips or a going out to eat that you did not account for in your budget.

Once you have paid all of your bills and set aside this monthly emergency fund, you have reached the end of your spending plan for each month. The amount left over in your checking account is yours to do with as you see fit!

What if money is too tight?

In some situations, budgeting may be difficult and you may not have enough money. If this is the case, it’s important to figure things out as soon as possible – don’t wait until your bills become overdue!

If you need more income to cover expenses, look into getting a job or increasing your hours at work. If you have to cut spending, start with the things that are not as important such as eating out or shopping.

However, attending college is often a full-time job in and of itself. On top of that, it’s important for you as a student to have a healthy amount of free time and disposable income for entertainment and leisure in order to manage the stress of college.

If you have your basic budget under control but need a little leeway for leisure and unexpected expenses, there are plenty of credit cards designed specifically for college students that will help take the pressure off. Just make sure to do your research and compare cards before signing on!

Conclusion

At the end of the day, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of expenses you have as a college student. However, if you take an organized approach and write down each expense before it becomes due, managing your money should become much easier.

Author Bio

Colin Crown is a contributing writer and media specialist for Compare Credit. He is an avid foodie, marketing enthusiast and loves the city of Memphis.

Student Life

Student Guide on How to Stop Overspending and Start Saving

November 11, 2021

Being a student is one of the most exciting phases of one’s life. Financially, this is the ideal time to experiment with your ideas and get a head start for adulthood. The challenge, though, is how to make ends meet with the limited resources you currently have. After all, just a night of overspending can lead to disastrous results down the line.

Fortunately, there are a lot of steps that you can practice to prevent overspending and learn more about personal financial management. In this article, we are going to share some of them with you, particularly those that we have already tried and tested for years:

1.  Make use of last year’s books.

According to Academic Matters, an average student spends more than $1,000 on books and other learning materials per year. While putting them to good use is the best way to make the most of your investment, there is another way to get (at least) some of your money back. Take good care of your textbooks because you can still resell them for a good price once the school year’s over. Check out your campus bookstore for buy-back programs, or sites such as Amazon or Chegg.

2.  Enjoy savings for this year’s books.

While we’re on the topic of textbook savings, you can use similar tactics for books you have yet to purchase. Look into buying used textbooks or renting them. Many times, you can still. write and highlight in books you rent, so it shouldn’t impact your study habits.

3.  Know your discounts.

Since we are already talking about Amazon, did you know that they have an Amazon Prime student program as well? This allows you to sign-up at half the price of their regular plan, take advantage of significant discounts, enjoy free food delivery, and more.

Meanwhile, Amazon is not the only company that offers discounts to students. Don’t forget other types of bonuses as well. For instance, groceries typically hold late-night discounts for perishable items that didn’t sell during the day. Take the time to find what’s available near you and you might be surprised how a little effort can stretch your dollars further.

4.  Plan your expenses and shop smart.

There are different types of budgeting systems but for students, we highly recommend starting with something simple like the envelope system. It won’t require any expense recording but it will make sure that you live within your means.

Don’t automatically assume that you need to buy everything as well. You will need a lot of things when you’re moving into you’re venturing out into the world for the first time, but don’t think that you would need to buy everything brand new.

There’s no shame in asking around whether your family and friends have some things that you might need just lying around unused, such as old pieces of furniture or kitchen appliances. Other items, like the power tools you’ll need to assemble your own furniture, can also be rented as needed.

We also recommend alternative methods such as point-of-need financing. You can use it to buy bigger educational-related expenses, like a new laptop or a printer. You might even need a small fridge or a microwave for your dorm room. This will allow you to get what you need and pay for them through smaller and more manageable monthly payments.

5.  Explore new interests.

Binge drinking, excessive partying, shopping, and even vaping are all hobbies that are not just irresponsible, they’re quite costly too. Instead, consider exploring fun and inexpensive hobbies!

For example, there are affordable musical instruments that you can start learning how to play. Getting a chess set is pretty cheap and you can spend your whole life contemplating on its 69,352,859,712,417 possibilities and still not master it.

Are you a fan of working out? There are campus gyms that offer free memberships for their students, teachers, even the alumni. The fun that comes with college parties can still be enjoyed, just not overdone!

6.  Take advantage of more affordable forms of entertainment.

A lot of campuses offer free (or really affordable) forms of entertainment such as movie nights, museum passes, and cultural shows. We also recommend skipping a costly cable package. Try a streaming service instead, like Netflix or Hulu. Amazon also offers Amazon Music and Prime Video as part of the student program we have featured earlier. Talk to your roommates and see if they’d split the cost on one or two streaming services for you to share.

In fact, when it comes to music, there really is no need to buy tracks these days. You can simply use free streaming services like Spotify or Pandora.

7.  Share food and space with your friends.

You can further pull down your monthly expenses by splitting the cost of your rent and utilities with a roommate. You can even plan your meals together and share grocery expenses. Splitting the responsibility of cooking and cleaning up is unbeatable!

8.  Review your life skills.

Speaking of cooking, it will save you a lot from eating and spending money on take out. We know how convenient it is, but it is financially smarter to just cook your own dinner rather than reaching for Uber Eats every other day. Save those splurge nights for really special occasions.

Riding a bike is another way to save money in college. Car payments, insurance, parking passes, and gas can really add up, especially if you are on a student budget. If you really need a car, you could rent one for the day or utilize a ride share service. But a bike should be enough if you live on campus or close by.

There are certainly other methods to save money as a student, but the ones we have mentioned above are good points that you can already start practicing. Good luck!