Every little bit helps when you are a student
Making the decision to go to a career training school is a big step in your life. Being a student can be exciting, fun, and interesting, but one of the tricky parts is managing your personal budget. If you are going to school full-time, you probably do not have another job, and as a result, you may be pinching pennies. Even if you have applied for financial aid and are receiving assistance, it can still be difficult to make ends meet. Here are some tips on stretching those dollars.
1. Follow a budget
If you are trying to save money, making a budget is a good idea. A budget is simply a plan for spending. Start with the Federal Student Aid budgeting page. This resource helps you plan out a budget in a simple step-by-step fashion. Your budget should include the money you have (savings) and the items or services you need to purchase (expenses). Planning ahead can help you identify your wants versus your needs and to control your spending.
2. Cut back on the “wants”
Knowing your wants versus your needs is important to saving money. For example, while food is obviously a “need,” do you really need to get a mocha latte and a chocolate chip muffin at the coffee shop? Quick purchases at coffee shops and vending machines can add up fast. If you spend just $3 every weekday on your morning coffee, that adds up to $780 per year! You can save money by making coffee at home and using a refillable travel mug. Try bringing your own reusable water bottle to school rather than giving your money to the soda machine.
3. Find used items
Craigslist, EBay, and other online forums are great ways to save money on items you need. Some things that you might want to purchase used are: textbooks for school, clothing, electronics, and furniture. Thrift stores and consignments shops are also a good source for used clothing and shoes. Safety note: When making purchases from strangers online, always use common sense and avoid anything that seems suspicious.
4. Curb your vices
Smoking, vaping, and drinking are expensive habits. Smokers who smoke a pack a day can spend over $2,500 per year on cigarettes. Five years at this rate is over $12,000! Buying alcohol is expensive too, especially at bars and restaurants where it is heavily marked up. Limit these vices as much as you can, and you’ll be putting money back in your pocket.
5. Pay off your credit cards and bills each month
Credit cards are a handy way to pay for purchases, but they can be dangerous for students. Don’t fall into the trap of credit card debt. If you have a credit card, be sure you are not overspending. Be sure that you can pay off your full balance each month. If you don’t, the credit card will charge you interest, and before you know it, you will get behind on payments, and the interest will keep accumulating. Many students find that debit cards are safer, because they do not allow you to spend more than you have. If you are already in credit card debt, you can find advice at the Credit Counseling Society. The same goes for your monthly bills. Pay them on time so that you are not charged late fees or interest.
6. Look at your monthly expenses
Monthly expenses take out a big chunk out of your budget. These are expenses like rent, car payments, car insurance payments, phone, and utilities. See if you can cut back on these expenses with these options:
- Get a roommate to share on rent and utilities
- Cancel your cable until you are earning more money
- Adjust your thermostat to save on heat and air conditioning
- Carpool to save on gas
- If you live in a city with a car share, consider selling your car and using car share instead
- Shop around for a cheaper cell phone plan. Many providers offer reasonable prepaid plans.
7. Eat in
When you are a busy student, it can be hard to find time to cook. But eating at home can save you a lot of money and is often healthier than eating out. To stretch your dollars the furthest, make a shopping list and stick to it. Buy reasonable amounts that you can eat before the food goes bad. You don’t want to be throwing food away. Other ways to save money on food include using coupons, looking for sale items, and buying nonperishable items in bulk.
The Branford Hall Career Institute provides tips and advice for students in its weekly blog. If you are considering starting a new career, find out more about Branford Hall’s career-focused programs. With locations in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, we may have a campus near you.