College Budgeting 101: Everything You Need to Know About Money
By Tyra Laster
This article originally appeared on ESSENCE.com for a back-to-college content partnership with TLC.
It’s no surprise that being a college student comes with finding feasible ways to enjoy your glory days. Many students find themselves broke trying to stay afloat with expenses such as tuition, housing/living arrangements, books, organizations, and of course, having fun. With things to do but no money to spend, we’re going to break down how to budget your money and spend more wisely.
1. Know Your Budget Status
The best way to see what you can and cannot afford is by setting a realistic budget. When it comes to purchasing your groceries, or seeing if you have enough spending money for that concert this weekend, knowing your budget plan beforehand will create discipline and organization. Great free mobile apps that can help you monitor your budget plan and stick to it include Level Money, Mint, Goodbudget, Wally and SpendBook.
2. Get Smart About FAFSA and Taxes
FAFSA is a name most college students are all too familiar with. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. When it comes to money in college, it’s typical to depend on FAFSA for financial support. To be clear about where your money can come from, figure out whether you’re the one filling out your taxes or your parent/guardian so that you can be eligible for tax claims, refund checks and deductions.
3. Rent Your Textbooks
Textbooks are extremely expensive. To save some bucks, rent your books so that way you’re buying for a lesser price. Another great way to save is to sell your last semester books. Many introductory courses require the same book for each year so if you end up purchasing a book, sell it once the semester is over.
4. Chill Out on Eating Out
Who doesn’t enjoy a good meal? Your pockets. Though the option to go out to eat is very tempting, monitor your eating habits because food adds up. Try only eating out twice a month and rack up on grocery items that can last (canned foods, ramen noodle packs, cereal, etc.). Also, most universities have the option of a meal plan so try using that to your advantage before reaching into your pockets. Other great ways to budget your food spending include avoiding grocery shopping while you’re hungry, splitting meals and eating leftovers.
5. Determine Your Needs Vs. Wants
Many times, our money troubles come from buying things we do not need right now but want. Create a detailed list that you can keep close to you, and distinguish your wants from your needs. When you’re out, check your list before purchasing an item. This way, you can monitor what you’re spending and create accountability for your future. You really don’t need to purchase that ticket to that event, however you do need to make sure your bills are paid on time to avoid late fees.
6. Use Extreme Caution With Credit Cards
You may hear about the convienences of credit cards, but do not be fooled by the easy spending access—you will have to pay it back. Many students carry at least one credit card due to how easy it is to get one, but it’s important to know the difference between credit building and overextending. Be very careful with using credit cards because the money you spend is the money you’ll be asked to pay back, plus interest.
7. Cut Out Unnecessary Expenses
While in college, you will be busy with schoolwork as well as organizations, activities, and hopefully a healthy social life. With being an active college student, you won’t have much time to watch TV. Therefore, cutting off your cable can allow you to save money. Think about other expenses that you pay for that haven’t been used or of service to you in the past year and discontinue them.
College is the best and most interesting time of one’s life all wrapped up in four short years. Whether you’re broke or ballin’ on a budget, it’s important for any college student to use this time to become a financially smart young adult!