I have done the college thing a couple of times now, so I am painfully familiar with finding ways to stretch your college budget. When you first arrive on campus, the first week is going to be your bank account’s enemy. By the end of it you will probably have spent more money on your social life in seven days than the rest of your college years put together. For the rest of your time there, there are temptations everywhere, alongside books, the cost of classes, rent… All of this seems like a financial nightmare, but there are ways to stretch your college budget while still having a great experience.
1. Remember That Alcohol and Cards do Not Mix
Alcohol is your friend, sometimes. When you have a credit card to hand, it is your enemy always. Out of all the ways to stretch your college budget, I cannot recommend this one enough: do not take your card out with you to socials. Set yourself a little financial limit, withdraw some cash from your checking account, and go wild on that only. Everything seems like a good idea when you are drinking, but when you find yourself debating buying your course’s key textbook or eating, you will wish you hadn’t bought tequila shots for the entire bar.
2. Eat Smart
In the west we are notorious for buying way too much food, letting it perish, and then repeating the cycle. You really don’t have to do this. There are some ways to avoid food waste. Try purchasing frozen products - vegetables are usually cheaper when you do this anyway. As for meat, just freeze it until you need it. This really can add up and it avoids you having to eat processed food just because it is cheaper.
3. Steer Clear of the Shiny Books
Yes we know new books look fantastic. Yes it helps to have up-to-date versions for certain topics. However, don’t buy new shiny books for the sake of it. Check out whether there are any book sales going on, be irritating and reserve books in the library as soon as you can, or buy them from eBay. Then there is my personal favorite: Google books. I have found that searching them for a point I am trying to make and then referencing what I find is almost infallible. Trust me, when medicine is your major and the authors decide to price their books in the region of a small car, this is very handy.
4. Become a Part-Timer
We all know college is hard, but the majority of us are going to need a part-time job anyway. Look on the bright side of this: when you exit, your resume is going to look pretty spectacular next to those graduates who just skipped from class-to-class without any part-time work. If you are lucky, your college will have a dedicated program designed to find suitable work for students. Otherwise, try bars, restaurants, and hotels. Or you can do as I have done and become a writer, which hardly clashes with anything. Just watch what you are writing at college. My lecturers are quite irritated by me oscillating between British and American English now. I like to think of it as a unique skill, but not everyone agrees.
5. Walk It Baby
So you have taken your car to college with you and you think it will make life easier. It probably will to a degree, but walking is going to do you a whole range of other favors. Gas isn’t going to slow down price wise anytime soon, so use your legs instead. They like to operate for free and usually look better after you furiously power your way to a class, so they’re a good option. That aside, a good walk will definitely perk you up after a hard night of, erm, studying.
6. Do Things for Free
So the old saying goes “You don’t get something for nothing.” Completely untrue. Okay, to an extent it is untrue. The world offers lots of free entertainment, so if you are bored, go make the most of it. This could be a show within your college, a local exhibition, or watching your roommate argue with her boyfriend via Skype. Whatever is on offer, take it. If it saves you selling your kidneys to watch the Hunger Games, you have succeeded.
All of these tips would be totally pointless if I didn’t state the obvious: you really need to draw up a budget. Before you arrive at college, figure out what is coming from where and when you will be spending that money. Then comb through the budget and find ways to make more and spend less. For example, you could apply for grants or sell stuff on eBay. You can downgrade your organic hand made pasta to a store brand. Whatever it takes, do it. You’ll be surprised at where you can cut financial corners.
Try and get it into your mind that college is going to be great come what may. Unfortunately for most of us, there will be times when we struggle and want to tear our hair out. These life-forming experiences will set you up for the ‘real world’ amazingly well. If you are currently at college or a graduate, how did you stretch your college budget?