Another academic year is ahead of us and there’s one main thought on everyone’s mind: Money. University or College is a wonderful experience and a great asset. However, it’s no secret that each year tuition and fees keep growing. That’s why we devised five top tips to help you save as a student and take advantage of every opportunity your academic career has to offer.
Tip #1: Make a Student Budget
Many students are afraid to budget thinking it’s too complicated or that they will have to restrict themselves. This is not the case! As you are designing your own budget, you can make it as simple or as detailed as needed.
There’s a simple rule when it comes to budgeting: the power of three, meaning you put a third of your salary against bills and expenses, a third into savings, and a final third for spending money to treat yourself.
Obviously, this can be altered based on individual needs, but it’s a good guideline for anyone afraid to take the budget leap.
The first step in budgeting is to divide up your costs. The first aspect is your fixed costs. These are the costs which occur regularly and are typically the same amount, for example rent that you pay each month or your gas bill. This amount typically doesn’t fluctuate too much.
The second is your variable costs. These are the costs that change each month. You know you will have these costs but you are unsure of the amount. A specific example is textbooks. You know you will have to buy textbooks but your costs can change depending on the classes and professors . It’s good to have an estimated amount based on the previous years, but know that this amount can change. Another example of a variable cost that happens monthly is groceries. Even though the range usually stays the same, it changes by small amounts each month.
Step three is saving! As a student, it can be very difficult to save, but you’llbe surprised by how putting a small amount away each month can add up!- While you may not able to put large amount away, you can save in small incremental amounts. Often you can ask your bank to round up your card charges so that the remaining amount goes into your savings account. This can quickly add up to a nice little nest egg.
You never know when you might need a new textbook or when an Uber trip may hit hard on your bank account. It can help to have a few dollars stored up just in case.
The final step is to keep track of all your purchases. This might seem a little overwhelming, but there are a few different ways you can do this. Many banks will automatically allocate your spending into different sections. You can also get several free apps which will help you track your spending. Each time you make a purchase, log the information right away to see where you spend your money and to where you can potentially save.
Tip #2: Be Inventive
There’s lots of smart ways to save money if you just think outside the box. For example, when buying textbooks, instead of just buying brand new, consider buying second hand books. If you must buy the book brand new then try to buy the ebook version which is often cheaper. Also, don’t forget to sell your old textbooks while they are still current! If you are an exceptionally good notetaker, there are many online sites that allow you to sell your notes for various classes. Just make sure you have the professor’s approval to sell them. Another way is to sell your old clothes to consignment stores that buy clothes you no longer use for roughly one third of the retail price.
Tip #3: Discount, Discount, Discount
It’s a widely known fact that students are often short on cash which is why many restaurants, shops, and organizations offer special student discounts. Many will have a specific day for students to shop. Tuesdays is a student day for many groceries stores and they offer 10-15% off your groceries. If you do your big monthly or bi-weekly shop that day, you can end up saving a significant amount.
Another avenue is couponing. Long lost are the days of cutting coupons, most stores now have apps that assemble all coupons in a handy electronic wallet. Simply pin the ones you want to keep and scan them at the register!
Tip #4: Every Little Helps
Snacks and caffeine are essential to get you through those 9-hour stints at the library. However, you may not realize how much that daily coffee and muffin cost you. Start bringing in snacks and lunches from home and invest in a good thermos to keep your tea, coffee, or even soup hot all day long. It may only be $3 a day, but that works out to $1000 a year!
Tip #5: Working 9-5 (Kind of)
For many students, university or college is the first time they start to work. This can be a summer internship or a part-time retail or server job. It’s valuable not only to earn an income (no matter how small), but it also teaches you important life skills such as organization, responsibility, and time management. If you want more help with your resume and job searching tips, look through our related Incubator posts.
We hope these five tips will help you save during this school year. All back to school related costs may feel sudden even if you’ve been through this before. But, with proper planning, you can even treat yourself from time to time. Just remember: it’s only a treat if it’s a rare occurrence.