When you’re a student, money is tight. Your income, if any, is probably low and your expenses can seem painfully high. But remember, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Creating a budget and using money saving hacks will lighten your stress and let you enjoy some—emphasis on some—luxuries. Just because you’re a student doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the good things in life.
1. Budget smarter.
Step one: figure out how much income you have every month.
Step two: figure out all your expenses. Expenses are things like rent, food and transportation—not that cute new pair of “must-have” sneakers.
Step three: calculate your budget using these two numbers. You can do this with a budget calculator, or a money management tool like our Take Charge Money Manager™. Be realistic with yourself. Don’t forget to leave room for fun stuff but don’t over indulge either.
Even though there may not be much money to spare, there is always room to save. If you just put away $20 a month, which is $5 a week, it’ll add up quicker than you think. You’ll thank yourself for that cushion when something unexpected happens, like if your computer crashes
2. Manage your meals.
You don’t have to slurp instant noodles every day. And you can get the guacamole, even if it’s extra. You just have to be smart about it.
Make a list, and don’t go grocery shopping hungry. You’re much more likely to buy things you didn’t plan for if you do. Look for specials or deals. And always scan the coupon wall when you walk in—just in case the five-ply toilet paper is on sale and now costs the same as the sandpapery one-ply. Or why not try shopping for groceries online? It might help you avoid those hungry impulse buys.
Save money by learning how to cook quick and cheap meals. There are lots of great apps out there that will give you step-by-step cooking guides. You can also input the ingredients you already have and they’ll generate meal ideas so you don’t even have to go shopping. And always make a little extra –leftovers make great lunches.
If you’re eating out, check out which restaurants offer specials on specific days. Try and go during happy hour instead of dinner time. Or mix it up and go for brunch. Brunch and lunch tend to be cheaper options than dinner.
3. Check out scholarships.
Sometimes you’re just 500 words away from $1,000. It may seem tedious when you already have so much work to do, but just think about how much free money is out there, just ready for the taking. If you’re unsure where to look or get started, you can meet with a campus counsellor. They’ll guide you through the process and let you know which ones you should apply for.
4. Don’t pay full price.
When you want to buy something, check, coupon apps or even just do a quick Google search for coupons to save yourself some money.
And just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t look fresh. You can find awesome cheap clothes by shopping second-hand, checking out online buy/sell groups and browsing consignment stores—you’ll save money and the environment. It’s a win-win.
Textbooks are the real silent budget killer. Sometimes they cost more than the class itself. When it comes time to buy textbooks, find used ones. Save money by buying them used through your university or used book websites. And sell them back when you’re done with them. It may seem cool to keep that Intro to Psychology book on your shelf now but after two years it’ll be too outdated to sell and a pain when you move.
5. Ask for help.
Repeat after us: a student loan is not free money. One day you’ll have to pay back every penny—and then some. Same goes for your credit card. Avoid using those as best you can so you don’t get yourself into trouble. If you want some help creating a budget, set up a meeting with our member banking specialists. They can help you make a plan to manage your spending and obligations, like your student loan, and help you plan for your future. Because the only thing that’s better than graduating is graduating without a hole in your pocket.
With a little attention to detail and some proactive planning, student life can be the good life. And we can help you achieve it.