Advice for College Students on a Budget

Heading to college is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. But it’s often the first time a young adult lives on their own, which presents a number of challenges. One of the tougher aspects of transitioning from high school to college is managing personal finances.

The good news is creating a budget for a college student living on campus isn’t all that difficult, and by employing a few different strategies, you can avoid becoming the stereotypical “broke college student.”

Create a Monthly Budget

Kick the school year off by creating a monthly budget for yourself that covers your fixed and variable expenses. Your fixed expenses include room and board (if you’re living on campus), rent and utilities (if you’re living off campus), textbooks, transportation, and anything else that can’t be avoided. Variable expenses include things like dining out and entertainment purchases, which you want but don’t really need.

Keep in mind that you may need to adjust your budget throughout the year. For example, if you underestimated your monthly fixed or variable expenses, you’ll want to adjust that budget to ensure you’re not living outside your means for the remainder of the year.

Track Your Spending

Amending your monthly budget is nearly impossible if you don’t track your spending. Thankfully, there’s no need to hold onto your receipts or create an Excel spreadsheet to track your spending—there’s an app for that. Mint, PocketGuard, and EveryDollar are just a few of the apps available that can help you track everything you purchase.

To make the most of your chosen budgeting app, consider setting an alert that’ll let you know when you’re near your monthly spending limit.

Consider a Part-Time Job

Managing your money is difficult if your bank account is sitting empty. Getting a part-time job is one of the best ways to ensure you can always pay your rent and bills while still having a little bit of disposable income each month.

Try locking down a paid internship to gain some real-world experience while you’re still in school. But there’s no harm in working at a restaurant or the college bookstore either. Even if you just work a few hours each week, that’s money that can go towards tuition or student loans after graduation.

Cook on a Budget

Dining out for every meal gets expensive and probably isn’t in your monthly budget. But just because you’re cooking at home doesn’t mean you have to eat instant noodles every night.

You can cook on a budget by meal planning at the start of each week and only buying ingredients for those specific meals. Don’t be afraid to buy generic brands when you’re at the store. Sure, the labels aren’t as flashy, but they taste the same as the name-brand goods.

Open a Savings Account

Opening up a savings account in addition to your current checking account is another great way to manage your money and have some set aside as emergency funds. Many banks and credit unions have high-interest savings accounts designed specifically for students. But be sure to read the fine print.

Some establishments advertise attractive interest rates, but there could be a catch like a minimum balance or a monthly fee. You can easily compare banks online, so just do a little research before jumping the gun.

Apply for a Credit Card

Building your credit is essential when it comes to renting an apartment, buying a car, and meeting your overall financial goals. One of the easier ways to build your credit quickly is by opening up a credit card and using it wisely.

It’s important to note that applying for a credit card is a double-edged sword. It’s one of the best ways to build your credit score—as long as you pay your credit card bill off each month. But credit card debt can pile up quickly if you only make the minimum monthly payments.

Be sure to shop around for different credit cards before you sign up for one. Consider applying for a card that has travel rewards to help pay for your spring break trip!

Search for Student Discounts

From restaurants to movie theaters and even Dollywood, you’d be amazed at how many establishments offer discounts for UT students. Simply flash your student ID to receive a 10, 25, or even 50 percent discount at different hot spots around Knoxville, your hometown, or any city you’re visiting.

The Bottom Line

With a little self-discipline and a plan in place, you can save money and enjoy your college years at the same time. But don’t delay—the sooner you start planning your financial future, the better your university experience will be!

At Quarry Trails, our renovated off-campus apartments are designed with your lifestyle and budget in mind. Consider moving into one of our furnished apartments that are all conveniently located just a few minutes from Neyland Stadium and the heart of campus.

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