Being a student can be an exciting time, but it also comes with financial challenges. Learning how to budget properly is crucial for having a stress-free student life. With tuition, rent, books, food and other expenses, it's important to find ways to save money where you can.
If creating a budget and managing finances feels overwhelming for students, a helpful option can be to ask Academized to write an essay on budgeting tips tailored to your specific situation and goals. Here are some of the best budgeting tips for students to help you manage your finances better.
Track Your Spending
The first step to budgeting is understanding exactly where your money is going. For at least a month, keep track of every dollar you spend – whether it's on a cup of coffee or textbooks. This will show you where you might be overspending without realizing it, like those frequent Uber rides when the bus would be cheaper. Once you know where your money is going, you can make changes to align your spending with your priorities.
Apps like Mint or PocketGuard make tracking spending easy by connecting to your bank accounts and credit cards. Or you can use an Excel spreadsheet or good old pen and paper. The key is to have awareness of where every cent is spent so you can make intentional decisions with your money.
Make a Budget
Now that you have visibility into your spending habits, make a detailed budget allocating your income to different expenses. Be sure to include both fixed regular expenses like rent and variable ones like entertainment or transportation. Build your budget around your needs and then wants, while factoring in expenses that only happen occasionally like books.
Apps like You Need a Budget and EveryDollar can help create and manage your budget. Or use a budget template you can find online to customize categories that are relevant to you. The 50/30/20 budget is a good guideline – 50% of income to necessities, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings and debt repayment. Review and update your budget monthly to ensure it still aligns with your spending and priorities.
Limit Food Spending
After housing, food is often the biggest expense for students. While you want to eat healthy food, there are ways to save:
- Cook more affordable meals at home rather than eating out. Meal prep on weekends to have lunches and dinners ready to grab and go.
- Eat before going grocery shopping so you don't make impulse buys when you're hungry. Make a list and stick to it.
- Buy store brand rather than name brand items – they often have quality similar to brand names for a discounted price.
- Shop sales, clip coupons, and check for student discounts.
- Limit Starbucks and takeout coffees which can add up quickly. Make your own coffee or tea at home.
Being mindful about food spending will keep your grocery bills manageable so you can splurge on going out occasionally.
Use Student Discounts
One great perk of being a student is access to many student discounts! Do some research and take advantage of special rates for students:
- Software like Microsoft Office often have steeply discounted or free options for students.
- Movies, museums, concerts and other events frequently offer discounted student tickets.
- Ask about a student rate for phone plans, insurance, travel and more.
- Shop with your university ID in stores and online for special deals.
- Get a student credit card which often has extra perks like cashback rewards.
Looking for student discounts takes little effort but can add up to big savings that you can use for other things.
Buy Used Textbooks
Textbooks are notorious for having astronomical prices. Thankfully, you have options to get them for much cheaper:
- Buy used copies direct from other students or on sites like Thriftbooks and Amazon. You can save up to 90% off a new textbook!
- Rent textbooks which can be 50-80% cheaper than buying new. Sites like Chegg, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble all offer textbook rentals.
- Check your university library – many have textbooks you can use for free for a few hours at a time inside the library.
- Buy digital textbooks which are often significantly cheaper than physical copies. Or share a digital copy with a classmate.
- Sell your textbooks after each semester to recoup some costs – either to another student or an online buyer.
Following one or more of these textbook strategies can easily save you hundreds of dollars a year. Reading an honest Academized review can give students insight into the pros and cons of utilizing essay writing services when needing help balancing studies and finances.
Live with Roommates
Living alone is quite expensive for students. Save a lot of money on rent and utilities by getting roommates. You'll also likely become good friends in the process!
Ideally find roommates you already know, like friends or classmates. Or use roommate finder services offered by many universities. Splitting a two or three bedroom apartment allows everyone to pay significantly less per month while still getting their own private bedroom.
Make sure to agree upfront on expectations for cleanliness, guests, shared spaces, noise and more to avoid conflicts later. But overall roommates are a smart money-saving move for students.
Avoid Going Into Credit Card Debt
It can be tempting to live beyond your means by paying for things with credit cards now and dealing with it later. But this can easily spiral into high-interest credit card debt that takes years to pay off.
Limit credit card use to only things you could pay for in cash that same month. Pay off the full statement balance each month to avoid paying any interest. If you do have existing credit card balances, pay them off as aggressively as possible before accumulating any new debt.
Having credit cards is useful for building your credit score. Just be very cautious with your spending to avoid debt that will eat up your post-graduation income.
Save Up an Emergency Fund
As a student, unexpected expenses can suddenly pop up – a parking ticket, medical bill, computer repair, or dropping and replacing a class. Having savings set aside for emergencies can prevent you from accruing credit card debt or high overdraft fees.
Aim to eventually build up 3-6 months of living expenses in your emergency fund. Start by saving even $5-10 each week until you have $500-1000 saved. Keep your emergency money easily accessible in a savings account so you don't touch it except for true emergencies.
Having this cushion will remove so much stress as a student knowing you can cover surprise expenses when needed.
Take on a Part-Time Job
In addition to budgeting expenses, consider earning some extra income with a part-time job. Working 8-15 hours a week can give you some breathing room in your budget without overwhelming your course schedule.
Look for roles on campus which are used to student schedules. Popular student jobs include working in dining halls, campus libraries, computer labs, gyms, and department/faculty offices.
Or search for part-time gigs off campus like retail, restaurants, childcare, tutoring and more.
Choose something with a fun social environment too! Having your own money from working really helps take the pressure off making ends meet as a student.
Avoid Lifestyle Inflation
When students first move away from home, there's often the temptation to ramp up spending to match what peers are doing – eating out more, buying new clothes, getting an apartment with higher rent, going out more, etc. However, sticking to a frugal student lifestyle will pay off financially. Don't feel pressure to live beyond your budget just because others are.
Fight lifestyle inflation by giving yourself a discretionary budget for wants like entertainment, clothing, and hobbies. Stick to budgets for needs like housing, food and transportation. Living below your means as a student will set you up for lifelong financial success.
Take Advantage of Aid and Assistance
In addition to part-time work, research financial assistance that might be available to you:
- Apply for scholarships – keep searching even after freshman year as new scholarships open up annually.
- Submit the FAFSA each year for need-based aid like grants, work-study and loans.
- Ask your financial aid office for any emergency aid programs if you hit a hardship.
- Look into tuition payment plan options your school may offer.
- Check for student relief funds available due to the pandemic or Ukraine invasion.
- Use food assistance like campus food pantries to offset grocery costs.
Don't be shy about seeking out aid, discounts, and support available to students. It can really take the stress out of paying bills.
Budgeting and money management are crucial skills every student needs. By tracking your spending, making a realistic budget, being frugal, earning extra income, and utilizing available aid, you can make your money stretch during your student years. Learning these personal finance skills now will set you up for a debt-free future after graduation.