Between increased tuition rates, expensive textbooks and the various other costs associated with the college lifestyle, it’s no wonder that today’s students are often left scrambling for money during this essential portion of their lives. In such circumstances, learning how to adequately manage your finances years becomes all-important. With that in mind, here are five essential tips that can help students make the most of their college experience even when faced with a remarkably tight budget:
- Learn to cook
A recent study shows that people between 16 and 24 years old spend more money on food than any other age group, mostly owing to their notorious lack of cooking skills. While no one is suggesting that you aim for Michelin-grade meals, figuring out a few basic recipes can be immensely beneficial for your stomach, not to mention your bottom line. Things like baked potatoes, vegetable stew or various forms of pasta can be mastered from the first go-around, but you’re free to experiment and try your hand at virtually everything that seems appealing. For best results, try to learn at least a couple of healthy recipes instead of relying solely on easy-to-cook but nutritionally-empty meals.
- Buy second-hand items
When you’re a student on a tight budget, you’ll find that many items that people buy brand new can actually be found second-hand, often at heavily discounted prices. Things such as textbooks and other course materials can be bought from older students who no longer need them, while pieces of good quality used furniture can be found online or by perusing local yard sales. Remember that not all things should be bought second-hand, though. When it comes to electrical appliances such as computers and printers, your best bet would be to go with something new and affordable that has a guaranteed warranty on it. Same applies for buying college papers, essays and other materials students need.
- Look for discounts
On the whole, students tend to be a favored sector of society when it comes to a plethora of services. By simply asking around you’ll likely find numerous deals that can be accessed with the simple presentation of your student ID card. The most common discounts usually come in the form of special student travel cards, which can shave quite a bit off the full price you’d otherwise have to pay for transportation, but there are plenty of other deals out there, including restaurant specials, cinema vouchers and free museum entries.
- Get a part-time job
A tried-and-true method that has been keeping kids through school for time immemorial, getting a job during college may not always be easy, but it can make all the difference in the world money-wise. Jobs can be plentiful in and around college campuses, where employers will be that much more open to offering flexible work schedules that are catered to students, but even if you can’t find one there, there’s bound to be plenty around the city. If regular employment isn’t your thing, consider offering services to fellow students or earning some income online during your downtime. Also, consider writing services where you can apply and write papers for other students or business companies.
- Keep tabs on your money
Finally, one of the most important steps you can take towards gaining financial independence lies in learning to how to manage your earnings and expenditures. From keeping tabs on your debt to organising your funds so that they’ll last you through the end of the month, it’s imperative that you devise a good strategy for keeping yourself financially stable. A good way to do this is by employing one of the numerous free personal finance programs currently available online, which will prove invaluable as you navigate the tricky waters of budget planning and accounting.
For many people, college is one of the most wonderful periods of their lives. While there are undoubtedly many challenges all prospective students have to face, this experience is bound to be an enriching one that will be remembered fondly in the years to come. By mastering the art of budget handling from a relatively yearly age, students will be picking up a valuable skill that’s sure to come in handy throughout their lives. For all these reasons and more, it’s definitely worth taking the time and effort to learn how to be financially smart before taking the plunge and venturing out into the real world.