There is a lot of new lifestyle changes happening when you leave for college. You may be learning how to navigate a budget and a schedule for the first time independently. You will have to cover the cost of food, books, tuition, transportation, and numerous other items.
It is essential to plan and leave some room for unexpected surprises. There could be some pizza runs and unexpected laundry fees in your future. If you have a wee bit of a nest egg in your back pocket, you won't be as stressed out if you need to quickly find some cash.
Ink For Your Printer
This is a commonly overlooked expense. Depending on which type of printer you have, buying your refill ink and paper can add up. Some institutions will allow students to pay the library for each item printed. Ask yourself if you can "save a tree?" or if you absolutely need to print things. Sometimes, a force of habit can lead to extra costs.
Maybe you can use a laptop or take paper notes and highlight items in an old-school way? If having multiple tabs open will drive you crazy, opting to print certain things may be worth it. Check out what your professors have to say regarding their preferences about digital submissions as this may be an option for certain teachers and not others.
Avoid color printing whenever possible. Choose "economy," or "draft," mode if you are printing source material or notes for your own use. Get into the habit of printing double-sided to be friendlier to the environment.
You will use your laptop all the time during college. It is a vital tool for conducting research, taking class notes, attending Zoom meetings, attending virtual classes and writing papers. It is important to have some extra funds in case a replacement or repairs are required. If you drop your laptop even once, it can damage your hard drive. This is the same for your cell phone, your tablet or notebook, etc. Any computer device can accidentally get wet or damaged.
Ask about student discounts from tech companies if you find yourself shopping. Purchasing a refurbished option with a warranty is another great way to save. You can trade in or recycle your device to help reduce your expenses.
Subscriptions for Software
There may be tools you need to utilize to fulfill your classroom assignments. If you need access to Photoshop for your visual arts degree or require MATLAB® for your computer science, you will need to pay extra. Many people have to have constant access to Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word to meet their daily needs.
These programs are excellent to use for many different subjects. Look for student discounts before you simply purchase the software. Many companies will have some student perks. Otherwise, ask your professor or librarian if there are lab computers or software in the library open for students.
Social Life Expenses
You’re about to make new friends, and you’ll want to spend time doing things with them --- many of which cost money. Lunch with your study group, and going to sports games are just a few examples of these expenses.
It is normal to want to hang out and spend money with your new friends. Think of ways to save by hosting a potluck instead of always eating out. Prepare to grab lunch some days with your study group. Going to the movies and sporting events will also take time and money. Ask for student discounts everywhere you go for extra savings.
There are often low-cost and free events on campus, especially those offering free food. Check online bulletin boards and event calendars on student websites and keep your eyes peeled for advertising fliers. Use these gatherings to fill your social calendar. Meeting up with friends for coffee or dessert will save much more than always going for a meal and a beer.
How is the climate where you will be attending school? If you are going to be living in a place that has different weather than you are used to, you will likely have to invest in some new threads and footwear. If you are used to utilizing your own washer and dryer at home, whenever you like, you may be surprised and inconvenienced if you must rely on a laundromat or make a trip to a laundry room somewhere.
Laundry will be a part of your budget as it will cost a few dollars to wash and dry, plus detergent. Consider saving money by hanging your wet laundry to dry. However, this will be heavy to transport if you must carry it some distance.
Save on your wardrobe by watching the sales for big-ticket items such as winter boots or a winter coat. Shop at second-hand stores and thrift stores to save on housewares, clothing, accessories, and shoes. You really don't need to use dryer sheets. Ensure you are only washing full loads to maximize your money.
Stay Positive and Be Patient With Your Budget Learning Curve
Understand that managing money comes with time and experience. The entire process can be stressful; however, be patient. No matter what stage in life you are at, there will be unexpected expenses. Learning how to deal with them is a huge part of growing up. Your budget can be flexible. Even when you can anticipate certain expenses, things will come up like vehicle repairs, travel, equipment upgrades, damage deposits, etc.
Being comfortable with your cash flow and frequently knowing where your finances are will help you understand if you can order that pizza or if it is wiser to say no to that next concert. Balance is key. Some expenses are immediate and unavoidable such as prescription medications. Don't fret. Use your savings when you can or pledge to cut corners and re-establish your savings next month.
Frequently Check Your Bank Account
Don't be afraid to look at your bank account. It is a bad habit if you notice you are avoiding things. Watching your spending is the only way you are going to know where your funds are going. You may be surprised at how much you are spending on food and alcohol.
Perhaps, your entertainment is costing you more than you can afford. If there is no money left over after you plan your budget to cover the necessities, don't be depressed. This happens to everyone from time to time.
Fun and Free Activities
Consider free fun things like taking a walk in a park or going for a hike. Spend the day getting lost on the city bus or partake in an outdoor yoga class in the park. Plan a picnic instead of hitting up a restaurant. Treat yourself to a bubble bath or a DIY manicure and pedicure. Not having extra money to spend doesn't mean you have to miss out...it simply means you have to be more creative.