Manage Your Money Through College: Budget

in General

Managing your money through college is not an easy task, especially when you haven’t mastered the art of juggling a job and your studies and your [potentially nonexistent] social life. Creating and maintaining a budget is the best way to help you make frugal choices throughout your college experience.

Math may not be your strong point, and that’s okay. You can always seek help from the financial aid department of your college or university or create a spreadsheet of your own. But in order to create a budget, you need to know your expenses and plan for them. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Textbooks

    Books aren’t cheap, especially when purchased at the university store. Even used books at the university store can break the bank. Prices of books fluctuate, depending on the subject at hand. Biology and chemistry books cost more than the latest MLA formatting handbook, and literary anthologies cost more than books required for introductory wellness courses. A few helpful tips for getting the textbooks you need:

    • Compare prices for textbooks online. The internet is overflowing with resources on how to save big bucks. When it comes to shopping for textbooks, websites like TextSurf and BookFinder.com search the most popular websites for purchasing and renting textbooks and provide you with the results of each site, which saves you both time and money in the long run.
    • Buy them online. Websites like Amazon have special deals for students—faster and often free shipping—and you can sell the books back, often for more than your university store will offer, when you’re done.
    • Rent your textbooks. Some websites that allow you to compare textbook prices give you both the price of purchase and websites that have the books available for rent.
    • Ask around. Universities often have online forums where students post items for sale, including textbooks. Take advantage of this service and meet up with the seller on campus. Get your books cheaper and save money on transportation or shipping.
    • Search the library. Particularly with literature courses, sometimes it’s possible to improvise. Instead of purchasing Shakespeare’s complete works, for instance, check out individual plays from the school library. This saves money on books and transportation.
  2. Transportation

    Piling your pals into your car for those emotionally priceless college road trips can be quite costly. Keeping gas in your car, a membership to AAA, regular car insurance payments, and the usual maintenance (inspections, etc.) are all important to factor into your budget.

    On the other hand, public transportation is almost always an option, not to mention often free for students with their school IDs as long as school is in session.

  3. Food

    Contrary to popular belief, college kids don’t live off Ramen noodles alone. Universities often offer meal plans, but those plans along with other food for sale on campus can get expensive after a while. See if you can set up a plan with your roommate(s) to contribute to groceries and take turns making meals to share.

    Grocery and other necessity expenses should also be factored into your annual budget.

  4. Student Loans and Other Finances

    According to NCES, over 80 percent of first year, full time undergraduates receive some sort of student financial aid, from grants to loans. Student grants don’t need to be paid back, but taking out a student loan is another story. The decision to take out a student loan can be overwhelming when you’re faced with differing interest rates everywhere you turn. Some loans even require payments on interest accrued during your time in college—just another thing to add to scholastic stress.

    But Lancaster Dollars for Higher Learning offers interest free student loans to those in need of financial assistance, reducing your expenses while you’re busy stressing over midterms and final exams, group projects, and car payments.

It may seem tedious from time to time, but setting and maintaining a budget early on will help you manage your money through college, making your college experience even more enjoyable.

Contact Lancaster Dollars for Higher Learning today for information on how to apply for an interest-free student loan.