Guest Post: Author James Lander is a contributing writer for Couponing, a site that provides coupons and couponing advice.
If you’re in college, one of your biggest worries has to do with money. And now that it’s vacation, it can be such a feat toiling to make ends meet while trying to maintain a little semblance of a social life. Without intuitive planning tips and frugal budgeting, your financial woes could easily spiral out of control, wiping out your savings and earning you a poor credit score.
Fortunately for college goers, there are a couple of tips that can help you take a grip of your financial troubles by effectively managing your money. Use these tips as you start a new semester.
1. Know where and how your money is spent
A lot of young people wouldn’t be bothered to know exactly what they spend their money on each week. For most, as long as the frequent expenses are covered - such as food, entertainment, gas - they assume any other expense is fringe and basically negligible. However, you’ll be surprised to find that much of the unaccounted for money was spent when ‘out and about’ on things that could have been avoided. To rid yourself of this habit, start by accounting for every expense and before long, you’ll have noticed areas to improve. Jot down everything you intend to buy in advance for the week, including their prices and stick to that. You’ll still manage to have a decent social life without draining your wallet.
2. Pay your bills automatically
The first time you’ll encounter serious bills as a young adult is at college or just after college and, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a lot of financial support, you’ll have to fend for yourself almost entirely. You have to pay your rent, credit cards (plus their bizarre carrying costs), insurance and cell phone bills, all on their due dates. It’s arduous enough looking for the money to clear them up, let alone remembering the nitty-gritty of each bill (due date, amount, etc). Set up an automatic bill pay and make this burden a thing of the past. Most of the listed bills have online bill pay options that automatically clear the bill on its due date using your bank balance. You just need to provide your banking details and ensure that there’s always enough money and that way, you’ll avoid incurring late fees and penalties – fees and penalties can drain you financially and you’ll have nothing left for your social life.
3. Utilize free things online
Some of the biggest expenses while at college are books and software but interestingly, many of these can also be obtained entirely free of charge over the Internet. You’ll find that it just takes a little sleuthing to find textbook downloads or student discounts. Find other students that have taken the course you’re shopping for and see if you can either borrow or buy their used copies. Most schools also have “listservs” where students can post items for sale – similar to Craigslist. Spending a little more time at this junction can allow you to channel those savings towards your entertainment and social life.
4. Cook your food or have budget meals
If you cannot cook, chances are you’re spending a fortune on prepared meals or eating out. To be honest, the most budget friendly meals - such as generic brand pizzas - are not exactly the ones you can eat day in, day out. You’ll need to learn how to make simple, healthy meals. Start by browsing for cheap, healthy recipes online, Simple Recipes is a good place to start. Ask friends and family for their favorite recipes, those are generally some of the tastiest and easiest foods to make. Don’t be concerned about being “the perfect cook”, you’ll pick up more cooking ideas as you move on. Turn the money-saving food prep time into a social even itself – invite friends over, make it contest or have a potluck.
5. Be keen on discounts
This is especially important if you’re in college as there are all sorts of student discounts at eateries, cinemas, and stores. Some discounts may not sound like they would have any effect on your life, but they can, and will, add up. Take the Seattle Art Museum, with student ID admission it is a suggest $9 versus $15. If you go twice a month for a year, that’s $144 in savings! Many students feel embarrassed to ask for discounts but look at it from another perspective: it’s not going to last forever, so take advantage of this essentially free money!
6. Develop financial frugality
It can be tempting to splurge on every new gadget that is released. Doing it once in a while is fine but when it becomes a habit, it will be a drain on your funds and therefore your social life. If you’re really into tech stuff, consider joining the AV club. If it’s writing, try out the newspaper – you might even get paid to do what you love! Knowing what your school provides as extracurricular clubs is a great way to learn more about what you’re interested in, finding like-minded people and just having the opportunity to try things out without having to pay for it.
Young adulthood can be a difficult period, being more financially aware can make your ability to enjoy your life simpler.
[Image Source: mynextcollege.com]