Making It Through College On A Budget

My little sister is 17, and my gosh, I don’t know when that happened. In another few months she’ll be trekking off, probably not too far based on how tied she is to my mom’s purse strings, to college all on her own.  Since her parents aren’t made of money, she knows that she’ll be making it through school on a pretty serious college budget so that she doesn’t end up with a ton of student college budgetloan debts like her lovely sister and brother.

One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome when working toward your college degree is sticking to a budget. Many college students borrow money from student loans, credit cards and other sources to get themselves through college, and it is common
for college graduates to have a considerable amount of personal debt as a result. Starting adulthood some twenty thousand plus dollars in the hole is not financially savvy, so we’ll be helping her out throughout the way.

Generally, finding a way to make it through college on a budget can help you to avoid accumulating such a significant amount of debt. By following a few key tips, you may be able to live comfortably during your college years without living beyond your means.

Affordable Housing

If you are like most college students, the cost of housing is perhaps one of your most expensive expenses. Because housing is a regular expense in your budget, finding a way to live comfortably yet with minimal housing costs is a necessity. You can shop around to find the most affordable housing solution both on campus and off campus. Everyone wants to college dorm life experience, but frankly, it might be more expensive than off campus housing shared by a bunch of students.

When you are looking for a place to live, keep in mind that factors like the cost associated with your commute to campus, the cost of utilities and more will all vary based on where you live. Because of this, look at all aspects of your housing-related expenses before you make a decision. You can also save a considerable amount of money if you make the decision to live with a roommate while in school.

One of my rentals was only a few miles away from the local college and with rent and utilities for a two bedroom house coming in below $900 per month, two students could make it through a semester paying only $125 each week for housing.

Car Expenses

For many college students, the cost of vehicle expenses falls closely behind the cost of housing expenses in their budget. Vehicle expenses may include everything from the cost of your auto payment to your auto insurance premium, gas and maintenance costs. These expenses can all be lowered by choosing a more affordable vehicle to drive. For example, an affordable compact car may be far more affordable to drive than a luxury SUV. If you’re my sister, there’s no way that you’re getting a car, so finding the nearest public transportation will be key for saving. Drivers, shop around for car insurance or beg your parents to add you onto their policies which is often cheaper.

At-Home Dining

College students dine out for many reasons. In some cases, it is more convenient to grab a bite to eat as you are running to class or heading home after a long day. You may also eat out at restaurants to be social with friends. While it can be fun and convenient to dine at restaurants, the fact is that dining out can cost a fortune, and this is true even if you eat at fast food restaurants. Plus, who wants to gain the freshman 15?

Whenever possible, dine at home to save money, and bring a lunch from home with you to eat in between classes or while on the road. You can control your food expense more easily when you buy groceries and eat at home. You can also invite friends over for a potluck meal if you want to be more social while you eat.  We had pot lucks every Sunday when I lived on campus during my first year of college.  Considering that most of the girls couldn’t cook, and I was one of two who could, I became the frugal gourmet.

Lower Travel Costs

College students are people on-the-go, and because of this, travel expenses should be a focal point when looking at your college budget. Travel expenses can be high when traveling home for the holidays or between semesters. You can consider different ways to get back home during these times, such as taking a bus rather than flying.

I remember taking an Amtrak all the way fro New Orleans to New York City. It was 36 long hours that I will never repeat again, but for as a broke college student, the price couldn’t be bear.  You can also consider staying close to campus and working instead of traveling home. In some cases, this may be a more affordable option to consider.

There are also costs associated with your in-town travels while attending classes. When possible, consider using free or cheap transportation such as shuttles, city buses or even your own bike rather than your car. This will decrease the maintenance costs and potential repairs costs for your vehicle, and you may save a small fortune on gas.

The fact is that living within a budget can be difficult to do at first. However, over a short period of time, you will grow accustomed to living frugally. The end result may be that you can graduate college with far less debt than you otherwise would.

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