4 Tips for Living on a Budget

Let’s face it: college isn’t just hard because the classes require more reading. Going to college means being independent from your parents in almost every respect other than the tuition they pay. Regardless of how you make your money – from a part time job, a monthly allowance allotted by your parents, or from your superior ability to navigate the stock markets – chances are you’ll need to live on a strict budget. This is certainly the hardest freshman year, when there’s a chance you don’t even know how much groceries cost, but it can also be difficult in later years as you gain increasing autonomy from your parents and most likely move off campus. Gone are the days of spending money at the mall willy nilly, free from the grownup concerns of bills or the responsibility of keeping yourself fed. Here are a few tactics you can employ to make sure you don’t die of starvation or end up homeless.
1. Budget realistically. Instead, try to establish a reasonable number to spend on food each month. Allot cash for groceries, take out, and restaurants. When in doubt, always assume you’ll spend more on necessities like food instead of putting that money in your expendable income categories, like clothing and entertainment. That way if you fall short of your monthly food budget you can use that money the next month for whatever you want – or put it in the bank!
2. Consider investing. Not all your money, certainly, and investing doesn’t mean playing online poker. But especially if you’re a business or economics major, you might want to take a small portion of your income and see what you can do with it. Pay attention to what’s happening on Wall Street and in financial news to make sure you don’t end up throwing money down the drain.
3. Be a guinea pig! All colleges with psychology departments have upper level students who need to run psych experiments on human participants. Check with the psychology department or whatever website the school has set up online to see how you can make money off furthering the goals of psych students. If you get paid $15 for a 7 hour experiment, you’ll walk away with more than $100.
4. Don’t assume you have to buy everything new. If you’re snobby and think you must go to high end stores to buy everything brand new, get over it. Thrift stores, craigslist, and consignment shops will be your new best friend. You can find furniture for your newly rented off-campus apartment; trendy, one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories; and even books and movies. Especially when it comes to text books – don’t insist on buying everything new from the bookstore. Shop around and settle for buying used or renting to keep costs low.

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