Budgeting tips for university students

For most students, university is a crash course in money management and budgeting. If a student has never paid his or her living expenses, the experience can often be frightening and overwhelming. Stick to a budget while you're in school to enjoy life without sacrificing comfort or depriving yourself of the experience.

A short crash course in personal economics

You'll need to do a little prep work before you can write your budget. Before you leave for school, collect your receipts for a few months to see what you spend your money on. Use the budget forms to start tracking your expenses. Amount of Expenses a University Student Needs Amount of Expenses a University Student Needs Tips for Repaying Student Loans Tips for Repaying Student Loans Where can I buy university textbooks online? Where can I buy textbooks online? If you are unsure of your budget when you start school, ask your friends or online forum users who are currently students how much they spend and what they tend to buy. If you are moving to university, use a cost of living calculator to find out if the new neighbourhood will be less or more expensive than what you are used to. If your room and board is paid for by scholarships or by your parents, you can leave most room and board costs blank. Include them if you are financing them with student loans. Don't forget to budget for restaurant meals and extra snacks that you want to have in your room. If you don't have a lot of income, be prepared to live frugally.

Establish a budget

A basic budget form will look like a table with rows and columns. First, create categories for all your expenses, using the headings below as a guide. Write one of the categories on each line. Next, classify each item on your receipts and assign it an appropriate category. Typical categories might include gas or bus fare, entertainment expenses and clothing. If something doesn't fit, add a new category called "miscellaneous expenses" and put it there. Total the costs for each category and put the dollar amount on the corresponding line. Each column should represent a different month so you can see how your expenses change over time. Once you have all your expenses in your budget, calculate your income (or what it will be when you start school). Include paycheques, regular cash donations, and student loan income that doesn't go directly to tuition. Then, you can simply add up your income and subtract your expenses. This will tell you how much income you have left or how far into the red you are. If it quickly turns out that you won't have enough money to cover your expenses, you must either increase your income, decrease your expenses, or both.

Respect your budget

Reducing the amount of money you spend on the items you need can greatly improve your financial situation during your studies. Use the tips below to keep your finances under control. Textbooks. Textbooks account for a significant portion of the money students spend each year. If you have friends who are a year ahead of you in the same subject, ask to borrow their textbooks. Find a second-hand bookstore near the university or college and look for the textbooks you need. Save a fortune by buying and selling textbooks online on specialized sites. Buy books in the middle of the semester if possible, before prices peak at the beginning and end of each semester. Go to the library and consult the books you need for free. Download the textbooks to your e-reader instead of buying printed versions. Room and board. Most universities include room and board in the tuition fees. You can save a significant amount of money by living off-campus, especially if you rent a house or large apartment and share costs with several roommates. Just make sure that appliances are included and that utility costs are low. If you pay for utilities, find ways to save money so that you don't waste energy and money. Compare the cost of living on and off campus and see which makes the most sense for you. The cost of laundry - especially at laundromats - can add up. The following tips can help you reduce your laundry costs:. Recycle clothes. Shirts can be worn for up to two days, and jeans can often be worn even longer, if you don't spill them. Alternate the day you wear them and no one will notice. But don't skimp on socks and underwear! Maximize loads. Depending on the type of clothes you have, you might save money by having only two loads - light and dark - instead of sorting in several cycles. If you have small loads, share them with friends. Hang a clothesline in your room or apartment. It may be better to air-dry your clothes than pay for drying time, especially if the weather is nice. You can invest in a clothes dryer for little money. Transportation. Insurance, fuel, repairs and maintenance can deplete much-needed funds. It may seem like a burden not to have a car while you're in school, but most students do very well. Buses are relatively inexpensive, and some universities even offer free transportation. Or take a ride with friends and offer to help them pay for fuel. If you live in a place where the weather is usually nice, save a bundle and get in shape by walking or cycling to class.

Food, drink and entertainment

Most often, it is best for students to choose a meal plan that provides only one or two meals a day instead of three. If you have a kitchen, you can save more money by cooking and foregoing the meal plan altogether. Buy your food at cheaper markets that offer two or three meals in one package. Buy food at the local grocery store that can provide many inexpensive meals, such as noodles. Buy food in bulk and use coupons to save a fortune. Get a part-time job at a restaurant that offers free or discounted meals to employees. Prepare meals for your friends instead of eating out. Look for entertainment venues that offer significant discounts to students. Always ask for student discounts, and when you find the cheapest places in the area to have fun at low (or no) cost, go often. Also plan outdoor activities with friends, such as bike rides or picnics.
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