Back to the Budget Basics
A college budget that includes tuition, living expenses and income from part-time jobs and other sources can mean the difference between graduating on time with no debt or leaving school with a pile of bills and no degree. While college can be a stressful time, your college finances don’t have to be. Read more about how creating a budget can put you on the right path for your future.
How can budgeting upgrade your life? A budget makes you aware of the money you have coming in (income) and helps you take a closer look at the amount of money you spend each day. Your expensive coffee habit can make a dent in your pocket, but so can grabbing snacks from the store each day between classes.
A few simple tweaks will make you aware of what you do have. Budget doesn’t have to be a bad word. In college, there are a lot of expenses to think about (think tuition, books, oh, and the occasional happy hour). But, you can start with small goals and end with big results.
Your spending matters
Have an actionable plan for your spending. That means you have to know what money is coming in, before you can figure out how and where you’re spending. Start with a few simple questions.
- What money should you count as income?
- Will your parents, a significant other or other family members contribute?
- Will you work? Part-time or full-time?
- Do you have college savings from family?
Check your expenses
You have to know what your expenses are when you start your budget. Tuition, rent or room and board, food and utilities are a few items to include. While it’s common to want to be strict and exclude certain items, don’t do it. You need some fun and #treatyoself time, too! Clothing is an expense that most forget. Are you going to school in a different climate from where you currently live? Account for clothes and other necessary items to help you adjust.
5 ways you can save more money
1. Save any extra scholarship and financial aid money
Scholarship and financial aid money is to be used for your college expenses. One important thing to remember is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. The FAFSA will be used to determine your potential eligibility for different types of financial aid. Once you complete your FAFSA you will receive the Student Aid Report (SAR) that gives you basic information about your eligibility for financial aid. You could be eligible for two types of financial aid.
Student Loans: These have to be paid back. With some kinds of student loans, you start making payments right away. Other kinds have deferred payments and have to be paid back after graduation. If you are using loans, never borrow more money than you need for essentials like tuition, housing, and food. Remember, you have to pay it back some day. Be kind to your future self and be responsible with student loan money.
Scholarships and grants: These can seem like free money, but don’t waste them. They are given to help students complete their education. Ask the financial aid office for a list of available scholarships and check your SAR to see if you have received any grants. These don’t have to be paid back, but you should still use them wisely.
Always explore your options for financial aid and scholarships. If you receive any financial aid, get ready to manage it. Think of this money the same as you would any other funds you get to pay for school. However, you don’t want to count it into your budget until the funds are finalized. (You got this!) Remember that money is to be used for school. If you want to estimate an approximate amount based on the number of scholarships you applied to or the amount of financial aid you received previously. Estimate on the low end.
2. Look for a part-time job for college students
Searching for a job as a college student can be tricky. Part-time jobs usually offer flexibility, but potentially lower wages. The key is to look for jobs that offer tuition reimbursement. (Hey, more money, is that you?) Here are a few ways you can get your job hunt going.
- Start with on-campus jobs. A lot of student worker positions provide tuition reimbursement, even if it’s not a part of your student aid package.
- Check out your university’s career center. They often get first dibs on job openings specifically for students.
- Talk with your professors. Your professors have connections with local companies. These jobs give you the opportunity to work in your field of choice and earn money for tuition and living expenses.
- Search online job boards. You can use keywords like “student jobs,” “tuition reimbursement,” and “paid internship” to narrow your options.
Your income from working plus any scholarships is a double financial win. The part-time job search may be a challenge but has a huge reward for the financial payoff.
3. Borrow or rent your books
The College Board estimates college students spend nearly $1300 on textbooks. (One single textbook is estimated at $200 on average.) There’s still a way to make and save money for your textbooks. Have you thought of sharing books with another student or in used condition? Or purchasing books from another student? You’ll decrease your costs and enjoy the savings.
Renting your textbooks provides a cheaper alternative to buying. There’s no need to keep the books or worry about how to sell them once you’re done with your class. Should you choose an online bookstore or the one on your local campus? Do a price comparison. Online stores often have cheaper prices than brick-and-mortar bookstores plus offer free shipping. Retailers - whether online or local - will normally let you pay either a monthly or flat rental fee for the semester. Keep in mind all of these costs as you factor them into your budget.
4. Sell your textbooks back if you buy
If you choose to buy, selling back your books is an option. Beware of who you sell to though. You may get lowball offers! (Just saying, keep an eye out.) Often, campus bookstores will give you less money than if you were to sell to another student or online. Research the prices before deciding where you’re going to sell them.
5. Save on transportation
Do you need a car or will you use public transportation? There are benefits and savings to both. If you use public transportation, take advantage of student public transportation passes, which are often available at lower prices than if you’re buying them as a regular consumer. Contact your college to see if there is a program available.
Depending on where you live, owning a bike may be an ideal option. Owning a car comes with a lot of personal and financial responsibility. You have to factor in the cost of car payments, repairs, insurance, and maintenance, the costs start to add up. Consider if you need a car or not. If you live and work on campus, you may not need your car. You may want to look into the public transit system of the city where you live. Consider if owning a car during college is the best transportation option for you.
Tools to get started
Find tools that can help in your budget planning. Student budget calculators help you see how much money you’re earning, and how much you’re spending. You need one place where you can see your income. When you open a Porte Account, you can enable your account balance notifications, set up Direct Deposit and start a Savings Account for your earnings.
College can be a challenge financially but budgeting your money in college doesn’t have to be. Open an account with Porte today and get started managing money for your college budget.