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21 Budgeting Tips for College Students

Category: Manage Debt Published: Sunday, 10 July 2016 Written by Chance Allen
11. Take Classes at a Community College

Whether youre supplementing your four-year university education  and possibly shaving some time off your college career by graduating earlier than scheduled or attending a local college as a substitute for a four-year university, you can save a substantial amount of money by taking courses at a community college.

Oftentimes, universities and colleges have agreements with other local community colleges to have classes that can transfer between each other, said Sherin. If it makes sense for your schedule and your wallet, see whats available at the other school.

12. Get a Cash-Back Credit Card

Use this tip with caution: Getting a cash-back credit card can be a good financial move as long as you are responsible. Be sure you can manage debt responsibly before signing up for any credit card, said Sherin.

If you know you can be responsible with a credit card, apply for one that offers cash-back incentives, Sherin said. This way, you can earn money on the purchases you make every day. A number of rewards credit cards are available, and some offer extra cash-back rewards depending on what financial institution you bank with.

Related: Best Rewards Credit Cards of 2016

13. Shop at the Dollar Store

The dollar store might not be the coolest place to shop, but its often the cheapest. You can save money on necessities that might cost you more if you purchase them on campus or even at a grocery store.

If you know you are going to be shopping for things you are going to throw away  like trash bags, sandwich bags or paper towels  pick something inexpensive at your local dollar store, said Sherin.

14. Borrow as Little as Possible

If you have to use student loans to pay for your education, try to borrow as little as possible, advised Steve Repak, a certified financial planner and author of 6 Week Money Challenge: For Your Personal Finances.

Unlike credit card debt, student loan debt can almost never be discharged in bankruptcy, so it is extremely important to put a plan together to get [student loans] paid off as soon as possible, Repak said. The first move toward that is having a low balance to begin with.

15. Get Good Grades

Although there are many reasons to earn the best grades that you can, perhaps one of the biggest incentives is that good grades can also pay off financially, said Ed Gjertsen II, CFP, vice president of Mack Investment Securities and chairman of the Financial Planning Association.

Good to great grades can go a long way in schools offering merit-based scholarships, Gjertsen said. While athletic scholarships may attract most of the attention, getting good grades can open financial opportunities.  Aside from financial opportunities, earning good grades can score you other perks such as good-student discounts on auto insurance, which can be particularly high for young adults.

16. Estimate High and Low

When youre figuring out your expenses and income, Perez advised to estimate high on expenses and low on income. This will ensure you have plenty of money to cover your costs and wont allow you to give yourself too much play money, Perez said.

17. Cook

Although many blogs have famously challenged the idea that cooking is cheaper than eating out, Perez said that if you do it right, you can cook delicious  and likely, healthier  meals compared with what you can get if you eat out. One recent test by Cheapism found that a home-cooked chicken dinner cost $6.41, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics prices for food, compared with a $16 average for a similar meal from national chains such as Boston Market, Dennys, Olive Garden and the Cheesecake Factory.

18. Work

Whether its a summer job or a part-time gig during the school year, working is a surefire way to help yourself stay within budget. As much fun as it is laying by the pool, visiting local hotspots and touring the summer music scene, saving up your money during the summer can help you build your nest egg for the school year, said Sherin. Working also does double duty: You cant spend money while earning it.

19. Turn Off the Cable

The average pay-TV monthly bill is $99.10, according to a 2015 Leichtman Research Group study. It might be tough to lose your favorite TV show, but cutting your cable could be one of your savviest financial moves. Plus, many shows are available for viewing on the TV networks websites after the episode airs.

20. Stop Smoking

If you can kick this addictive habit, youll have better health, better breath and better finances. The average price of a pack of cigarettes is $5.51  and a whopping $12.85 in New York. Quitting smoking can mean the difference between a Friday night out with friends and a long night alone in your room, coughing.

Read: 15 Everyday Things That Empty Your Wallet

21. Become a Resident Adviser

If youre an upperclassman, consider becoming a resident adviser. An RA provides peer-to-peer advice for fellow, younger or newer students in dorms and residence halls. As an RA, youll help build a sense of community, answer students questions and more. Being an RA can pay off in a lot of ways: It looks good on your resume, it gives you real-world managing experience, and many universities compensate you with free room and board or other perks.

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