15 Budget Tips for Every College Student
You don’t have to eat ramen every single night
Every college student has experienced being broke at least once, whether that means living on a diet of ramen and pizza or not even being able to afford internet in your house (true story: I’ve actually been there). But it is possible to maintain a high enough quality of life while on a college student’s budget! Your college years are some of the most fun and carefree years of your life – so follow these budget tips to live well, live it up, and still afford to eat on a regular basis (and afford to have internet access so you can do your homework!).
Food and drink:
1.Cook at home. Seriously. – This may seem like the most obvious budget tip ever, but that’s because it’s so true. It may be really hard to resist that Chipotle burrito, especially after enjoying a few adult beverages, but limiting yourself to eating out only once or twice a week will make a world of difference. Your wallet (not to mention your waistline) will thank you – it’s a win/win.
2. Shop at Aldi for cheap groceries – While you may be missing out on brand names, they offer some great generic alternatives (you can’t tell the difference between Cheerios and their oat circle cereal or whatever they may call it, I swear.)
3. Pack a lunch – If you live off campus and can’t make it home all day for a meal, avoid the expensive dining halls and pack yourself a lunch. This will save money and also ensure healthier meals.
4. Invest in a Keurig or coffee pot – College is an essential part of the college student’s diet, but those $4 coffees from Starbucks quickly add up if you get one every day.
5. Buy wine at Trader Joe’s – If you’re lucky enough to go to school in a state that allows alcohol to be sold in grocery stores (thanks Ohio!), be sure to check out Trader Joe’s for extremely cheap wines. We’re talking $3 bottles. You’re welcome.
6. Never take a credit card to the bar – This should be self-explanatory. Bring cash and limit yourself to only $10 or $15. This will help you avoid overindulging, which will consequently help you avoid offering to buy tequila shots for everyone at the bar.
7. Take advantage of discounts – Bars and restaurants near a campus tend to cater to broke college students, since they make up a majority of their clients. Look for things like “dollar drink nights” or deals that offer free drinks with your meal on a certain night of the week. You can make these weekly traditions with your roommates!
8. Skip the cable – If cable isn’t included in your rent, save some money on utilities and cut out the TV. Chances are you’re too busy with homework and extracurriculars to watch TV anyway, and if you decide to have the occasional lazy Sunday, you’ll probably be watching Netflix in bed instead.
9. Go to movies and shows on campus – Check out what the theatre department is up to every once in a while, and go see a show. They will provide much cheaper rates for students than any local theatre, and it’s a fun way to do something more cultured than the aforementioned “dollar drink night.” Many campuses also screen movies for free, so take a study break and see a movie with your friends.
10. Read the student newspaper – Okay, so maybe you don’t read the news at all, but in the rare case you enjoy catching up on the news with your morning coffee, take advantage of the free papers provided on campus. The New York Times may hold a slightly higher standard of journalism, but it’s also expensive.
11. Sign up for Groupon. Now. – I once found a deal just off campus that offered a pedicure AND Shellac manicure for just $19. I rest my case.
12. Check out local concerts – That upcoming Beyonce/ Jay Z tour may sound very tempting, but chances are there are some local dive bars that offer free concerts with local talent every weekend. Check out these or student bands, and then you and your friends can say you discovered the “next big thing” like the hipsters you are (and save $200 in the process!).
Health and Fitness:
13. Walk everywhere – Your campus may be big, but it’s still a walkable distance. Unless you’re running late for class, save some money on public transportation/gas and walk. Your wallet (and your thighs) will thank you!
14. Run outside – If you can’t afford expensive gym fees and don’t have access to a free fitness center, take advantage of the outdoors! It’s 100% free, and the fresh air can be an amazing stress reliever.
And finally, the last and most important way to survive on a budget in college….
15. Only live with people who wear the same size clothes and shoes as you!
Okay, so I might be exaggerating a little with that last one. But if you are lucky enough to wear the same size as your roommates, take advantage of it! Don’t be greedy; share your new clothes with your friends (they’ll keep them clean or pay the consequences, promise) and you will receive at least one entirely new closet in return. Before you go shopping and drop a small fortune on a new dress for your formal/date/job interview, pay a visit to the free store that is your roommates’ closets.
While some of these tips may seem obvious and others may seem impossible (surviving without TV? Gasp!), they all offer subtle ways in which you can fatten up your wallet little by little each week. No matter how broke you may be, college is some of the best years of your life, and the memories you make will be more worthwhile than any expensive meal, concert, or dress.