Back to School on a Budget
Career Path : Career Tips
You’ve finally flown the nest and are setting off on your own with the start of the new school year. However your biggest worry is mostly likely, how do you pay for it all? For many of you it’s probably your first time living away from your parents, or maybe even your first time handling your personal finances. Post-secondary education comes with a host of new expenses from buying textbooks to paying for tuition, dorm or rental expenses. Here are a few tips to help plan your budget for the upcoming year and possibly even save money along the way:
Create a Budget
This one seems obvious, but creating a budget is something that many people don’t do. The more you control your expenses, the more you are able to plan for the future and for any additional expenses that may arise. Your budget should have a clear distinction between your income and expenses. Be realistic and be sure to keep in mind the things that you need versus the items that you want. Education news is a great resource for knowing what’s happening on campuses to find ways to save money.
Create a weekly target using spending categories such as housing, transportation, groceries, entertainment for the amount of money you’re able to spend. For example, allot X amount of dollars to socializing, X amount towards rent. Your school news may also have information on cheap or free events happening around campus. With a careful and realistic budget you won’t be tempted to overspend.
Take Advantage of Student Discounts
At this point in your life, there are a plethora of discounts available to you that can be saved in many places from the student discount available at the grocery store or even public transportation. Make sure you keep your student card with you at all times, as many places offer unexpected student discounts. It may just be a small amount, but a little goes a long way over time. And remember to ask, as some places may not even advertise their student discounts.
Buy Used Textbooks
This part may be obvious, but buying textbooks is a large expense, with many textbooks costing as much as $100! Buying a previously used textbook is a great way to save money. Sometimes you can even buy the previous edition for much cheaper. Before you buy the 4th edition of a textbook rather than the 5th edition, just make sure you check in with the professor or T.A. to see if it is possible to use a past edition textbook in the course. Check in your student bookstore in the used book section first, or look around on campus as many students post notices about their used textbooks for sale.
Learn to Cook
If you aren’t living in student residence where you already have a built-in meal plan, then the amount that you are spending on food will probably be your largest expense outside of rent and tuition. Since we all need to eat to live, the question is how will you eat to be able to survive financially? The first step is to not eat all your meals out. And yes, eating meals out does include the dining hall, particularly if you are a student living off campus. Create a weekly grocery spending budget and plan your weekly meals around that. It will be easier planning meals for the week rather than the month, and you’ll probably find it easier to stick to your budget this way. Read educational articles to find more tips. Try to buy the best quality food that you can afford while sticking to buying staples. If you are only buying essential items, then your goal should be to not pay any taxes on your groceries, as taxes are only paid on non-essential food items. You should only be eating ramen noodles every night if that’s something you love!
With the proper financial planning, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make it through the next few years with enough financial savvy to see you through your academic years into your first real career job.