Budget Tips for College Students
Picture by Moses McAninch
Make A Budget
Creating a budget can be difficult with a small income, but it is still important! The first step to making a budget is to be honest with yourself about what you spend. Look at your bank account and write down all your recurring expenses and anything else you have spent money on for the last few months. Next, list your regular income. Include what you earn from jobs, Federal Work-Study, financial aid, and scholarships. After that, create a breakdown of all your expenses; it is helpful to separate expenses into different categories such as education, housing, food, transportation, and entertainment. Lastly, do the math. Calculate the amount of money left after paying for necessities and create a budget for unnecessary expenses, like entertainment and take-out food. If the math doesn’t work out, look at your expenses and figure out where you can cut back.
Worksheets are readily available online but there are now easier alternatives for creating a budget. Budget apps, such as Mint or Honeydue, are free and link with your bank accounts and credit cards. These apps automate the grunt work of budgeting and make it more accessible to everyone.
Cut Down Expenses
If you have more expenses than income, or just want to create more slack in your budget, it is important to find ways to cut down your expenses.
Necessities are an unavoidable expense, but there are still ways to reduce the cost.
Hygiene items are cheaper when purchased in bulk, but students often lack the space to store countless rolls of toilet paper at once. Pair up with friends, split the price of bulk items, and save money together.
Food is an unavoidable expense. If you have a meal plan, take full advantage of it! If you don’t have a meal plan that covers 51% or more of your food needs then you might be eligible for food stamps. To receive food stamps as a student, you have to meet at least one of the following criteria: be eligible for work study (even if you don’t have a position), be in an approved training program, have a child under 6 years old or be a single parent to a child under 12 years old, work 20 hours a week, or have a note from a physician detailing a physical/physiological difficulty that makes you unable to work 20 hours per week while in school.
Textbooks are a necessity when attending college. Before buying any books, take a look at your local library and see if they have anything off your required reading list. Renting textbooks is often cheaper than purchasing but it isn’t always so. If a textbook rental costs $30 but it is $40 to purchase the book, the $40 option might actually be a better deal. There is no way to get money back from a textbook rental, so the $30 is gone. When you purchase the $40 textbook, you can sell it; if you sell it for even $15, you saved money. When it comes time to get textbooks, always look at the difference between rental and purchase costs and calculate which is cheaper in the end.
It’s easy to tell people to cut entertainment out entirely, but every individual deserves joy in their lives. Rather than starving yourself of enjoyment, find entertainment on a budget!
An easy way to cut costs is to unsubscribe from streaming services. If you can’t let go of them entirely, just cut back on how many you pay for. One friend can subscribe to Hulu, one to HBO, and one to Amazon Prime Video. You can share passwords with each other and get multiple services for the cost of one. Another option is subscribing to Spotify Premium Student- for $4.99 you get Spotify Premium with free Hulu and Showtime subscriptions.
College is a great place to get free or cheap entertainment! Eastern Oregon University has an indoor rock climbing center that is free to students! They have all the necessary equipment available to rent at just $5/day. The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences hosts regular performances and art shows at low cost to students.
The Cook Memorial Library in La Grande is another great place to find entertainment for free! The library hosts film showings every Saturday, Dungeons & Dragons game nights on the second and fourth Thursday of each month, and a book club on the second Friday of every month.
Make More Money
Sometimes you can’t budget any better and you just need more money. If you are already stretched thin between classes and work study, earning more money can seem like a daunting task. There are a few ways you can bring in the cash in your free moments without taking on the additional responsibilities that come with a traditional job.
Surveys are a great way to make money in those moments while in between tasks, in a car, or waiting for class to start. The highest earning survey website is prolific.co. Prolific is filled with surveys from different universities and product research teams. Surveys on this website can be done on a phone, tablet, or computer but some surveys can only be done on certain devices. Prolific occasionally has a waiting list but the high payments make joining worth it. CrowdTap is a phone app that only has short surveys, making it the best survey app to use when you only have a few minutes to spare. CrowdTap only pays in gift cards, but with options such as Amazon, Subway, and Spotify, it is a great way to widen your budget!
Another way to earn extra money is with receipt scanning apps. Amazon Shoppers Panel offers $10/month in Amazon credit if you upload ten receipts a month. This app also has occasional surveys, giving extra opportunity to earn. Fetch Rewards is a receipt app that pays in gift cards such as Amazon, Domino’s Pizza, and Target.
Budgeting may seem like a daunting task but it is doable, necessary, and a skill best learned early in life!