Surviving on a Starving Student Budget
Despite shows like MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16,” (where kids get unlimited budgets to throw outlandish birthday bashes), most teens don’t get no-cap credit cards before they head off to college. In fact, some studies show that the majority of students who drop out of college do so because they have to work to pay off their debt. To avoid being one of the casualties, plan ahead to not only create a budget – but also stick to it. Here are a few ideas to help you pinch pennies without living on Ramen noodles.
Eat – and stock up on – foods that are nutritious and filling. Pastas, breads, protein sources (like peanut butter, cheese, beans and meats) will make you feel full longer while sustaining your energy levels. You’ll be less likely to get hungry in the middle of the day. If you’re doing work-study, try to get a job in the cafeteria, which often offers the added perk of free food. If you work off campus, consider a job in a restaurant. Most offer free or discounted food to employees. Even a low-paying job can be worth it if you eat your fill!
Shop with your roommate – and only from a list. If you share food, you’re less likely to see it go to waste.
Whenever possible, don’t skip meals in the cafeteria. If you’re not hungry, you can always save stuff for later. If you get hungry once the cafeteria is closed, you’re more likely to head to the store.
Take advantage of on- and off-campus functions that offer free food. Fraternity and sorority barbecues, orientation get-togethers, open-house functions to get to know professors, and college-sponsored movie nights in your dorm can be chock full of free tasty tidbits.
Check out your school’s calendar for upcoming free events like football games, outdoor concerts, intramural sports and open-mic nights.
Join clubs, groups and teams that get you free entrance into on- and off-campus events, or that regularly host their own activities.
Check your college paper for coupons and free passes to events.
Spend the day window shopping or browsing thrift stores, flea markets or farmers’ markets.
AVOID UNNECESSARY FEES
Always carry your student ID and ask for discounts when making purchases on and off campus. Most college towns offer lower ticket prices to movies, plays and concerts, as well as bus passes.
Avoid using your credit card except for emergencies. If you have to use it, try to pay it off before the interest accumulates.
If you call long distance frequently, check into cell phones that offer unlimited calling for one set rate. You’ll never go over your maximum amount so you’ll always know how much your bill will be.
If you’re big on renting movies, try getting them from the campus or local library. If there’s always a wait, consider subscribing to Netflix, which offers set-amount plans with no shipping costs or late fees. Cheaper than going to the movies!
Set up automatic withdrawal with your bank for all your bills and loans. You’ll never have to worry about late fees (or hurting your credit) again.
Most importantly, sit down with your parents and draw up a budget. You may not always stick to it, but studies show that people who write down goals and budgets have a better chance of making them a reality than those who just think them or vocalize them.