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How to Make Your Dollar Stretch in College

by Amber Woods

Let’s face it. If there is one truth about college students trying to study to make a life for themselves, it’s the fact that most of them are hurting for money. You have part-time jobs to give yourself as much class and study time as possible, but if you live on or off campus, your money just doesn’t go far, at all. Here are some ways you can make that dollar stretch a little further.

Set a Budget

There is no time like the present to set and stick to a budget. If you get your paycheck directly deposited, only take the money you need until next payday out in cash, and put the debit card away. When you run out of cash, don’t go looking for the card; just hold on until next payday. Any one-dollar bills you get, put them in a locked box and throw the change in a lidded container for those few extra cents you’re going to need to tide you over. If you have bills, have them drafted out of your account so you won’t forget to pay them. This will help establish your credit for when you graduate.

If you spilt bills with roommates, get a reloadable card to put your half of the expenses in to it. When it comes time to pay, you can pull the money out at an ATM and hand it over, just make sure you keep a record of how much you gave them and when. You’ll never know when they might lose track of who was supposed to pay what and when.

Plan your meals

This means no more pizza every other night, just once in a while. Buying your own food will save you money in the long run, and then you can splurge a little on that pizza and wings. Designate one night a week to eating out or ordering in.

If you’re going to have an all-night study session, plan to buy microwavable meals and snacks. Popcorn and bagel bites can tide you over. If you want that pizza, get the small ones from the grocery store. Many of those are small enough to fit in a toaster oven and those little ovens cook just as well as the conventional ones. Just set it for the conventional oven temp, and bake. It’s that easy.

You’re probably living on a Ramen noodle diet. To make it a little better, buy soups and sauces and throw away the packets of seasonings. If you want a little extra meat, use canned meats instead of spending money on fresh meat. This is in case you do not have any way of storing perishable items. Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches can be your friend for lunches. If you don’t like the old stand-by, there are affordable meats you can buy near the deli section.

Gaming

We all like to relax and spend time gaming online, but subscription fees can drain a bank account, if you have more than one that you are playing. Opt for the free online games. There are a lot of MMO options that you can play for free.

If you have a console, Game Stop and other stores like it can be a savior to your wallet. They all will allow you to trade games for credit, which will eventually net you free games for your console.

Take Public Transit

This may not be an option for many of you, but if you have it, take it. We all want a car for a little freedom, but with that car comes maintenance bills and insurance payments that can add extra stress that you don’t really need. Check the public transit routes. If you are in a major city, chances are they go everywhere you want to go.

Don’t buy new clothes.

Go to second-hand, consignment, and Goodwill. We all want to be fashionable, but when you’re sacrificing a meal or two just to get that new pair of jeans it’s not really worth it. You will be amazed at what you can find at the places that sell already worn clothing. A lot of the pieces are designer, and will fit you perfectly.

If you have a car,…

…don’t be afraid to charge your roomies gas money to take your dorm or roommates places. This also helps make your dollar go further. If they ride with you on a regular basis, or they use your car, talk to them about pitching in on oil changes and new tires. It’s only fair that they help with the costs of maintaining a vehicle if they are going to use it.

We hope these tips will serve you well, and help you manage your money so you can concentrate on what’s really important, your education.

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