Learning to live on a tight budget can be a challenge at any age, but it’s particularly difficult for students who are struggling to pay their tuition and basic living expenses without completely sacrificing their social lives. Getting the most out of a limited income requires advance planning and a little self-discipline, but it can also teach you financial management skills that will benefit you for years to come. Here are eleven money saving tips that can help ease your financial woes
Monitor your spending habits for a couple of weeks
Keep track of every expenditure you make, including the cost of a cup of coffee or a pack of gum. When you lay it all out, you can get a realistic picture of your spending patterns and identify areas where you can cut back. Most people are unaware of how much they are spending day-to-day on small items.
Put pen to paper and draw up a reasonable budget
List all your expenses in one column and all your income in another. Divide your expenses into fixed costs, like tuition, rent and utilities and discretionary costs such as food, entertainment etc. Consider keeping money for fixed costs in a separate bank account. Once you have subtracted your fixed costs, the balance will help you determine how much you can afford to spend week-to-week on everything else.
Teach yourself to cook
You can make wholesome, nutritious meals for a fraction of the price you would pay at a restaurant, fast-food outlet or even the campus cafeteria.
Before you shop, check out store flyers for the best bargains. And buy generic whenever possible. No-name brands are usually significantly less expensive. Group shop with friends or flat-mates. Buying in bulk saves money.
Pay with cash not plastic
When you go shopping have a list of what you plan to buy and take just enough cash to cover the cost. Leave your credit or debit cards at home. This can help you avoid impulsive purchases and has the added advantage of visually reinforcing where your money is going and how much things cost. It’s too easy to overspend when you’re using plastic.
Take advantage of student discounts
Many retailers, restaurants, and clubs offer student discounts. Check out websites like free stuff to find out where you can get the best deals.
Never buy textbooks new
You can buy used textbooks at less than half the cost online through companies like Amazon or post a notice on campus that you are looking for used textbooks.
Avoid excessive bank service fees
The service charges on frequent cash withdrawals from ATM’s can quickly add up. Shop around for the banks offering the best preferred rates for students.
Change your bad habits
If you smoke, love tequila slammers, or overpriced designer coffee, consider cutting back or cutting it out.
Barter your services
Take advantage of any skill you have by trading it for something you need.
Get music and movies from the local library
Most libraries offer a wide range of entertainment options including the latest CD’s and DVD’s.