Budget Tips for College Freshmen

When a college freshman comes to campus, it may be the first time an individual is responsible for a large amount of money.  Financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, and loans are deposited at the beginning of the semester and the student needs to budget the money for the entire semester until the next deposit of money comes in for the second semester.  Because of these single payments and the situation of the poor college student, budgeting money successfully is an important skill.  These are a few budget tips for college freshmen.

Make a budget

The first step in order to follow a budget is to set one up. It will be important to sit down with parents to make decisions about finances.  It will be important to create a budget with the total amount of financial aid coming to the student at the beginning of the semester along with the non-negotiable expenses of tuition, room and board, and fees. From there, parents and students will know how much money is available that will be given to the student usually in a refund and how much will be owed in addition to the financial aid.  Most colleges have this information online for students in an accessible account for students and parents. At this point, the child and the parent will need to decide how and where the remainder of any necessary funds will come from.

Use the food plan

While there may be temptations to go to fast food joints or order from a favorite pizza establishment, the best way to budget money is to eat at the food service. A common mistake students make is not spending the food plan that is pre-paid with the tuition and instead spending too much money on eating out. It is always best policy to use up the food service money first and then if the food plan runs out before the end of the semester, then it can be supplemented with eating out or food in the dorm room.

Paying for laundry

Usually, it costs anywhere from $2 to $5 to use a washer or dryer in the dorms with the laundromat styled facilities depending on the campus. These machines often are operated two ways. One is to have a pre-paid card, which is swiped, and another is to insert quarters. If a student doesn’t have a prepaid card then it will require quarters.  Most people have jars of change at home just sitting there. Before heading off to college, take a small container and load it with several dollars worth of quarters or have money put on one of these swiping debit cards.  This way it won’t take money out of other budgeted money to pay for laundry.  Even better, bring the laundry home if that is convenient.

Keep track of debit card payments

A common mistake is to spend indiscriminately with a debit card and not thing about how much is being spent.  It is important to keep track of how much money is being spent with a debit card because it counts up faster often than a person thinks.  It is important to treat the debit card like a check and write it down in a checkbook register.

Don’t have careless expenses

Watch out for the careless expenses that can occur because someone is preying on college freshmen. Many of these situations arise from online requests for money.  Students are sucked in by glimmering advertisements to buy products or even “money making” opportunities that charge student to participate.  Remember you don’t make money by being charged to do something.  Beware of these kinds of schemes to bilk students out of their money.

Used books

Students typically have to budget $400-600 per semester for purchasing books.  Instead of just buying books at the bookstore or brand new condition books, look online at retailers and eBay, which often sell the books at discounted books.  It is a good idea to still budget for the maximum amount, and then anything that comes in at less will save the student money.

Entertainment expense

There are unlimited possibilities for entertainment and socialization while in college, but some of the social events can be expensive.  Many concerts, games and activities are sponsored by the university and the student should utilize these pre-paid entertainments as much as possible. Avoid spending a lot of money on movies or full-priced entertainments.  If attending a movie is desired, find out if there are discount shows and try to attend those.  Have a specific amount of money to spend on entertainment each month and when the money is gone, do not keep attending these events even if friends with more spendable money keep encouraging a student to go too.

Use cash

A good idea is to have cash to use each month. When the cash is gone, then there is no more money for expenses.  If $100 is the limit each month for eating out, movies, gas and other expenses, take $100 out and when the money is gone, there can be no more spending.  It is a simple old-fashioned method that still works really well.

Transportation costs

Students should make sure to budget for transportation costs. If taking a car to college, it is important to budget the expense of gasoline, car repairs and upkeep.  If it is important to discuss with parents, what they are willing to share in any transportation costs, especially if the university is far from home and flights are needed. Try to share rides with other students as much as possible to avoid some expenses.

Stay out of the bookstore

While campus bookstores are known for their books, reality is that they have many other high priced items that may seem appealing. This can range from clothing items, to lanyards, to drinking cups.  These are all high priced items that can eat up money, but there isn’t much result from the money. The best bet is to stay out of the bookstore or budget a certain amount of cash to spend there during the semester.

Spending money as a freshman in college is never a problem.  Spending money on the right things and conserving money is the most difficult part of budgeting money and sticking to it.  Setting a budget and sticking to it, is by far the best procedure for college students.