Create a Student Budget That Works, From Orientation Through Finals

by Ashley Eneriz

Does the thought of keeping track of your finances during the first year of college stress you out? Don’t let it! Creating a student budget can help you focus in the classroom and acclimate to your new surroundings without worrying why books are so expensive or where you’re going to get your extra spending money.

Here are some creative ways to save each month you’re in school so you can maintain a solid student budget and stay on top of your spending.


Create a Realistic Budget

Many cringe at the idea of a budget because they think sticking to one means no more fun spending. Realistically, a budget is a tool that helps you have enough money for your bills and fun without going into debt. Free budgeting apps like Mint and Wally make tracking your spending simpler. Head into the school year with a plan.

Get Real About Food Spending

Give your school meal plans a close look before heading into the school year. Which one is best for your student budget? Keep in mind how you can supplement that, if need be, with cooking some of your own food. Some inexpensive meals include oatmeal, eggs, sandwiches, and soup.

Save on Books

Keep textbook costs down by renting your books through the University Bookstore, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, purchasing the ebook version, or purchasing a used version. Be sure to price compare to see where you can get the best deal. Your local library might have a copy of the book available to borrow for several weeks at a time.


Time for a Part-Time Job?

Take an inventory of your first few months and determine if you have time to take on something that’s even just 10 hours a week or so. Part-time job opportunities are everywhere, but you need to know where to look. Ask your friends and classmates if their place of work is hiring. Next, look for on-campus jobs that fit with your class schedule. If your schedule is tight, look for odd jobs to squeeze into your free time, such as dog walking, babysitting, tutoring, or freelancing.

Have Yourself a Frugal Little Christmas

Don’t let your tight budget turn you into a Grinch during the holiday season. Family members won’t expect fancy gifts from a college freshman. Do some searching for some DIY gift ideas and focus on spending some quality time with your loved ones while you’re around during break; help out by doing odd jobs like hanging the Christmas lights.

Review Your Finances

Remember: as much as you want to stick to the parameters you set for yourself months back, things change. After a few months of sticking to your budget, by now you should have a good idea of where you are spending your money regularly. Start the year off right by reviewing the budget you created and seeing how you need to adjust for the coming year.


Romance and Your Wallet

If you are in a relationship, then you’re probably aware that showering your significant other with love can be pricey. Skip the overpriced chocolates and flowers and get creative with a picnic dinner and a love note.

Can Summer School Save You Money?

Summer school isn’t for everyone, but if you still have energy left, you might want to consider taking a course on campus or at a local community college. APU offers a selection of undergraduate summer classes at a discounted rate. If you take a class at another local school, check out which courses might transfer to see what might fancy your interest.

Make Summer Plans on a Budget

Consider your options for the summer months. Live at home, work, and save for next school year. Travel the world for less by securing an overseas paid volunteer position or a summer camp position. Transitions Abroad lists several volunteer, internship, and job opportunities available overseas to college students and graduates. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you revisit the budget you created last fall and update it as needed as you head into the summer months.

Yes, money is tight now. It might even be tempting to take more out on a student loan or use a credit card. But if you stick to your student budget, you will thank yourself when you graduate.