How to Survive on a College Student Budget

By Ashley Lenahan on June 19, 2017

The college years come with many expenses, from the often-high costs of tuition and living accommodations to the daily purchases of food and transportation. In addition to these necessary payments, there are the costs associated with social activities and your personal hobbies, which rarely come free.

To ensure survival among these seemingly drowning expenses, you must establish a budget for your purchases. The list of steps below outline a recommended process of how to properly budget on a college-student income.

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1. Record all purchases

Individuals can encounter several purchases on any given day. The most common among college students include those of groceries, apparel, or entertainment as well as the seemingly trivial costs of fast food or transportation.

While each of these purchases may seem insignificant on their own, they can combine to quite the hefty sum at the end of the month, especially when added to the compulsory payments of utilities and other related bills.

To monitor your spending, track your monthly purchases through phone by one of the many budget and expense tracking apps available on mobile devices. For those who prefer paper-based options, record purchases manually in an old-fashioned checkbook.

The process of documenting your spending habits can serve as useful as it can help students identify where and how their money is truly being spent. It can also aid in determining which purchases can be eliminated when tight on cash — for instance, the daily specialty drink from Starbucks that many students consume which are oh-so-delicious but also oh-so-expensive.

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2. Prioritize

Each person has their own view of what purchases are truly worth their cost.

For those who could use some direction in determining which purchases are considered of value, one great way to establish priority among purchases is to make a list of subcategories for personal spending.

These subcategories can include an array of sections, like entertainment, health, or utilities.

Once you have assessed your personal value of each determined subcategory, structure your budget to allocate a specific percentage of funds to each section. Such a division of the available budget can be accomplished easily through one of the budget apps as most tend to account for this method of planning for expenses.

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3. Recognize the value of free

Most companies offer coupons to encourage customer loyalty through their mobile apps or online pages. There are too, at times, coupon books distributed to certain shops and universities or available online that cater their offers specifically to college students.

The deals presented as coupons are often based on the dollar amount or quantity you’re willing to invest in.

While the coupon offers will not apply to every customer, it can be worthwhile for students to research what coupons are available at the businesses that they most often frequent. The money that will be saved, whether a meager or substantial amount, can serve to save some often-needed cash that can then be invested elsewhere.

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4. Recognize the often lack of value in cheap products

There is a well-known phrase that says you should seek quality over quantity. While this is often acknowledged as sound advice, on the limited budget of a college student it can be tempting to accept a low-price tag as the sole criterion for if a product is worthy of purchase.

As mentioned in the step above, sales and offers of free items should certainly be sought by students. Yet, it should be understood that cheap is not always better, especially in terms of a product that is cheaply made.

The cheaply made items may cost less as an initial purchase. However, as they are likely to deteriorate quickly, they many times need to be replaced with frequency.

Therefore, the higher-quality products that may cost more at the moment of purchase can ultimately lead to greater savings as they are likely to last for a longer period. 

Hey all! I'm Ashley, an avid reader and writer, travel junkie and coffee enthusiast. As I plan to obtain credentials in Professional Writing, Creative Writing and Screen Writing, I will likely be in school for the rest of my life.

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