Counting pennies

By on April 15, 2009

It’s a stereotype that has been around for quite some time: college students are notoriously strapped for cash. Living independently for the first time in most of their lives, college students face the daunting task of budgeting, saving and spending their money. Today’s troubled economy combined with a college student’s part-time paycheck doesn’t leave much room for luxury. Saving money is an art some people are said to either posses or lack. Whether you know when to draw the line or spend too frivolously, ways to save money in college are simpler than you might have guessed.

Set up a free checking account. Students who use banks from home end up losing more money than they should in ATM fees. For outside banks, a charge is usually made by the ATM, the student’s bank and the bank that owns the ATM. Overtime, these fees can really accumulate. Quinnipiac University is affiliated with TD Banknorth and has an office inside the Student Center.

Party frugally. According to AlcoholPolicyMD.com, college students spend about $5.5 billion on alcohol each year. If students are at the legal drinking age, they must keep cheap in mind. Attending early bird specials and ordering house drafts instead of fancy specialty cocktails will have the bill at the end of the night looking like a reasonable amount. Don’t frequent fancy restaurants, and when going out with friends, always have a plan to split the bill.

Be conscious of your food intake and spending. If you have a meal plan, make sure you are keeping tabs on where your account is at. Meal plan budget trackers are up near every cash register in the Café. If you’re not on a meal plan, shop for groceries wisely. Cut coupons, buy in bulk and look for generic brands of your favorite products. Shopping at stores like Sam’s Club and Costco require membership but provide the bulk and “bang for your buck” every college student is looking for in food and products. Purchase and use a coffee maker if you drink it. Daily runs to Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks can add up to quite the hefty total over time. Making coffee in your room will save you over $100 a year if you drink a cup of joe daily.

Don’t buy books in the school bookstore. There is nothing cheap about college textbooks- especially full price at the bookstore. Get your schedule early and order your books off of Amazon or Half.com. Also, find other students who have taken your class and work out a deal with them of purchasing their used book. If anything, get to the bookstore early because the used discounted books are always the first to go.

Entertain yourself wisely. You don’t need to splurge on digital cable and DirectTV in college. Regular cable is sufficient, and it can make going home to an extended TV package something to look forward to. You have a DVD player on your computer so there is no need to put out for that as well. Subscribing to Netflix will cut down on rental costs. When going out on weekends, really budget yourself. There are many fun, free campus sponsored activities every Friday and Saturday night. The tried and true weekend gatherings with friends at someone’s apartment or room doesn’t cost a penny either.

Communication is important. For college students, cell phones are one of the only means of contacting the outside world. Make sure you are on a plan with enough minutes and texting. College students are usually texting fiends, so signing up for unlimited will save you money versus going over the limit on a bill. Skype is another form of communicating through the Internet. After the device is purchased, communicating with family and friends long distance is free.

Sacrifice on indulgence. You have the rest of your life to be frequenting beauty salons. Forego the weekly manicures and salon haircuts. Buy toiletries at Target, Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store.

Save, save, save. Whether you go home to a job or to your parents giving you an allowance, remember to stretch your money throughout the semester. Always compare prices, don’t feel the need to but constantly and ask your parents for budgeting help.

While it’s not the most fun thing to do in the world, cutting corners in college will have you spending wisely for the rest of your life.

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About Mary-Catherine Dolan