10 Tips for Living on a College Student Budget
College students are big spenders, but most of that money goes toward tuition -- aside from a few dollars here and there for noodles or a Netflix subscription. With the right mindset and a few tricks up their sleeves, students can learn to live comfortably on the minimal budget that remains after paying for school.
Even if you have to build in extra time to get to your destination, think how much you can save by not paying for parking and gas. Rejecting car ownership entirely can yield big savings on insurance and car payments, not to mention the incidentals that inevitably crop up. A one-time bike purchase probably costs less than a single month's car payment. If school or work is too far to walk or bike, take the bus, which may be even more convenient than driving.
Typically the bigger the quantity, the bigger the discount. For example, 144 Bic pens cost $12, or 8 cents a pen, on Amazon. Students may not use a gross of pens in the first semester or even the first year of college, but this is a staple supply that won't go to waste. To sweeten the deal, consider asking roommates or a few people in a residence hall if they'd like to split up bulk purchases.
The most important way good grades pay off is through scholarship money. Most scholarships set a minimum grade point average (often at or near 3.0) that must be maintained. A high GPA can reduce some big bills, too. Students with a B average or better are generally eligible for many companies’ discounts on car insurance, up to 25 percent at State Farm. (Run the numbers, though -- it's often cheaper to remain on a family plan.) On the flip side, students who fail a class don't have any credit hours to show for the money spent on the course. And if it's required for a degree, they have to enroll in the same class again.
There are a lot of discounts to be cashed in just by showing a university-issued student identification card. Save on clothes at J. Crew (15 percent off), Banana Republic (15 percent), The Limited (10 percent), and Boohoo (a whopping 35 percent). Save on food at some locations of Subway (10 percent), McDonald's (10 percent), and Burger King (10 percent), to name a few. Microsoft offers up to 10 percent off, Amazon makes Prime free for the first six months and half-off afterward, and Adobe’s Creative Cloud software is 60 percent off. It's always worth asking if there's a student discount before making a purchase.
If your bank doesn't have a branch or ATM on campus or nearby, expect to get saddled with service fees whenever you withdraw cash. Not everything can be accomplished on a smartphone, even at banks with apps. Lacking easy access to account services, you may have to use valuable gas or bus money to get to the nearest branch. Look for a good deal on campus instead -- banks are eager to sign up students as customers.