If you don’t have a spending plan yet, see the topic Spending Smart to learn how. Once you have your plan, look for ways to cut costs and set aside savings. For example, consider whether you could do without a particular purchase, or set a dollar limit on entertainment. Do the math on small luxuries such as a daily coffee and muffin. Even at $20 a week, that comes to $1,040 a year! When you’re tempted to spend, remember that you need to cover all of your expenses from the money you have.
Even small savings can add up. For example, buy used textbooks instead of new; walk, bike, or use public transportation rather than driving a car. Get the most from what you already own before you buy more. Shop for bargains instead of paying full price. Take advantage of student discounts. Limit the amount you go out to eat; the local supermarket has lots of good, healthy food choices at much lower cost. Try to avoid unnecessary expenses such as library book late fees and parking fines.
Credit cards can tempt you to spend more than you can repay and interest adds up very quickly. To avoid too much credit card debt, get just one credit card with a low interest rate and low spending limit and save it for planned purchases and emergencies only. If you use your credit card more often, get into the habit of paying off the balance in full each month. Use cash and your debit card whenever possible instead of your credit card. For more tips, see the topic All About Credit.
Remember, there are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep for 56 hours attend school for 40 hours, that leaves 72 hours for all other activities, including part-time jobs and socializing. If you need to work while attending school, consider how to earn the highest return you can for the time you invest. Try to minimize the impact of work on your school studies. Investigate your eligibility for work-study programs at your school. You may find work that relates to your field of study.
If you’re leaving your hometown to attend school, find out if your hometown bank serves your new community. If so, this could make it convenient for your family to deposit money into accounts that you can access locally. If not, consider opening new accounts at a local bank where you can maintain a relationship both while you’re in school and after. You might want to use the same bank that handles your student loans. See Getting Started for more about opening accounts, online banking, and more.
Ask your service providers and creditors if you can change your bill due dates. If you make all the due dates the same, you can set aside a certain time every month to pay your bills. This may help you save time, avoid late payments, and stick to your spending plan the rest of the month. Or, you may want to evenly space your bills throughout the month, so that you pay about the same amount each week. This way, you’ll avoid having one week when all of your cash-on-hand is needed for bills.
Keep accurate records of what you spend. Save your ATM, debit, and credit card receipts and compare them to your monthly statements. Set up a filing system; create separate folders for documents such as bank, credit card, loan, insurance, and investment statements; tax returns; and paid bills. Consolidating several services with one financial services provider could save you money; plus, reviewing one statement vs. several can help you see your total financial picture more quickly and clearly.