How to Manage Your Expenses Before Going to College

Getting back to college is a busy yet exciting time for students. Whether you are a returning student or an incoming freshman, there is a never ending to-do list before school gets back in session.  

One thing that can easily get overlooked is getting your finances in order, especially if you’ve never had to manage them on your own. Read on for advice on how to get started!

Essential tips to help you manage your expenses:

Books:  Many college classes have a required textbook list, which unfortunately can be costly. However, there are a few ways to save some money in this area. Countless online bookstores offer used books at a more affordable price. Did you know that you can even rent some textbooks? This is a great way to save money! A way to save even more is to look for used books that you can rent. Or, go in on a really expensive textbook with a classmate and share it for the semester.

Student Health Insurance: While many young people don’t have to think about getting their own health insurance until they are 26, not all college students are qualified to be covered under a parent’s plan. If you’re attending school out of state, have pre-existing conditions, or are over 26, you may find that you need your own plan. Make sure you have insurance because medical costs are costly. There are student health insurance plans that offer reasonable rates and good coverage.

Dorms/Apartments: Are you planning to move out of your childhood home? If you plan to live on campus or off-campus nearby, start researching dorms and apartments early because several factors must be considered before choosing where to live. Talk to upper-level students and orientation leaders to see if you can pick your dorm or if it’s organized by class or major. If you are moving into an apartment, make sure you consider the proximity to campus, the cost of living there, and the level of safety in the area.  

Financial Aid: Students’ tuition and living rates have never been so expensive. If you or your family cannot afford college, there are many options to lower costs. Colleges and universities offer several financial aid options, including grants, scholarships, and loans. Make sure you fill out your FAFSA on time to receive the necessary financial aid you deserve!

Tuition and Renters Insurance: Although it’s another cost, having protection for your belongings and tuition can save you thousands of dollars if something unexpected happens. Higher education is one of the biggest costs a college family will pay, and most colleges and universities aren’t able to offer refunds if a student withdraws. Tuition and renters insurance are affordable ways to protect your hard-earned investment in higher education! It’s wise to consider purchasing tuition insurance before the start of the semester. Renters insurance can cover theft and damage while traveling as well. Whether heading back to campus from a break or studying in another country, your personal belongings are protected with GradGuard Renters Insurance.

How to Set Up a Budget Fit for College Life:

Spending in college will probably look a little different than it will after you graduate. You may have a part-time job, scholarships, or loans that help ease the financial burden. It’s still important to make sure that you are aware of how much you are spending month to month to ensure all your bills get paid – especially with rising inflation recently!

  1. Figure Out Your Income – Before you can budget anything, you need to know what you are working with. Total up the amount of money you have coming in each month. Start with any full or part-time jobs you may be holding while in college. If your hours fluctuate each week, you can look at a few months and figure out the average. Also, include any other money such as student loans or allowances from parents, basically anything that brings consistent cash. Add all those income sources to calculate your monthly net income.
  2. Take a Look at Your Total Money Out – Now it’s time to total all your expenses. Expenses are things like rent, utilities, transportation costs such as a bus pass or gas for your car, and even groceries; they are things you truly can’t get by without and are vital to include in your budget. Remember that living in an apartment usually means you have a few more expenses than you did in your dorm, so try to consider all the costs you are responsible for.
  3. Figuring out What’s Essential vs. Non-essential – Once you know how much money you need to survive, it’s time to move on to non-living expenses. This includes subscriptions, going to the movies, books, and clothes; even that one really expensive brand you like from the grocery store or your daily coffee on your way to class. It’s essential to sit down and go through your expenses and think about what is truly necessary and the things you can learn to live without, even if it’s tough.
  4. Determine What You Can Cut Out – If you struggle to make ends meet or realize you overspend in one area, it may be time to make some cuts. Some expenses can be adjusted, such as the money spent on food and digital services. Instead of eating out so often, learn a few simple recipes, and you’ll be amazed at how much money you can save. Look at any subscriptions you may have. I’m sure there are shows you love on all of them, but it’s costly to have 5 different streaming services, so think about narrowing it down. Work on cutting out one thing each month to ease the pain all at once.
  5. Set Aside Money for Savings and Investments – Once you spend less than you earn, you’ll have money left for savings. Try to put aside any little bit that you can, even if it’s only $50 a month. Determine some short and long-term savings goals to keep you motivated, such as a spring break trip to Mexico or buying a new car after graduation. Make minor improvements each month or semester to increase the amount of money you’re saving each month.

We know it can be a bummer to miss out on things you love, but in the end, making sure bills get paid at the end of the month is essential. If you go to the movie theater every week, cut it down to twice a month and see how much you’ll save. Learning to budget while in school and the risk is lower will help immensely when you graduate, and bills increase both in terms of costs and numbers.

Learning to be financially independent is challenging but will get easier as time goes on. The sooner you begin the work of managing your money, bills, and expenses on your own, the easier life after college will be!