No matter what stage of life you're in, we all know it's important to save money — and there's definitely no denying how important it is to know how to save money when you live on campus. After all, your dorm room is probably a flat rate that's already taken care of at the beginning of the semester; as such, it's tempting to think that you don't need a budget after that, since your rent and utilities are all paid up. But maintaining a budget when you're in college is super important for both your short- and long-term financial health. Even if you aren't making major purchases or signing onto big commitments, such as a car loan or a cable bill, while you're in college, the good financial skills you build in those years can make a huge impact on the habits you have regarding money later on.
John Schmoll over at U.S. News & World Report makes an excellent point about why it's important to be smart about money while you're still a student. If you're living on campus, it's likely the first time you've lived away from your parents. For many of us, this means leaving behind certain "luxuries" that may have already been taken care of for you, like cable. As Schmoll points out, however, you don't necessarily need these things, especially when you're focused on your classes, internships, making new friends, and so on.
It can be easy to get sucked into wanting things to be just like they were at home, but the reality is, your college life is different. And that's OK! While of course college is largely about learning from your classes, part of it is also about learning how to live on your own as an adult — which includes considering your income, budget, where to best put your money, and other financial obligations.
But don't worry; there are lots of easy ways to save money during college. Here are a few to get you started:
1. Divide The Cost Of Cleaning Supplies With Your Roommates
If you live with roommates, it can be really helpful to make a clear chore plan right from the get-go. Furthermore, going a step beyond just deciding who is doing what chores and when, it can make great financial sense to split the cost of cleaning supplies among you. This also means that no one person is going to buy all of the cleaning supplies while the others evade contributing. If you have the option of buying in bulk, this can also make it easier because it will necessitate less last minute trips to the store when things are running low. You might try this Redditor's tip for living with roommates and keep a jar to which everyone contributes a set amount on the first of the month to cover the cost of cleaning supplies.
2. Make Use Of Your Communal Kitchen If You Have One
Even if you don't mind your dining hall's food, meal plans can be expensive; so can going out with your friends a lot. But if you have a communal kitchen in your building, it can be much cheaper to get together with friends and cook meals as a group. If everyone contributes ingredients, the cost per plate will be pretty low; what's more, you'll likely have leftovers, too (gotta keep that mini-fridge stocked). If you mostly eat solo, there are also tons of cheap meals you can make that reheat easily in the microwave, too!
3. Use Your Student ID Everywhere
Your student ID is basically a gift from the financial gods. Student IDs can give you discounted admission to almost everything, from movie theaters to museums to airline tickets. Make sure you read the fine print for each organization first, of course — but it never hurts to ask if there's a student discount.
4. Reconsider How You Approach Spring Break
Who doesn't like celebrating spring break by going on a little vacation with your friends or loved ones? But while these experiences can be awesome, they can also be really expensive. A good way to save money is to decide what things you can go without: Are you willing to spend longer time on a bus to get to your destination, if it means saving money on an airline ticket? Are you willing to stay in a cheaper hotel room, but have more spending money for other activities?
If you're traveling in a group, these conversations should happen early, so everyone is on the same page. If you're traveling alone, definitely do your research and some soul-searching to decide what priorities you have, and where you're willing to save some cash.
5. Use The Resources On Your Campus
What resources you have available to you on your campus will vary based on where you go to school, but it's always worth digging into what your school offers that's either free or heavily reduced. Gym memberships, for example, are often free for students, and some offer specific classes, like pilates or cycling at a rate way cheaper than what you'd find off campus.
Campuses will also often host on-campus activities such as trivia, bingo, or movie nights that you can attend for free, which is pretty convenient for when you need a break from the library. And speaking of the library — free tutoring? Yes, please!
In short, finances are always a personal decision and you need to do what works best for you. But know that there are plenty of easy and convenient ways you can save money while in college and get a jump on budgeting now.
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