One of the most stressful parts of university and living away from home has to be budgeting. The change of having to pay for rent, food, essentials, and transportation can come as a costly shock to those who previously had them provided. One way to make sure you have enough money for your all of your necessities as well as your leisure, is to set up your own budget, and stick to it.
The first step is finding out exactly how much money you have, and how much you will be making (or receiving from financial aid) throughout the year. If you feel like you may be struggling to make ends meet, this would be a good time to ask yourself if getting a part-time job would be helpful. Of course, if you’re enrolled in a particularly work-heavy program, getting a job is probably not the best option for you, as you want to ensure that you will have plenty of time to focus on your course work. Jobs can be very time-demanding even if part-time, and if most of your money is going towards tuition, you want to make sure you make that investment worthwhile.
Next is ensuring you know how much you need to put aside for tuition, books, rent, food, necessities, leisure, and transportation. For books, try to opt for used instead of new, and also try to compare prices of your campus bookstore with other stores and online shops. You’d be surprised how much more your campus bookstore will charge for books you can also find elsewhere.
For food, necessities, and leisure, it’s easiest to make a weekly budget. Sticking to making your necessary purchases once a week and setting a limit for spending is essential to sticking to a university budget, and will help you identify your spending habits and patterns.
Knowing when to spend and when to splurge is one of the biggest struggles of living alone for the first time. One of the easier places to limit spending is with food. Avoid buying meals on campus unless you have a prepaid meal plan, as these can quickly add up. Try to allow yourself some extra time in the morning or the night before to pack whatever meals and snacks you may need (we recommend our fresh rice noodle bowl recipe, it’s great as a packed lunch and doesn’t need to be reheated). Simply bringing your own cookies or muffins to have with your Starbucks coffee is a really great starting point, and can really jumpstart the habit of being prepared and avoiding unexpected and unnecessary spending.
Food can be your best friend or worst enemy when it comes to your finances. Wasting food is a dangerous habit to get into, so it’s essential to know exactly how much food you have and need so that you can avoid letting what you buy go past its expiration date. Don’t get into the habit of stockpiling food when it’s on sale, because more often than not, we buy more than we can eat through.
What we hope you take away from this post is the aspect of staying financially aware. The stress in finances in most cases comes from not knowing how much you can reasonably spend based on your income and savings. Keeping on top of this will significantly lower your stress and also help you get into these helpful habits that will carry on long-term. If you have any other tips for saving through University, leave them in the comments, we’d love to read them!