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Maintaining financial stability as a student while also focusing on your studies and social life can be quite challenging, especially if you’re not already wealthy or privileged enough to have generous parents. For most students, even if “mom and dad have money,” that doesn’t mean that budgeting is a non-issue because they’ll still have static allowances and card limits to think about. With that in mind, it’s easy to see that budgeting is an eventual concern for any student who doesn’t have access to an infinite supply of excess cash. Whether you’re already in college and are looking for ways to save money on your current expenses or are preparing for that route, here are 10 tips that can help you budget more effectively as a student:
When you’re low on funds and trying to squeeze many different kinds of expenditure into your budget, doing without certain items or defaulting on your student loans are never preferable options. Coming up with the extra money is really the only optimal solution, and the only way to do that is to either borrow it, earn it, or raise it through charity.
Since the latter two (earning and fundraising) can take some time, short term loans for students are often the only remaining form of immediate financial relief. Luckily, you won’t need good credit to be approved for many kinds of cash loans like payday and installment loans.
If you have an ID or driver’s licence that proves you’re over the age of 18, and you can show that you have a reliable source of income that has been coming in for at least a couple of months consecutively, you should be able to gain approval for a payday loan with amounts ranging up to $2,500 or more, depending on how much income you receive on monthly basis.
Being disorganized with your bill statements, scheduling, work-life balance, and other aspects of financial management can lead to unexpected issues. When you have a system in place for keeping tabs on everything, it’s much easier to avoid those sudden expenses that seem to pop up out of nowhere.
Being prepared is half the battle and organization is one half of preparation, so one could argue that organization represents 25% of the challenge in budgeting as a college student. If you can keep yourself from being surprised by an immediate need for emergency cash, that’s the first step in preventing the dwindling of your savings.
Students should try to begin each school year with a decent amount of savings on standby. If you’ve already dwindled your original reserve, this suggestion might be adding insult to injury. However, it’s important to remember the importance of re-establishing that safety net so that you can avoid predicaments in the future.
Ideally, every student should have at least $1,000-$5,000 in a savings account that is only available for emergency funds. A good general rule of thumb is to make sure you have at least $500 of emergency money available for each semester. These funds are not considered in your budget, as they’re kept in a completely separate reserve and should not be used for routine bills and expenses unless absolutely necessary.
Like most college students, you might already have a roommate. If you don’t, you should strongly consider switching to a shared living situation if being frugal is your goal.
If you do already have a roommate, look for additional ways you can share expenses to reduce your monthly expenditure. For example, you could split the internet bill, have a shared phone plan, or go halves on groceries. Any bills that you both have can probably be made less by sharing the expenses.
Having a definitive cash spending limit can help students who have access to a fair amount of spending money and are trying to find ways to curb their frivolous spending habits. Many mobile banking apps will let you set the daily ATM withdrawal limit for your debit or credit card.
This is a good feature to use to ensure that you’re holding yourself to a minimal level of accountability. While you could always go in and lift the limits if you need to, simply having that deterrent in place could prevent you from splurging on spending sprees.
Now that you have an emergency funding reserve established and a cash limit in place, it’s time to make a list of every expense you have and every possible expense that you’re likely to eventually encounter. Divide your expenses into categories and consider using budgeting software to make the task easier.
Knowing exactly where your money will be going will help you tremendously on your quest to stay organized and reduce the stress involved in juggling finances and student life. It’s also a good idea to keep an accompanying ledger of every purchase and transaction you make. That way, you can look back at that record when refining and amending your list of expenses each month for greater accuracy and preparedness.
Collecting coupons might seem like something your mom should be doing, but it’s a good money-saving hobby to get into and is, therefore, an applicable suggestion for any budget-minded student. The great part about couponing as a student is that you can often gain access to exclusive student discounts by using your school ID to prove eligibility for certain promotions.
Likewise, in addition to collecting student-only coupons, be sure to ask about student discounts when you’re shopping or dining out. Many times, retailers and restaurants will have student discounts available on an ongoing basis, but they aren’t widely advertised or apparent. Simply asking “do you have any student deals available?” can let you get up to 50% off.
Overextending your credit utilization can quickly damage your credit score, especially if you default on a few monthly payments. If you find yourself needing to borrow money, be sure to only borrow the amount you need to comfortably solve your current financial predicament.
While it can be tempting to take out a large long-term loan for fast funding simply because the lender told you that they’d approve you, it’s usually a smarter idea to stick to short term loans for students. That way, when you’re done with school, you’ll still have a clean credit slate that shows you’ve already paid off one or more guarantor loans in full.
Speaking of credit utilization, every student should become familiar with this key metric. Your utilization rate is the percentage of credit you’re using in comparison to the overall amount you have available. So, if you have five credit cards that give you access to a combined total of $5,000 in credit, and you’re only using $200 on each card ($1,000 total), your credit utilization rate would be 20%.
Generally, it’s best to avoid utilizing more than 50% of your available credit if possible. That way, if you ever need to apply for a loan that relies on a credit check, the prospective lender will be able to see that you aren’t heavily indebted. A lender is much more likely to approve someone who’s only using 10% of their combined credit limit as opposed to someone who has almost maxed out all of their lines of credit.
Many students make the mistake of putting off their student loan repayments and other long-term debts in order to afford immediate needs and conveniences. The logic here is that they can just get caught up on their payments later on when they’re not so limited on funds. This is always the worse approach to take because you’ll only be putting yourself deeper in debt.
To avoid that disastrous financial fate that has many people still repaying their student loans well into their thirties, it’s best to never give yourself the option of not making a monthly payment. Instead, your only remaining options for finding extra money to cover the repayments and your expenses would be to either find a better job or seek short-term financial assistance from a lender, family member, or friend.
In closing, while all of the above tips are useful for students from all walks of life if you’re already facing an emergency financial predicament and you need a quick solution, short term loans for students are usually the most reliable backup plan. Alternative lenders who specialize in short-term lending are more likely to approve a student for a loan on a same-day basis in comparison to a conventional bank or long-term financial services provider. They’re usually willing to overlook the fact that you already have student loans since proof income is the primary consideration during deliberation – not the credit report.