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Students - Take Control Of Your Finances

Mar 28, 2008
Taking control of your financial situation is one of the most important learning experiences you will have in your entire college career.

A large majority of students do not fully anticipate the many extra costs of college life. Before you plan on living at college, you should sit down and list your expected daily or weekly living expenses. While at college you will most likely encounter costs you did not prepare for, so this article is meant to help you sort out some of those things you may have forgot. Identifying these costs is not your last step, but it is a great start to financial stability.

One obvious strategy is to spend less. Buying what you need, rather than indulging on impulse or emotional buying. Track your daily spending for a month, and develop a realistic budget for the semester. Try not to let friends or social situations push you into spending money on something you don't necessarily want or need. As mentioned earlier, you will encounter costs or discover things you planned for will be more expensive than you previously thought. Described below are some of those very things.


If you plan on eating out, budget heavily for it. Even purchasing pizza once or twice a week can really rack up your bill real quick. If you are lucky enough to have a meal plan on campus, use it! You already paid for it, it's already cooked, and should give you a variety depending on the time of day you go to use it. Try to avoid expensive party stores or gas stations for purchasing groceries; they will always be cheaper at grocery stores. Avoiding vending machines is also a good idea, as a few dollars every time can begin to add up very fast.


Weighing your options for your textbooks can save you hundreds each year. Borrowing books or exchanging them somewhere else besides the campus owned store will usually save you money in the long run, and isn't usually difficult.

Personal expenses.

Toiletries, clothes, entertainment, and haircuts quickly add up. You can also make some lifestyle adjustments to live within your budget, but about $850 per semester is a fair estimate for "miscellaneous" spending.

Electronics: Replacing a lost or stolen laptop, MP3 player, cell phone, or camera is expensive and unnecessary if you are protective of your stuff. Watching your backpack, wallet, and keys are vital. Keep your valuables out of sight and lock your room at all times--even for bathroom runs or to visit your neighbor for a few minutes. Protect all forms of personal identification, including your Social Security number and mail. Local police and campus security will sometimes have etching devices to help engrave names and/or addresses into everyday items for further security.


Most students travel home from time to time to visit friends and family, or just for breaks. Car pooling or looking for student fares when you purchase bus, train, or airline tickets is also a must. Sometimes your student ID will automatically get you discounts, but it's always important to ask.

Personal habits.

Observe your favorite indulgences from a budget perspective. Whether you love to buy music, shoes, lattes, or clothes, failing to practice moderation is a surefire budget buster.

Observing costs and preparing yourself are two simple steps in helping your financial situation. Doing just these few things will already place you way ahead of most students and the lessons learned will carry over after college and will help you for the rest of your life.
About the Author
Find a student credit card and more of Charles' work at FINDcollegecards.
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