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Congratulations, you’ve graduated from high school and moved out of your parents house. You’re in college, which means you’re an adult now, right?
Well, yes and no. You’re living on your own, managing your own time, and doing your own laundry. However, unlike a “real” adult, your full-time job is being a student. This can make keeping your bank account above zero a real challenge.
Don’t despair. With these six tips, you’ll be able to keep your bank account in the green.
1. Get a Part Time Job
If it’s possible with your schedule, getting a part-time job is the single best thing you can do to make sure you never run out of pocket money.
When you’re setting up your financial aid package, ask about a federal work-study program. These are jobs around campus that generally require no more than 10 hours per week. Work study jobs are usually things like working in the library, fitness center, or cafeteria. Although they only pay minimum wage, sometimes you can do homework while you work (especially if it’s a desk job). Can you say, “multitasking?”
2. Don’t Buy New Textbooks
This tip could almost say, “don’t buy textbooks in a store,” or even, “don’t buy textbooks.”
“But,” you might be thinking, “won’t I need those?”
Yes, you will, but you can probably get them from your school’s library for free. If your library doesn’t have them (or doesn’t have the correct edition), buying a used copy from Amazon is almost always cheaper than a used copy in your local book store.
If Amazon is still too expensive, check out Chegg, eCampus, or CollegeBook Renter. These sites allow you to rent a textbook for a semester, or a year, for far less than it would cost to buy the book.
3. Save Your Receipts
Though it is sometimes difficult to do, save your receipts. Before you can make a real budget you need to know how much money you’re spending and what you’re spending it on. Sometimes those receipts are a real eye opener. It’s all too easy to fritter your money away. As it says on shmoop.com, “Thou Shalt Not Fritter.”
4. Become a Resident Advisor
Apart from tuition, room and board will likely be your biggest college cost. According to The College Board, room and board for the average full-time student going to a public school, in-state, is $8,535 per year. For students going to private schools, or out-of-state schools, it is much higher.
However, students who work as Resident Advisors (RAs) usually get either free room and board, or at least have it significantly reduced. In fact, many even receive a stipend.
5. Take Advantage of College Offerings
Did you know that your tuition pays for more than just your classes? Well, it does. Most campuses are bursting at the seams with on-campus entertainment, including: movie rentals from the library, intramural sports, gym membership, guest lecturers, student clubs, and more. Again, according to The College Board, the average student living on campus spends $1,989 per year on “personal expenses,” much of which they could get from their school.
6. Ask for What You Need
Here’s a big and scary thought for you: life isn’t always controllable. Sometimes parents get divorced, or lose their jobs. Sometimes there’s a death in the family, or unforseen medical expenses. If your financial circumstances change, or if you’re doing your best but still struggling to make ends meet, talk to your financial aid office.
They might be able to increase your scholarships, grants, or, yes, your loans. Although it’s a good idea to borrow as little money as possible for college, life isn’t controllable – forget the “always.” Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.
One last note: although it may seem like some of these tips aren’t applicable if you’re getting an online nursing degree, or other online degree, the ones that are applicable are even more important. For example, saving receipts, getting a part-time, and asking for what you need. Also, renting textbooks can still save you a lot of money, so check it out!
Zachary Katz-Stein graduated from Kenyon College in December 2012. He now works as a free-lance writer when he’s not teaching yoga classes.