Whether you're an incoming freshmen, a fifth year, a grad student, or somewhere in between, everyone wants to have savings and no student debt. While that might not be realistic at the moment, here are some tips to help manage your money in college and set you up for success in the future.
1. Don't buy a whole bunch of products for your dorm that you won't actually use.
Although a microwave, water boiler, Keurig, excessive decor, and printer may seem like a good idea in order to cover all your bases, they usually just get in the way and make move in and move out way more stressful than necessary. I'm already a naturally minimalistic person, so my goal was to bring what I needed in order to be comfortable but also practical. I found that my dorm had a lot more kitchen supplies than I expected, and by the end of the school year, I was hardly using the fridge in my room and could've easily used the community fridge down the hall. Overall, limiting the amount you bring to college can save you or your parents a lot of money.
2. If a meal plan is required, use it. And if not, limit cafeteria food and make your own.
Baylor freshmen are required to choose from some of the most expensive dining hall plans, and honestly it's real frustrating because dorm food gets boring in about 0.2 seconds. But over time you'll develop some relatively healthy/ filling go to's and stick to those. Utilizing your meal plan even when you're tired of it is really important because if not, you'll find yourself spending way more money on eating out than you intended to. If you're an upperclassmen, try cooking at home/ bringing a lunch and save the dining hall for days when you're desperate.
3. Research the cost of your books across your university bookstore and several different websites.
When I buy books, I first look at the price listed on Baylor's bookstore and the options they have for renting or buying. Any time renting is an option, I go with that because it saves me the hassle of trying to sell the books later on. I also like to check websites like Chegg because they often have slightly cheaper resources than the university and generally offer rental options as well. Also, keep an eye out for friends who may have taken the same classes before and own books, I've saved quite a bit simply from borrowing nice friends' books.
4. Get a job.
Sounds simple, but the reality is often not. A lot of students start out thinking that they won't be able to balance both a job and a full load of classes, and that is true for some, depending on how rigorous your classes are. I've seen Health Science majors taking multiple labs a semester who genuinely do not have the capacity to add on a part time job, and that's fine, as long as you factor that in before you begin classes. For me, having a job actually helps me do better in school because it gives me more structure and urgency when it comes to finishing assignments. Take the first semester of your freshmen year to figure out how you work best and what you can handle. Summers are also prime time to save up money for tuition, room and board, or rent if you're an upperclassmen.
5. Count the cost.
There are gonna be some things that you want to splurge on every once in a while, I totally get it. The key is to find cheap alternatives for things you love to spend money on. That way, you get to treat yourself every once in a while, but you aren't breaking the bank. As someone who's super frugal, I've always enjoyed clothes but hated buying them. In the past year though, I've discovered thrift shopping, and it's been great for my wallet. The Salvation Army I shop at has a 50% off all clothes sale every Wednesday and it's become a biweekly date with one of my most stylish friends. Finding little ways to reward yourself while saving most of your money for college expenses will save you a lot of stress in the long run.
Overall, everybody has a different financial situation in college and will manage their money differently. Regardless of your finances going into college, all of these tips are great ways to develop a healthy relationship with money that will last past your college years and into full blown adulting.