Benjamin Franklin once said nothing is certain but death and taxes. We’d like to amend that list by adding a modern certainty: college costs will always go up. But that doesn’t mean getting an education results in going broke. Stay smart, spend less, and start budgeting. Here’s how:
- Calculate your costs. There’s nothing worse for your financial future than not knowing how much money you have or how much money you’re spending. Avoid catastrophe by budgeting for the entire semester. Don’t only include the obvious expenses like tuition and textbooks. Include living expenses like food, utilities, cell phone bills, and transportation. And perhaps more importantly, know where your money is coming from before you need it. That’ll help you avoid borrowing money last minute at high interest rates.
- Practice self-restraint. College is an expensive experience in large part due to the cost of staying entertained — going out to eat, drink, going to movies, concerts, buying video games, and a myriad of other distractions. Try having free fun instead. Start by checking out your college’s event schedule.
- Shop for function, not status. Why buy new when you can buy refurbished or used? This is especially true for things like clothes, appliances, and furniture, and can even save you bundles on electronics.
- Make lists and stick to them. Whether you’re going to the grocery store or the shopping mall, write down what you need ahead of time so you don’t end up buying everything you want. There’s a big difference between the two.
- Borrow less. If you’re funding your education with student loans, remember the following mantra: every dollar you don’t spend is a dollar you don’t have to borrow. In light of that, only borrow for necessities like tuition and textbooks instead of borrowing money for extras like a new computer (when an old one will do) or a spring break vacation.