Budgeting during breaks is a unique challenge: while you’re not on-campus and don’t have the typical expenses you would during the year, there are arguably more opportunities to spend your money during breaks, which can feel like long vacations. You may find yourself going out to eat more often with friends, spending more on other forms of entertainment, and/or blowing the benjamins on travel.
The key, then, is earning more and spending less, since every dollar you save now is a dollar you don’t have to borrow next semester. And since a dollar borrowed is more than a dollar owed (think interest), you’ll be saving yourself a lot of money in the long run.
Besides reading our article on finding a summer job, which is actually packed with advice on how to find a job in general, here’s a few things you can do this summer to increase the amount of money you’re earning:
- First things first: find a job. We’re saying it again so it’ll sink in a little more.
- Start looking for more scholarships. Summer is a great time to refine your resume, work on personal statements, and apply for as many grants, scholarships, and fellowships you possibly can. Many of them come with free money attached, so it’s time well spent. Start with your school’s financial aid office and your major department, then head online: fastweb.com and finaid.org are both great places to start.
- Consider informal work options. Mow lawns, wash cars, landscape, babysit, or housesit for a professor that’s going on vacation. Point being: if you need money, you need to find the opportunity to earn it.
Spending less and still having fun
This is probably the last thing you want to stress about, seeing as you’re on break from school, which has probably got your brain in a knot. But there are plenty of easy ways to spend less and still have a great time:
- Calculate your expendable monthly income. That’s not your paycheck. That’s your paycheck after bills, your loan payments, and any extra you set aside for savings. Your new goal: figure out that number and never spend more than it.
- 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 up buying everything just because you want it.
- Splurge for less. Everyone wants to treat himself or herself to a nice meal or a night out. But do so with your budget on your mind: use daily deal sites like Groupon to snag coupons; check if movie theaters, bowling alleys, etc., have budget nights; and go with groups of people so you can split the tab.
- Think staycation not vacation. In other words, how can you have free fun? See if museums have free days, if there are any free music events in town, or if there are any markets or local festivals over the weekends. Also take advantage of the great outdoors. Hiking, rafting, fishing, lazing away a day in the park—all great uses of time, and all very good for the wallet.
- Go easy on the credit card spending. In fact, just keep the credit card in your wallet. Use debit instead. Credit encourages you to spend more than you have, which means you could be stuck with interest payments, and that’s just wasted money.