Posts filed under 'budget & finances'
When I first moved away to school, I was a little shell-shocked by how much it cost to enjoy the luxuries of non-ramen food and brand-name laundry detergent. To keep our wallets happy, my roommates and I quickly figured out what we could share (and to keep the peace, we figured out what we couldn’t, too–hands off my Ben & Jerry’s, guys). If you want to live a little without breaking the bank, think about splitting these 5 things with your roommate, BFF, or significant other.
- Costco Membership (and Food). Buying in bulk at Costco can save you a ton of money if you plan ahead, but it also means you have to pay the membership fee AND consume in bulk–unless you share. Split the cost of a membership with someone you trust (or if you can piggyback on your parent’s account, even better!) go shopping together. Members can have one extra bill per trip, so they can bring a friend. Divvy up things you might both need, like bulk food, TP, shampoo, etc. (Tip: If food sharing is an issue, divide up your items before eating time comes around, and be sure to label or keep them in your own spot.)
- Netflix Subscription. My roomies and I really enjoyed hanging out and watching movies, so when we ponied up the cost of ¼ rent, utilities, and water, we also split a Netflix subscription 4 ways. You can either agree on things to watch together, or figure out how to make sure each of you has 1 DVD to rotate (AND access to the instant watch feature, which sucked up a good portion of my free time this summer).
- Carpool/Roadtrip Costs. If you or your roomie drive to the same place everyday (like, um, school?) why not go together and halve your gas costs? And if you’re heading home–or off to Vegas–for spring break don’t go solo for the drive. Get a group together and split the cost of gas and hotel stays. Driving with the right bunch is way more fun than going it alone anyway!
- Textbooks. I’ve mentioned before that sharing a textbook with a classmate can be a great way to save some cash (they’re so expensive!), but you will need to work out a rotation for the actual reading time. Still, cutting the bill in half might be work a little extra scheduling. (Check out this article about how to save on textbooks for more ideas.)
- Appliances. If you and your roomie can be respectful of each other’s property, there’s no reason to bring two of everything. Share fridge space, split TV time (or find some common ground–maybe you can bond over some reruns of Ninja Warrior?), and if you need a land line, share a phone. Just be sure you draw lines (i.e. which fridge shelf is who’s, and how you feel about sharing your iPod, computer, etc.) before the sharefest begins.
Anything else you’ve successfully shared or big flops we should avoid? Let me know in the comments!
July 14th, 2011
Summer break is great, but now we get to gear up for another year of life on campus (and hopefully a little more independence–anyone else’s Dad keep the curfew thing going in the college years?). Ready for a refresher course in college living? Here we go!
Studying & Academics
Its that time again–time to hit the books and start getting the straight A’s your future employer wants you to get. Check out these study tips and get your game face on.
One of the biggest challenges of life on your own is getting everything done and still having time to enjoy college! These productivity tips will help you start organizing so you can fit in all the important aspects of your life.
Budgeting may not be fun, but it can be easy. Learn how to build your budget, save money, and build your credit score so you can graduate with a healthy bank account.
Get healthy and stay healthy this year.
You don’t need a lot of green to impress your date. Take a look at these cheap-or-free (but still fun!) date ideas for fall, winter, and all year round.
September 9th, 2010
Financial fitness may not sound very sexy, but in reality it is your big ticket in to adulthood. More and more college grads are returning home to live with Mom and Pop, and while that might help pay off debt or save up some cash, it’s not exactly prime info to share on a first date–better to plan ahead and skip the boomerang trip back home!
This financial fitness roundup will help you get started on a regimen that will (hopefully!) help you keep your debt low and your budget healthy so you feel a little more prepared for a life of independence post-grad.
Build a Budget
Budgets are not always fun–trust me, I’m with you on this one–but what is fun is that they help you avoid debt and live within your means, so that down the road you have more financial freedom and less crippling debt. Here are a few articles to get you started with your budgeting practices:
Save Where You Can
Your internet bill and cell phone costs may be at a set price, but there are lots of ways to save while you’re in college–and saving in one category means more to spend in another (or, even better, some cash to put away for later).
Looking for more saving tips? There are hundreds of frugality-focused blogs out there, with everything from budgeting ideas to coupon codes and inside info on upcoming sales. Google “frugal blog,” “money saving blog,” or other similar keywords and search out your new favs.
Prepare for the Future
Living in the present is great, but preparing for the future now can save you from big headaches later. Using and building your credit wisely will make it easier for you to get a car loan, apartment, and one day a loan to buy a home of your own–and what you do now matters:
So take a little time this school year to get financially fit!
(Like the Summerwise series? Share your topic ideas here!)
August 26th, 2010
It seems like almost everyone is hurting for a little extra money this summer, and with the economy still slouching around like a lazy little brother, it could be that way for a little while. That’s why its time to start thinking a little harder about how you save (and spend) your hard-earned summer funds.
Summer is probably the time of year college students make the most money–and there also happens to be much more temptation to spend it. After all, there is more free time, more freedom, and no homework–what are you supposed to do, sit at home?
Definitely not! But you also have to consider one thing:
Is buying a Slurpee and a new pair of Lucky jeans worth giving up money you could have during the social weekends of a monotonous school year?
Probably not. (Especially the Slurpee part.)
A Penny Saved is a Penny… What?
You may have heard your parents say, “A penny saved is a penny earned!” That particular idiom has never made sense to me, but the basic gist is of it is that if you waste your money now, you (obviously) won’t have it later, when you need it. Here is my advice:
- Put Some Money (and Time) Towards College. If you’re footing your own bills for school, add some of your summer funds to your college savings. Paying now instead taking out loans literally costs less, because you won’t have to pay off the interest. If you aren’t earning much at your summer job, invest some time in searching for and and applying to scholarships as well!
- Stash Some Cash for Fun During School. It is really sad to have to skip a good movie after a week of studying for finals because your debit card has no savings to debit from. Saving some money now for playtime later will help keep you from feeling deprived during the year.
- Learn How to Budget. Learning to budget during summer will be both easy (because you have time to track) and hard (because you’ll want to spend so much more during summer!), but it will really help you out when school starts and the text book costs start piling up. Here’s an article on starting your first budget, complete with worksheet.
- Consider (and Reconsider) Every Purchase. Ever since I started paying my own way I’ve started asking myself “Do I really need that?” before I buy anything from a pack of gum to a new computer. It is sort of an echo of my mom’s voice in my head, but it has saved me a lot of money over the past couple of years. For expensive purchases, I also usually give myself a month to think it over. If I still really want whatever it is–and I can afford it–at the end of a month, I usually take the plunge.
And that, my friends, concludes my budget advice for today. Happy Summer.
photo by gravityx9
June 17th, 2009
No matter how much you love Ramen noodles, I’m willing to bet that you don’t want to eat them every day of your life-or even every day for the next few years.
But food is expensive (and so is college!) so lots of students end up living on Ramen, cold pizza, and chips they found in the common room-not the healthiest diet. Here are some alternatives to the noodles-and-oatmeal diet…
Did you know that you might be eligible for the U.S. government’s Food Stamp Program? I read an article about students using food banks in USA Today-apparently it’s becoming a trend. If you qualify, you could get funds from the state to help you pay your food bills. Money is distributed on a card that works kind of like an ATM, and is accepted by most grocery stores.
See eligibility requirements here, or use their pre-screening eligibility tool. Then find out how to apply in your state-if you have questions, you can call your state’s Toll Free Food Stamp Information Hotline.
“Big Box” or 99¢ Shopping
One popular way to save on food at UCSD was to take a group to our local Costco, a bulk-buying store (like Sam’s Club, Smart & Final, etc.). They sell everything from bulk bags of frozen chicken breasts to 18-count boxes of eggs, as well as fresh fruits and veggies, juices, and even huge boxes of oatmeal.
To keep costs down, simply go with a group who wants to split a majority of foods. Split the cost accordingly and then divvy up your shares of food. For frozen items, get a zipper locking plastic bag and split up the big bag and throw the little ones in the freezer (label them if you’re sharing with a roomie).
As to the 99¢ shopping, did you know that lots of dollar stores sell food? You might think that’s kind of shady, but just be sure to check expiration dates. One of my friends finds name brand chocolate soy milk there, often for only $1 each. (Plus the 99¢ Chef can teach you how to make yummy dishes with this stuff!)
This isn’t a reliable shopping method, but it can be pretty fun. Search the websites of products you use a lot-from foods to shampoos-for free samples offers.
Try About.com’s Freebies page for a regularly updated list of free samples.
A couple sites I know of that usually offer no-cost goodies are Wal*Mart’s freebie page, and Dove’s free samples page.
Couponing & Rewards Clubs
The other day I saw a girl at the grocery store with a huge pile of coupons. I’ve been trying to use them more lately, but I know I could actually save a lot more if I’d put a little time into it. If you’re a beginner at coupons, like me, you can start by finding them:
- In the Sunday newspaper
- In circulars (ads) that come in your mailbox
- On the websites of products (not just foods) you use a lot (lots of them have rewards clubs, too!)
- At coupon websites like RetailMeNot.com
If you’re a little more intense about coupons, you can really save big. I’ve been fascinated by all the coupon moms that seem to be coming out of the woodworks lately-publicized in newspapers, TV news, and blogs. These ladies really know how to work the system, sometimes using rewards clubs and coupons together to get lots of free stuff. Want to know how it works? Check out the guides and coupon tips at these blogs:
Remember to only use coupons for things you actually need!
I love this article, 15 Great Grocery Shopping Tips, from Get Rich Slowly. It covers all the basics of how to save on food-it’s definitely worth a look!
photo: Vegetables by MFinderup
October 2nd, 2008
Just exactly how much does it cost to get your first off-campus apartment? Well, your first month’s costs might be a little bit of a shock if you don’t know what to prepare for–there are a lot of little extras that month that won’t be part of your regular monthly bills (just one more reason to have a roommate or two… or three). Read on to find out what you need to look for to figure out your bills for that first month…
Application - approx $30 to $50 per app
Unlike your parents, your landlord-to-be won’t just take your word that you’re good for the monthly rent-you have to fill out a formal application AND pay a fee so they can check your credit rating. (See, I told you your credit score would be important).
If you don’t fit their monthly income qualifications and need a co-signer like Mom or Dad, he or she will also have to fill out and pay for an application. You (and your roommates if you have any) should foot the bill for your co-signer’s app, too. Since they’re putting their credit score on the line for you, it’s common courtesy.
First Month’s Rent - varies by location and apartment size
Oh the joy of scraping together a month’s worth of rent before you even move in (you’ll probably have to pay this well before your move-in date!). Hopefully you’ve saved your summer earnings, because this could be a sizeable bill.
My first off-campus apartment-a 2br/2ba in San Diego-cost $1,600/month. That meant that I and each of my 3 apartment-mates had to cough up $400/mo. But then again, San Diego is one of the top 10 most expensive cities to rent in, so unless you’re living in New York, LA, or another metropolis, you probably won’t be paying that much.
Check out sites like Rent.com, ForRent.com, and Craigslist.org to get an idea of average pricing for rentals in your area.
Security Deposit - approx same cost as 1 mo rent
This is basically security for the landlord–this fee is for any damage you do to your apartment over the course of living there. If you take good care of your apartment, you will probably get a good portion of this amount back.
Last Month’s Rent - same as 1st mo rent
Most apartment complexes in my area don’t charge this, but every once in a while you’ll come across a lease agreement that requires you to hand over the last month’s rent early, too. Personally, I’d recommend looking for an apartment that doesn’t require this fee upfront.
If you plan to have a pet (I’m talking dog or cat, not a goldfish) you’ll probably have to put down an additional security deposit–AND pay extra each month. The initial deposit will probably be a few hundred dollars, but could be up to $1,000; the monthly amount will depend on your apartment complex.
In addition to monthly bills, utilities and such like gas, electricity, water, trash service, internet, phone service, and cable all tend to require start-up fees. Some cable, phone, and internet companies will waive your start-up and installation fees, so be sure to ask them to when you sign up!
You can probably expect the following amounts for the rest of your start-up fees: For gas and electric, you can approximate about $75/ea, trash service will vary (and is sometimes included in your rent). For more realistic pricing for your area, check with your landlord.
You may also have to pay for a parking sticker or parking space assignment. Usually this is a one-time fee, but in larger cities you may see a monthly fee for parking.
photo: New York Fire Escape by JeryPank
July 14th, 2008