A 5-Step Students’ Guide To Living On A Budget 

A 5-Step Students’ Guide To Living On A Budget 

By Dana Hughes | Business Contributor on December 5, 2019
student loans higher education
Several groups including the Peoples Uprisings, October2011 Coalition, and Occupy DC, "occupy" Freedom Plaza in Arlington, on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011. | AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Living on a budget isn’t always easy, especially when you have to factor in the time and financial expenses of attending school. Here are a few tips to help make paying for the everyday costs of school a little bit easier. 

Get a Job that Works with Your Schedule 

Many students start attending a university and think that the only jobs available are the ones that require 40 hours of work. The truth is that there are several part time jobs available to students. Many universities hire students to work a few hours per week in food courts, monitor computer labs, and greet visitors. Check with your career center to see about potential opportunities 

If you are taking a full load of classes and don’t think you’ll be able to work, try finding a summer job or internship. Many students do not go to school year-round. Instead, they work as much as they can over the summer and save their earnings. Then, they give themselves an “allowance” with their savings to cover everyday expenses. 

Carefully Monitor Spending Habits 

If you have never had a budget before or always had someone else telling you how to spend your money, it can be easy to get carried away once you are on your own. Make sure that you build a budget and stick with it. While other students may have nicer clothes or go out more often, you don’t want to sacrifice your food budget to pay for those things. You also don’t want to overspend and have to borrow money just because you went out to eat too many times one week. 

Build a Budget and Plan Expenses 

At the start of the semester, build a budget that allows money for your expenses, food, entertainment, and emergencies. Make sure to budget for everything you spend money on, even small things like cheap subscription services or your morning coffee. The more accurate your budget is, the easier it will be to follow it. 

Cut things that you spend too much money on. For example, your entertainment budget should be the smallest portion of your spending. Prioritize things like rent, car payments, tuition, and food first. 

If you aren’t making enough to live the lifestyle you want while in school, try finding cheaper alternatives. For example, invest in a coffee machine and everything you need to make your favorite drink at home. Even if there is an upfront cost, you will likely save money in the long run. Another trick is to search online for free concerts and activities in your area, rather than always paying to go out. 

Know When to Get Financial Assistance  

Most students utilize student loans and financial aid to help pay for the cost of tuition and living expenses. If you built a budget and aren’t sure how you are going to make ends meet, you should talk to your Financial Aid office. 

If an emergency arises that results in unexpected medical bills or legal expenses, for example, you can consider applying for installment loans through direct lenders to help get the funds you need. Keep in mind that installment loans should only be used in unforeseen emergency situations and should be a last resort option if you do not have savings or other alternative options. It is also important to come up with a payment plan to get the loan paid off as soon as possible.  

If you are still struggling financially, look for resources within the community that can help. Even if you do not qualify for financial assistance through the school, the Financial Aid Office can connect you with resources that may be able to help. Remember, many students struggle with coming up with extra money for food and basic necessities, so school team members have often answered these types of questions before. 

Have a Rainy Day Fund 

One of the biggest keys to surviving on a student budget is saving. Create a special savings account at your bank and deposit any extra money you may have into it. If you are under-budget one week, move the excess cash into your savings account. This is your “rainy day fund” and it will help you when unexpected expenses come up. It will also make it easier to save up for any big-ticket items that you may want, such as concert tickets, video games, or vacations. 

Living on a budget as a student can be a challenge; however, by setting a budget, saving, and knowing when to get financial assistance, it can become much easier. 


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