Quick Tips for Students Living on a Budget

Putting_money_into_a_piggybank (1) Budgeting may not be every college student's favorite topic, but the need for it is a reality for just about anyone trying to pay for their education.

Niki Pechinski, the Financial Literacy Educator at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, recently checked in with LakeVoice News to share some general tips about living financially smart while in school. Here are some quick tips:

1) Stay Informed

  • You can’t make smart decisions, according to Pechinski, unless you are informed of your financial situation. All the information you need is easy for you to access. You can check your federal student loan debt by accessing NSLDS.ed.gov, with your FAFSA pin number.  You can also go to AnnualCreditReport.com, to ensure you don’t fall victim to identity theft.  It may also help you monitor your credit scores.

2) Food Budget

  • Whether you live on or off campus there are simple tricks for you to save money on food. If you pay for a meal plan use it, use all of it.  If you don’t have a meal plan, then pack a lunch. “It is super easy to eat healthy for cheap,” Pechinski said. Going out to eat for lunch can easily cost someone $8-12, but there are plenty of websites out there like budgetbytes.com that can help you plan out delicious meals for under $2 a serving.

3) Drink Water

  • And, don’t pay for bottled water. Many campuses have water bottle filling stations where students can replenish for free, and you save the money you aren’t spending on expensive beverages.

4) Be Smart About Your Entertainment

  • Campus groups, like Kirby Program Board at UMD, offer free events for students every week that can save you a lot of money. Or, if you prefer to go to the theater, choose a Tuesday or Thursday night at Marcus Theaters, when you can go for $5 and get free popcorn, as opposed to going on a Friday night and spending at least double. In short, explore your options. There are so many free or cheap alternatives out there for students.

5) Be Honest

  • It is important that you are honest with yourself about how much you have to spend. If you can’t afford it, then don’t get it. In the long run, “It will only cause you undue stress,” Pechinski said. Also, try to be honest with your friends. If they are all planning to go out, but you don’t want to spend any money, tell them and come up with a different plan. Pechinksi suggests thinking of it this way: not only will you be helping yourself, but you may be saving one of your friends from spending money they don’t have as well.

These are just a few of the tips Pechinski has for students. In short, she suggests living like a student. In fact, that is the name of her program at UMD. For more resources and tips on Financial Literacy and Budgeting visit her website, or talk to the financial aid office at your university to see what they have to offer.

“It’s tough,” said Pechinksi. “There are a lot of choices out there. We have a lot of choices. And when we see something we want, not need, but want, we think, ‘I can have that’. And you can, but what we don’t see is financial security and the benefits that can bring us, that it brings people.” 

The most helpful tip it seems, is simple, make a budget.

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