How to Avoid Being a Broke College Student

After paying for tuition, books, and supplies for your dorm, your wallet might feel a little empty. No one wants to be the one friend that can’t go to a concert or to the movies because they don’t have enough money.

When you first start college, it can be hard to find a balance between spending and saving especially since your parents aren’t always going to be there give you that extra $10 when you need it. In order to help you avoid stressing about money, we’ve assembled a list of tips that every college student should follow.

Use your meal plan

There has been so many occasions in which I’ve eaten lunch at Chipotle or grabbed a coffee from Dunkin Donuts before class. Even though five dollars doesn’t seem like much at the time, it does add up.

The great thing about freshman year of college, is most students live in the dorms, which include a meal plan through the dining hall. This is included in the bill you receive at the beginning of the semester, which means that when you get to school this is already paid for.

If you don’t use up all your meal credits by the end of the year, they usually go to waste. Although it might be more convenient to grab lunch with friends after class, after a while this can leave a dent in your wallet.

Take advantage of other services include in your student tuition

At the University of Illinois, we have lots of services included in our tuition besides just the standard classes. Some of these services include: bus transportation, access to exercise facilities, healthcare center, and the library.

It’s a good idea to do your research and see what you are paying for, so you don’t spend more money than you have to. When I had to get a vaccination in order to go on my study abroad trip I was reimbursed for the cost since I had student health insurance included in my tuition. If I were to go to my primary doctor, it probably would’ve resulted in an expensive bill.

There are also a lot of fun things that are available for students, free of cost. Certain sports will be free to students or at a reduced cost. You can also find music and movie events and performances that are free every so often as well. Before you spend $20 on your Friday night activities, keep your eyes open for free things you can do on campus.

Get an on campus job

There are many positive aspects of getting an on campus job after you have situated yourself at school for the first few weeks. Most students work 10-15 hours a week, when they have a job. Taking on more hours than this can be overwhelming and too much on top of school.

Having work a few hours a week doesn’t only give you a little extra spending money, it also builds your resume and teaches you responsibility. One great thing about having a job on a college campus, is that employers are usually understanding that classes come first and realize that this may be your first paid position.

There are also opportunities to do research on campus. Professors are always looking for people to help with their studies and work in their lab. At the University of Illinois, the Psychology department pays students for studies that they are doing and need data for. I completed a few last semester and you do things like take surveys, complete computer tasks, and work on activities.

Keep track of your money

Budgeting is an important part of making sure you don’t run out of money. You should sit down at the beginning of each month and see how much money will be coming in, what you need to buy for school and how much you are able to spend on yourself. Saving is a good habit to get into, since you never know when something will come up when you need more money than planned.

It’s smart to have a bank account open that you will have access to at school, so you don’t have to go all the way home to manage your finances.

Find affordable textbooks

Since tuition prices are already very high, it’s a good idea to try to find the most affordable options for textbooks. In my experience, buying textbooks from the university bookstore tends to be very pricey.

Before buying a textbook, I would recommend giving the class about a week to determine whether or not you really need the book or not. Nothing is worse than buying a book, just to have it sit on your shelf the whole semester.

If you indeed need a book for a class, go to websites like Amazon and Chegg.com before purchasing them from the bookstore. Their prices tend to be more affordable, they have an option to rent books, and normally shipping is included. If you choose to rent a book, a return label will also be provided.

College is no doubt a very expensive investment, and one that should be taken seriously. In order to stretch the money you have as much as possible, it is important to be smart about your spending so you are not the typical broke college student.

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Shannon Kelly

Shannon Kelly

Shannon Kelly is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying journalism. She is involved with the student newspaper, new student programing, and greek life on campus. She has a passion for travel, loves animals, and is always up for an adventure. Shannon also enjoys movies, music and fashion.