Ways to Cut Costs as a College Student

iStock_000014392453SmallYou’re a college student struggling to maintain a budget. You don’t earn very much money. You may only make minimum wage or slightly above it.

You may also find yourself frustrated with the financial advice that you see online. Most of it is geared towards people who are earning a decent full-time salary and have expenses that just don’t apply to you — like window treatments and lawn care.

What can college students do to cut their expenses and better manage their money?

Here are a few tips:

1. Live With Roommates

Living off-campus with as many roommates as possible is one of the most effective ways to cut your budget. The cost per bedroom of a four or five-bedroom apartment or house is typically much lower than the cost per bedroom of a one or a two-bedroom unit.

You’re likely to find piling five or six roommates into the same home lowers the individual cost for each of you substantially.

In addition, your share of utilities will be significantly lower compared to what you’d be paying if you were living with one roommate or by yourself.

2. Downgrade Your Cell Phone Plan

Most of your friends probably communicate via text – there’s no need to waste your precious dollars having a cell phone plan with loads of minutes. Downgrade your phone to the lowest minute usage available and focus your communication on texting.

It’s worth getting an unlimited text plan for $10 per month if it means saving $40 a month on minutes.

3. Cut the Cable

You probably don’t have cable anyway, but this tip is worth sharing.

Given all of the options on Netflix and Hulu, there’s no reason to pay for an expensive cable package. If you’re subscribed to Amazon Prime already, you also get access to movies and TV shows. Paying around $10 per month is a lot better than paying $100 or more per month for cable.

4. Learn How to Cook A Few Basic Meals

You don’t need to become a gourmet chef. Just learn how to cook a few basic staples. Focus on simple dishes like spaghetti with turkey meatballs and loads of vegetables in the pasta sauce, or grilled fish with salsa.

Bean and rice-based meals such as burritos with black beans, rice, salsa, and cheese are filling, high protein, and relatively cheap. They’re also easy to make. You can use the same ingredients and turn this into a quesadilla, taco, or burrito bowl. This gives you some variety without much extra effort or cost.

5. Skip a Trip Home

There’s no need to shell out hundreds of dollars to fly home for Thanksgiving. The harsh reality of being a college student on a tight budget is that you may not have the luxury to fly home every holiday.

That’s okay – you can find joy in spending Thanksgiving with your friends who also stayed behind. There’s a term for it, too: Friendsgiving. Gather together potluck-style at someone’s apartment or house and celebrate the festivities together. You can always communicate with your family for free on Skype.

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