Going back to college after a long holiday can be a challenge, especially if you are short of money, and many students are. Here are some back to school financial tips to get you back on track in no time.
- Prepare an Inventory Sheet
It is a good idea to prepare an inventory sheet with all the things you have for the new school year. This way you will know what else you need to buy and how much you will spend. If you have essentials like a desk lamp, storage bins, and trash can, these are things to bring along.
- Set a Budget and Stick to It
Obviously, you need to set a budget for the things you need to buy. If you are short of money, then you may want to go to garage sales and buy used items. Set a reasonable budget and try to stick to it to avoid unnecessary expenses. About 30 percent of the money can go to back-to-school shopping and your hobbies, 20 percent toward your college savings, retirement accounts, and outstanding balances, and 50 percent toward essentials such as inventory, textbooks, books, and other school-related items.
- Make a List of What You Need
Now that you have a budget, it is time to make a list of what you need. This is a sample list you can use, depending on what you already have:
- Mini toolkit
- Board and calendar
- Bedside lamp
- Alarm clock
- Picture hangers
- Clothes hangers
- Pillows and pillowcases
- Face, hand, and bath towels
- Blankets and mattress pad
- Buy in Bulk
There are things you can buy in bulk to save money and time. For example, you can buy stain removers, fabric softeners, laundry detergents, and cleaning solutions in bulk. Depending on whether and how much you need, you can also buy rubber bands, sticky notes, index cards, pens and pencils, printer paper, and staples. If you go shopping with your roommates or friends, then it makes sense to buy these in bulk. Obviously, you can’t buy everything in bulk or it makes no sense buying things like refrigerators, coffeemakers, cameras, headphones, printers, portable speakers, and the like.
- Find Deals Online
More and more retailers advertise online, with hot deals, promos, and specials to take advantage of and save tons of money. There are giants like Amazon, Walmart, and Ebay where you can find practically everything you need and within your budget.
- Resist the Temptation to Sign up for a Student Credit Card
Many issuers offer student credit cards, including big banks such as RBC, Scotiabank, and others. While financial institutions advertise low rates and generous savings on school-related items, resist the temptation to sign up. This may sound like a good idea at first, but you may be tempted to overspend if you are new to credit. Learn more about credit first, develop sound financial habits, and try other products before you apply for a student credit card.
- Get a Line of Credit instead
This is actually a good idea because lines of credit usually go with a significantly lower interest rate than credit cards. This can be a cost-effective solution to pay urgent expenses and bills and buy essentials.
- Look into Various Means of Saving Money
There are different ways to save money while in college to keep yourself out of debt. You may want to buy used textbooks, books, and other items whenever possible. To save money on tuition, check with your college or university and apply for different scholarships and grants. Make sure you meet the criteria, e.g. academic excellence, volunteer work, leadership skills, etc. In many cases, scholarships require a minimum GPA, which can be as low as 2.4. Some scholarships are offered to full-time students only who are of the age of majority. There are other ways to save money, and one is to rent. Even if you live in a college dorm, you don’t have to buy everything and then sell it for a portion of the price. Some colleges and universities actually maintain low-cost rental programs and allow you to rent hot pots, vacuum cleaners, and other amenities. Even if your school does not have a rental program, there are companies that offer rental services. Basically, they rent and deliver to your doorstep. Make use of on-campus entertainment and amenities as well, from student clubs and guest lecture series to dorm dinners, intramural sports activities, cheap gym memberships, movie rentals from the university library, and so on. As you can see, there are plenty of ways to save money on essentials, amenities, and fun.