Has money been tight since you started college? Even if you get some help from student loans and a stipend from your parents, it can still be hard to make ends meet. You’re not alone. Thousands of other college students struggle financially as they embark on and make their way through college. While it may be difficult for you now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel—graduation. Until then, here are just a few useful financial tips that you can use to help you get through the next few months or years of higher education.
Trade and Swap with Other Students
Have you taken advantage of used book sales and consignment stores for clothes, but you’re still struggling financially? Making a car payment, paying for meals and juggling other bills can put clothing and other daily necessities on the back burner. Look for trade and swap groups on campus in which you can trade clothing, personal goods and furniture or obtain for free. If these types of groups don’t exist and you don’t feel comfortable searching in public swap or freebie forums, talk to your student support center on campus about starting your own group. Another way to save some dough is to take advantage of shopping discounts, like this guide to student discounts. Cutting corners on your shopping budget means more money in your pocket.
Take Advantage of School Resources
Did you know that there are a lot of free or low-cost resources that your school offers that you may not be taking advantage of? Many offer programs that can help make life a little more manageable while you’re going to school. One stop should be at the career services office. Here they may be able to help you find campus jobs, offer cafeteria coupons and give you some leads on scholarships you may qualify for. Are you paying a lot of money per hour for a private tutor? Sometimes, college campuses will offer tutors and other academic help resources for free. You may also qualify for a peer mentor—another student who can help you with homework questions and studying for tests.
Find Affordable Meals That Stretch Your Dollar
Are you having trouble eating at least three times a day? Is it a struggle to afford food, after paying for books and tuition? According to the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness, 48 percent of study participants experienced food insecurity in the past month. This can affect your grades, and make it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. Here are a few ways to help curb hunger pangs:
- *Sign up for an affordable meal plan at school, so food is available when you need it.
- *Take advantage of local food banks that help students.
- *Organize a group to start a campus garden, food pantry, and food drives.
- *Apply for food stamps or food benefits through your state.
- *Attend a couponing class to find ways to budget your funds for food and save money.
There are several ways to fight hunger while you’re away at school. The first step is asking others for help. It’s a battle you don’t have to handle on your own.
Allow Yourself a Break from Stress
One thing that may be affecting your finances at college is stress and vice versa. Stress can have a crippling effect on your grades and trigger bouts of severe depression. If you’re unable to afford to go seek professional counseling, try tapping into the resources at your school. Each campus should have a health center or be affiliated with a clinic that looks after students’ mental and physical health needs. In many cases, these sessions are included in tuition and offered as a courtesy to students. If college counselors are unable to help you, they will refer to you an outsourced psychologist or medical doctor for further evaluation and counseling. Be sure to take care of your mental health by allowing yourself time to decompress. Go out and interact with other students, go to a quiet place on campus to relax or take advantage of student days on campus—where they offer free or low-cost pampering services.
Getting through four years of college comes with plenty of ups and downs. Struggling financially is expected by a lot of students. Don’t let it ruin your lifestyle to the point where coping is unmanageable. Reach out for help sooner rather than later.