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5 Ways to Stretch Your Student Budget

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Let’s face it. Playing the broke college student gets old fast. And with your graduation still looming in the distance, it looks like the role of poverty-stricken scholar is still yours to keep. That graduate salary you’re aiming for may seem like it’s ages away, so now is the time to be smart with the limited funds you have for now. Follow these five tips to make a tight student budget stretch to its fullest potential.

1. Buy food cheap/ make it last

There’s a reason students are notorious for consuming vast amounts of ramen noodles. They’re filling, flavorful and cheap. You can add diced meat and a few veggies to kick it up a notch, or leave out the spice packet (save that for another meal) and cheese it up for a little comfort food.

True – you can’t live on ramen alone. But you also shouldn’t spend your limited student budget on four-star meals at the Ritz. Buy food on sale, use coupons and avoid impulse shopping. Sure, you can occasionally grab a pizza with friends; just don’t make it a daily or weekly habit, especially if you have to make $20 last an entire week.

2. Get a part-time job

It can’t hurt to add to your meager pile of acorns by getting a part-time job. College is very stressful and often leaves limited time for anything other than studying. Fortunately, some on-campus part-time jobs cater perfectly to this lifestyle. Try landing a job in your university library, computer lab or admissions office. It may only pay minimum wage, but you’d basically be getting paid to study, and that’s not too shabby.

3. Don’t act like a celebrity!

You go home for winter break and receive a check over the holidays from your gramdma for $200. Aside from solidifying nana’s place in the top three of your family member power rankings, you think of what a great time you can have with this windfall of cash. “Who wants pizza?! It’s on me!” “Shots all around barkeep… the night is young!” “I’ll have the ’99 Mondavi Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet please.”

Let’s pause for a reality check. You’re broke with student loans piling sky high with each passing year. Focus on making that cash last, not spending it as if you’re an A-lister.

4. Know who the moochers are

Don’t let your financial status keep you from sharing with your friends when the opportunity arises. Being generous is a quality you should try to cultivate in every stage of life. That said, know who the moochers are and be wary. Those who show up only after a pizza has been ordered and already paid for; the ones who continually use the phrase, “I’ll get the next one,” but never follow through. In those cases, do yourself a favor: save your student budget for the ramen.

5. Cut back on small daily spends

Believe it or not that takeaway iced caramel macchiato you have every morning before class does more than give you a much-needed caffeine rush. It also depletes your student budget one small purchase at a time.

Whatever your guilty pleasure may be, try to limit it. Or, even better, replace it with a less costly habit. A glass of chilled tap water with lemon might not be as fun or delicious, but it’ll save you a significant amount of cash in the long run (and a few calories in the process).

Hopefully these tips can help you make the most of your student budget. Learn to live frugally, make purchases wisely and reign in those money-draining habits. Then, when you graduate, and are finally earning some disposable income – that, my friends, is when you can feel comfortable treating yourself and your friends to the finer things in life. You’ll enjoy it even more for having waited!

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Written by Chad Jarrah
Chad runs Roommate Harmony, a website that aims to improve the shared living experience through the use of its products and blog. He loves engaging with past, current and future students in an effort to help motivate a more enriching college experience. He has traveled extensively, spending time in Spain, Syria, Costa Rica and Niger and is always looking for his next adventure abroad. 

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