10 Ways to Stretch Your College Budget

Consumer Savings Expert, Andrea Woroch has been featured as a media expert source on NBC’s Today Show, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, ABC News NOW and many more. To view recent interviews or find more information, visit AndreaWoroch.com.

No matter how many months you painstakingly planned your college budget, there are always surprises that throw everything off. Maybe you couldn’t ignore your car’s squeaky brakes any longer, or perhaps homesickness led to an impromptu visit to your parents.

Whatever the case, there’s no need to panic. The occasional deviation from your plans isn’t the end of the world. Though college is notoriously known as a time for living with less, money stresses shouldn’t take away from your studies. Try using these 10 tips to stretch your budget and get back on track.

1. Stop Eating Out
Pizza, subs and burritos, oh my! The options for eating out around campus are never-ending, but they’re expensive and prime contributors to the Freshman 15. If you live on campus, you probably already have a meal plan that’s been paid for. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and eat in the cafeteria. For dining hall regulars, consider cutting out your daily energy drink(s) for extra cash. The prices at campus convenience stores have been jacked way up, so if you can’t live without a caffeine fix, buy in bulk instead.

2. Shop With Gift Cards
Since gift cards account for around $90 billion of the U.S. economy, odds are you got at least one as a graduation present. If you have a few laying around at the bottom of your sock drawer, put them to use. You can use gift cards to cut down on your regular expenses, or if you really just want cash you can always exchange gift cards online at sites like GiftCardGranny.com.

3. Buy Books as You Need
The first few weeks of class are overwhelming. While it’s tempting to buy books immediately and get the task out of the way, a little patience can pay off. Don’t buy the entire reading list in one huge trip. Sometimes the professor won’t even get to some of the materials included on the syllabus. If you plan ahead, used textbooks are cheap and plentiful online. Buying or renting from sites like Chegg.com and Amazon can save hundreds in just one semester.

4. Find a Part-time Job
Part-time jobs fill up fast around most campuses. If you didn’t start submitting applications until the first week of classes, you’re likely struggling to find additional openings. Occupy the time until you get something more steady by using your underutilized talents to make some cash. Fiverr.com is a site where you can offer to sell products or provide services for $5 a pop. Currently, users are offering everything from knitted hats to flirty Facebook messages.

5. Sell Unused Clothes
Having a great wardrobe for the semester was probably a high priority before a budget came into the picture. Your campus might be an exception, but usually everyone wears sweats after the first week of classes anyway. This leaves hundreds of dollars of current fashions hanging in the closet. If you have a few items you can part with, try selling them to stores like Plato’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange. They’ll pay good prices if you have stuff that’s in style.

6. Everyone Loves Long Hair (or Short Hair…)
All of a sudden the guys coming home from their first year at school with mop-tops makes more sense. The cheapest cut is no cut, so if you’ve been thinking about letting your locks go long, this could be the semester to give it a shot. Short cuts that leave plenty of room to grow are also good options for eliminating pricey salon bills.

7. Shop With Roommates
We all have certain items we like to keep personal. Walking in on a roommate using your razor is generally not well received. To avoid these conflicts and save some cash, sit down and figure out what everyone can share. Buying big bottles of shampoo and conditioner all roommates can use will reduce expenses for everyone. Be sure to bring your student ID on the shopping trip, too. With this list of 81 Student Discounts, you’re sure to find some extra savings.

8. Use Campus Amenities
Okay, remember this isn’t high school anymore. If you’re seen riding the bus, you won’t be shunned by cute guys. When you’re running low on cash, make the most of the free amenities provided by your school. Hit the campus gym for free instead of paying to go to a private club; hop on the bus instead of driving your car; or, if you’re living off-campus, cancel your Internet service at home and use computer labs and public Wifi.

9. Set Entertainment Expenses
Perhaps too many entertainment options have stretched your budget to the limit. Instead of becoming a hermit for the rest of the semester, pick a reasonable amount you can spend on entertainment. It also helps to be the event organizer. This way you can promote activities that cost less.

10. Plan For Savings
Don’t let having a small amount to save each week stand in your way. Every little bit you put away now will help you down the road. Even if it’s just $5, try to save something whenever you have money coming in. The app from Mint.com really makes it easy to keep an eye on your funds. When you’re sitting on the beach for spring break and have your savings to thank, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.

Head on over to 1,000 Dreams Fund to learn how to get funding for your dreams!