The start of the semester is an unquestionably busy, hectic, and most of all, expensive time. Here’s how to avoid the back-to-class budget crunch in style.
Picture it now: you’re back on campus after a relaxing break, and you’re ready to get back into the swing of things. Everything is fresh and new, from the state of your apartment to the state of your budget.
And then reality hits. You’re back in classes, and there seem to be about a million things competing for your attention - and your dollars - all at once.
While I don’t claim to have advice on how to balance your social calendar, or figure out how you ended up with 8:30am classes every single day this semester, I can help you navigate the back-to-school budget crunch.
Here are some easy ways to enjoy the back-to-class madness without blowing your budget.
Everyone’s excited to see each other again, and the inevitable conclusion everyone you hang out with has drawn is that a party sounds like a great idea. All of a sudden, you’re drowning in invites to go hang out with multiple groups of people. Between the Ubers and maybe a new outfit or two, your budget is feeling a little party-fatigued.
To make sure you don’t spend an entire semester’s worth of party cash in a single week, here are some ways to keep the merriment going without blowing your budget.
- Carpool or take public transit. If your friends are spread out in off-campus apartments, but you still want to see them all, hop on the bus or at least buddy up to share the cost of an Uber.
- Organize outfit-swaps instead of shopping. Want something new to wear, but don’t have the extra cash? Grab a few friends who wear the same size and offer an outfit swap. You all get something new-to-you to wear, and it’s free.
- Set an imbibing budget. If you’re of age and going to be drinking to ring in the new semester, set a hard budget. It might mean buying your own wine or beer instead of going out and buying it at bars and restaurants. Try scaling back to something that fits a bit more into your student budget. After all, it is back-to-class time!
Reuniting with Friends
If your friends aren’t the partying type, I bet they still want to hear all about your break. That can mean fielding a huge number of “Let’s get lunch!” or “Want to meet up for pizza?” invites, which can blow your food-and-restaurants budget before you’ve even set foot in a classroom.
To make sure you get time with all your pals without spending all of your money, you can suggest alternate - and cheaper - options to reunite.
- Instead of getting pizza out, order in - or better yet, toss a frozen pizza in the oven. You’ll save money on tips, and you can bring your own beverages!
- Instead of meeting for lunch, grab a coffee or tea instead. You get all of the quality time and a much lower bill.
- Boring, but effective: meet up for an early study session at the library instead of a meal. You’ll be ahead of the game, get to spend time together, and it’s free.
Oh, textbooks. They’re so necessary, and yet so expensive. While you need them to do well in classes you’re paying all that tuition to take, there are ways to save a little - or a lot - if you know where to look, and how to find the best deals.
- If your campus has a used book store, head there before looking for new books - and get there early. Some of the most popular books, as well as the more obscure books, will go quickly. Plus, if the used bookstore works on a consignment basis, you might stumble upon someone who priced their book super-low. The early bird definitely gets the worm when it comes to used textbook deals!
- No used bookstore? No problem. Turn to Facebook, which is a surprisingly effective way to score deals on textbooks. Your campus might have a buy-and-sell group where you can ask if anyone wants to sell you the books you’re looking for, and even connect with people who want your old books. It’s also worth posting on your personal page if your friends or their friends might have the books you need.
- Chat up your professor. They’ll have some good insights on when you’ll actually need the textbook - is there crucial info you’ll need in the first week, or do you have a few weeks to shop around? Knowing how much time you have to score your books is the best way to make sure you’re going to find the best deal.
Restocking Your Apartment
If you’ve been out of town for the holidays, you might get back to your apartment (or your dorm room) and realize that you’ve got none of your regular stuff in stock. Whether it’s restocking your cupboards with the best study snacks, or finally getting a new pack of loose leaf paper, there are ways to make sure your apartment is set up and ready for a productive semester without breaking the bank.
- Check on coupons. I know, I know, no one likes clipping coupons, but there are some ways to get the same savings without buying a newspaper these days. Look at sites like Coupon Sherpa to see if you can find any deals on things you already needed to buy.
- Make a list. If you feel like you need a zillion things all at once, the best way to handle it is to make a list. It’ll help you see the scope of what you want to buy, and prioritize it all.
- Buy things as you need them. Another trick is to avoid the “stocking up” mentality altogether. Instead, just buy things as the need arises- you’ll probably buy less in the long run.
So there you have it: ways to avoid the back-to-school budget crunch without having zero fun or going without textbooks!