How to Manage College Living Expenses

How to Manage College Living Expenses
  • Opening Intro -

    Once you pay your tuition, fees, room & board, and purchase or rent your textbooks, you may have precious little money left to live on.


A part-time job can help out, but work may not be practical or the funds may still be insufficient to meet your needs. With some care you can manage your college living expenses this year.

1. Establish a budget. How much money do you have coming in and how goes out every week, month and year? You need to know how much money you have to live on and what expenses you’ll face. This is where a budget comes in. That budget should reflect your expenses including tuition, room and board, fees, books, meal plans, and more. If there is a shortfall, then you know what the difference is.

2. Manage your expenses. Look closely at your expenses to determine where cutbacks can be made. If food is a big cost, weigh the difference between a college meal plan and buying groceries yourself. If you buy textbooks, consider renting them instead. Your checking account should be free; if not, find a bank that offers free checking for college students. Extend your savings by cutting back in other areas including your cell phone plan, insurance, and other living expenses.

3. Apply for a Pell Grant. Many college students are eligible for a Pell Grant, federal grant money that isn’t repaid. For the 2014-2015 academic year, students may qualify for as much as $5,730. Your grant money is applied to your tuition, fees, and room and board. If there is money left over, those funds can be applied to your living expenses.

4. Look for work. If you can manage a part-time job, then working 10 to 15 hours per week may be enough to cover your living expenses. You’ll pay taxes on what you earn and you may earn a minimum wage, perhaps a bit more. Your take home pay could bring in $65 to $100 in per week that you weren’t making before. Apply for a job on campus and your employer will be your school. If a set work schedule is difficult to manage, find odd jobs such as building websites or tutoring to help supplement your income.

5. Consider a student loan. A student loan should be a last resort option, but it can be a good one for students with no other way to pay for college. Both federal Stafford loans and private student loans are available, the latter with a parent option whereby your parents pay for the loan. Discuss these options with your parents before committing to taking on any debt.

6. Plan for an internship. As you move through your college years, you’ll find yourself eligible for one or more internships. Some are paid, others are not, while still others provide a stipend. An internship makes is possible for you to acquire knowledge that you otherwise would not get. Still, you need money — take on those internships that offer at least some compensation to help defer your expenses.

Bank on It

For the months that you have some extra money, resist spending it. Maintain a healthy balance in your checking account to cover increased expenses down the road. If your parents are able to offer additional financial assistance, make your requests known. Money from your parents can represent an informal loan, one without the restrictions of a student loan.

See AlsoCollege Money: How to Get It


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Categories: Finance