Tips for sticking to a budget while in college

Figuring out how you can afford that haircut your parents are begging you to get and scraping the bottom of your backpack for enough change to afford an Aunt Cookie’s sub gets old quickly.  

For a lot of young people, college is the first time they will establish any form of real independence. A student is truly on their own for decisions concerning when to do laundry, when to study and—perhaps most importantly—how to spend their money. 

Although first year students usually have a meal plan, other expenses soon appear when attempting to broaden their social circle, choose a career path or budget for the first time without overspending. Parents or families may continue to help students even after they have moved away for school—don’t forget to thank them endlessly for this—but budgeting can also help control unruly spending. 

A basic budget generally includes rent, utilities, Internet, groceries, laundry, emergency funds and discretionary funds, according to For students choosing to live in on-campus housing, however, some of these expenses will not apply. 

There are various tools available that can make the process of creating and managing a budget simpler and less intimidating. These include Microsoft Excel,, Mint, Level Money, Left to Spend and Personal Capital. Such tools allow students to understand income and manage their money. 

Other ways to manage your funds include cooking for yourself, embracing communal living, frequenting thrift stores, using student discounts and never paying full price on textbooks. 

A necessity such as textbooks, the cost of which is not incorporated in tuition and can sometimes not be fully determined until classes have started, is a common stressor. The rush to purchase books in time for an upcoming exam, moreover, can lead to overspending in this area. Textbook prices have increased by 812 percent since 1978, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s consumer price index data. 

It is no wonder students are stressed about this cost when the average student at a four-year public college pays about $655 per year for textbooks, according to the National Association of College Stores. To help with the cost of books, some students agree to share, and each contribute to the cost. Websites like AbeBooks, Chegg and BookFinder can also be used to ease the cost burden. These sites detail where to find discounted copies and often sell the needed textbooks at cheaper rates. 

Students should also be aware that their school identification card can be used in a variety of stores to access discounts. Amazon, JCrew, Banana Republic and all stores on Main Street in Geneseo offer some form of student discount. 

So, after you’ve created your budget, walk up to Main Street and spend your discretionary funds on a haircut at Envy, cookies at Finger Lakes Cookie Company or a sub from Aunt Cookies.u