Money Tips for College Students

With a cost of $207 per credit hour at UNR (that’s before you even tack on all the other student fees), and the cost of living rising in the Reno area it’s no secret that it’s intimidating, stressful, and discouraging when you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for the next semester of college. It’s hard enough to just focus on school alone, but when you have to work three jobs just to pay your rent it can be easy to lose motivation and to want to drop out.

Looking back at my financial situation in college I know that my mom helped me out with the cost of some of my tuition each year, but other than that I’ve also had to work my a** off, and I know there’s a lot of you out there who do, too. At one point I was working close to 40 hours a week in between the three jobs I had, was taking out the max amount of loans available, and was eating spaghetti noodles with just salt and olive oil because I didn’t want to spend my money on more food. Gross.

However, as a senior I’ve learned some tricks of the trade when it comes to budgeting and saving on a tiny paycheck. I hope some of these tips help you with your financial situation and ease the stress that paying for school can have on you.

  1. Do the money in an envelope method. At the beginning of the month go to an ATM and take out a certain amount of money you’ll allow yourself to spend in a certain category. When the money is out it’s out, and you have to wait until the next month to spend money in that category again. For example I’ll have $20 in an “alcohol” envelope. If I spend all $20 the first weekend, I don’t allow myself to spend any more on drinks for the rest of the month forcing me to budget. This is great for small expenses that you don’t think add up to a large sum of money but do. I’d recommend having an envelope for alcohol/going out, groceries, gas, and eating out at restaurants. It can be depressing at first when you can’t afford to buy that fancy cheese at the grocery store, but it causes you to really only buy essentials and pocket your savings. Hey, if you have extra money at the end of the month, reward yourself and splurge on a fancy coffee or something.
  2. Shop at the 99 Cent Store. A lot of my friends make fun of me for shopping here, but honestly it’s a god sent. The 99 Cent Store is not ghetto or full of nasty old food, it’s full of fresh produce that’s overstock from regular grocery stores which allows for the huge price markdown. I like to do most of my grocery shopping here because they carry most items with the exception of groceries that obviously cost more than 99 cents like ground beef, chicken, or bulk items. They have a wide selection of fresh produce, frozen meals, and canned goods. Best of all, a lot of the brands are similar to those that can be found at more expensive grocery stores. Some trips to the 99 Cent Store leave me walking away with enough healthy and filling groceries that’ll last me the whole week for $20. The closest 99 Cent Store is just across from Meadowood Mall on Virginia Street -- I recommend checking it out.
  3. Use the Mint App. Mint is awesome. It tracks your spending on all accounts and divides purchases up by category like fast food, groceries, gas, coffee shops, shopping, business services, and more, so you can see exactly where your money goes. Mint also keeps track of when your bills are due, how much money you’re taking in each month versus spending, and sends you alerts when you’ve gone over budget. The great thing about this app is it’s also customizable. You can set specific budgets that work with you and fit your lifestyle as Mint tracks when you’re getting close to say going over your monthly restaurant budget. Mint also calculates your net worth which is nice when you’re trying to figure out how much money you have total between savings, checking, and credit accounts. It also provides you with your credit score and alerts you when your score goes up or down and the reason why, so you can either continue to improve your score or make adjustments. The best part about Mint, it’s free to download and free to use. A lot of budgeting apps require a subscription or payment up front. Mint is 100% free to use at any time.
  4. Apply for scholarships. This one you’ve got to be persistent with. During my freshman and sophomore years I was extremely discouraged about applying for scholarships because I’d fill out so many applications with little to no return. However, if you can hang on until your junior or senior year and apply for major specific scholarships, there’s a whole pool of money waiting for you that not everyone has access to. I filled out the university scholarship application every year. You know, the one on MyNevada that’s always due before February 1st. For years I got nothing, but the second I actually became a journalism major instead of “pre-journalism” I received five scholarships. This year I received so many scholarships from UNR I actually got paid to go to school this semester which was a huge weight off my shoulders. Don’t think just because you didn’t get anything remarkable in the scholarship department your freshman year that it’s going to be like that forever.