If you thought you were done planning for college expenses once you figured out how to cover tuition and fees, think again. When you get to school, you'll still have day-to-day living expenses, from food to fuel.
The good news? This the perfect time to start some good saving habits that will last beyond your college years. Plus, saving in college can put you ahead in paying off student loans.
Building a Budget
The best way to save money and rein in your spending is to set a budget and stick to it. At first, just spend a few weeks or a month tracking all your expenses and income. That should give you a good baseline to see how far ahead or behind you end up each month.
Chances are, just monitoring your expenses will change your whole perception about how you spend your money. It might also make you more open-minded about all the free or discounted opportunities around you.
If you are living in a residence hall or on campus, be sure to utilize everything your school has to offer. From fitness centers and dining plans to free concerts and movies, make sure you take advantage of anything that's already included in your fees.
If you're moving off campus to your own apartment, getting a roommate (or four) will help keep costs down, but you'll also be surprised how quickly groceries, utilities and basic supplies can add up. Just follow the basic rule of not spending more than you take in - and hopefully saving a little each month. Setting aside extra change or a few dollars a day into a piggy bank (stop by your local Regions branch to get a free SAVE Can after taking our free Personal Savings Review) can make a difference. Take your can to the bank at the end of the month and deposit your cash into a savings account.
Planning Your Spending
If you bring your car to school, only use it if you have to, and keep a budget for gas money and repairs. If you are planning to make a long trip back home, plan in advance for the expenses associated with the trip.
There's no shame in wanting a nice Spring Break trip or a new computer, but they definitely don't have to be impulse buys. Set aside some money each month into a savings account such as Regions LifeGreen® Savings, and watch your money grow as you move toward your goal. It's not always easy to save for something months in advance, but it's definitely easier than paying off interest if you just put it all on a credit card.
If possible, check out part-time jobs on campus that will give you some extra money while not conflicting with your schoolwork. Most jobs close to universities will be flexible to accommodate student schedules. Weekends are an especially good time to squeeze in some work hours while leaving plenty of time for fun. When you get your paycheck, take the top 10-20 percent and deposit directly into your savings account. With Regions LifeGreen Checking & Savings, you can set up an automated transfer so that this money goes directly into your savings account, making it easy to save!
One last college expense that can give any student sticker shock: textbooks. Thanks to the Internet, students now have a wide range of options for buying used or affordable copies of books. But if you check your course schedule carefully, you might find that you'll only need the book for a short period. Check with the library to see if you can just borrow the books when they're needed for class. When you do buy books, be sure to look into whether they can be sold back at the end of the semester.
Considering the Credit Card
Credit cards, when used responsibly, are not a bad thing. Getting a credit card is an important first step to establishing a good credit history that can help you down the road when you want to purchase a car or your first home.
Talk with your parents about getting a credit card and the responsible way to use one. If your family is already banking with Regions, consider visiting your local branch and asking about a Regions Student MasterCard® or a Regions Student Visa®. That way you'll know that you're getting your card from a dependable source.
Try to use a credit card only in emergencies (and try to remember that pizza at 2 a.m. is rarely a true emergency). Keep your spending low, and pay off your balance each month to avoid interest charges.
In conclusion, if you want to keep pizza money on hand without taking a bite out of your financial health, remember to budget your monthly spending, avoid excessive debt and try to work a few odd hours each week. The rest is academic.