Living on your own for the first time away from home brings a huge swath of new opportunities. These next four years will be (for most of you) the first time when you’ll be almost fully in charge of your schedule. As a wise professor once told a freshman class I sat in, college is when you’ll have the most freedom and the least responsibility in your lifetime.
But for all the great opportunities this freedom brings, there is one underlying downside: your financial situation. The reality is that the vast majority of you will face during your undergraduate years is this: you are constantly, endlessly, incessantly hovering around broke. You’ll need to keep track of every dollar you spend at Starbucks, at dinners off campus and at bars across Winston-Salem.
While this new reality may seem a bit harsh and require some adjustment, there is good news. Even at a school that costs over $60,000 every year, you can survive on a student budget without having to live off saltines and water. Check out these tips for how to get by at Wake Forest without breaking the bank.
Use your meal plan wisely. If you have unlimited Pit swipes, you should be all set. If you don’t, be sure to figure out how many block meals, food dollars and Old Gold swipes you have. As long as you’re aware of your balance, you should be able to plan accordingly. Limit your food dollar use every week so you don’t run out by November.
Limit your Starbucks/Einstein Bros intake. If you’re anything like me, knowing you can’t get your daily fix will be a hard pill to swallow. But trust me: getting a Keurig or a French press will save you a lot of money throughout the semester ($2.50 coffees tend to add up at a pretty horrifying rate).
Resist the urge to shop. Ordering clothes online may seem simple and inexpensive, but if it becomes a habit, it’ll take a very unpleasant bite out of your budget. Shipping costs alone can get way out of hand without much warning. Make sure to have your wardrobe for the semester (or the whole year) ready to go when you move in so you’re not tempted with the excuse of needing new jeans or shoes.
If you are eating off campus, make sure to bring cash (or get your waiter to split the checks)! It’s easy to get caught up in a group dinner where you’re the only one with a credit card and wind up paying for everyone’s meal. Always have cash to throw into a pot so that you’re only paying for your meal.
Take advantage of any and all free food you are offered as a student. Freshmen in particular have quite a few of these opportunities, especially during orientation. Make the most of it, because it doesn’t last (just ask any upperclassmen!).
When it comes to snacking, be sure to stock up at Target or Wal-Mart every few weeks. Buy in bulk so you’re not spending $5 every day at the Sundry. Filling up a ziplock bag and taking it with you will also help you resist the urge to spend.
Avoid the university bookstore! They’re nice people, but buying or renting your books through Amazon is a failsafe way to save a big wad of cash. If you buy your books at the bookstore, you risk paying way too much and then being told you can’t sell your books back at the end of the semester. Avoid the headache and trust Jeff Bezos.
Be sure to check your bank account balance every week. Even if you haven’t spent much that week, it’s good to know where you stand, so you won’t be caught off guard by an unpleasant surprise (I’ve learned this lesson the hard way more times than I’d care to admit).