Living a complete college life on a budget

Living a complete college life on a budget

Your parents have been berating you about spending all of your (and even some of their) money for as long as you can remember.

It’s frustrating when you want a new pair of shoes, to go out to dinner with your friends or go to an overpriced concert and you don’t quite have the funds. Now a new wave of independence is upon you —you no longer have anyone breathing down your neck about how much money you’re spending on what they deem as useless things.

Freedom is exhilarating; the world is an exciting place and you are now open to exploring it all on your own. However, it will quickly become clear that Wake Forest is not wallet-friendly and that you most likely need to start saving and budgeting. Spending money is tempting, especially when it seems like everyone around you is endlessly buying things. But college is also the time to learn frugality and to save up for the future. Saving doesn’t directly correlate with missing out on times with friends—there are plenty of ways to do everything your peers are doing while spending a little less on the side.

The first is considering every purchase with scrutiny. I won’t lie, the first trip to Target is exciting. Everyone crams into a tiny car to go pick up things they forgot. However, in hindsight, I realized that people mostly buy things they don’t need, but think they do. Here’s an ideal place to save. Go on the Target run but actually consider what you’re buying and why.

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If there is food that looks tempting, think about if you can buy it on campus at the POD. If you think you need that new bulletin board, costume for a themed party or decorative mirror, you probably don’t or you would have bought it before you came to campus. Chances are you won’t end up cooking, so there is no real need to stock up on groceries. The best way to justify your purchases is to consider making a shopping list before you get to the store to prevent silly impulse buys. Another tip is to only bring cash and limit yourself to spending what you bring — if you don’t have more than $30 on you, you won’t buy what is unnecessary.Also, remember that the POD takes food dollars and has most things you’ll find yourself needing, including basic toiletries and trinkets you may find yourself needing in a hurry. Also, take advantage of your meal plan. Consider going to Bistro 34 for a dinner with friends than going to a nicer off-campus restaurant.

Along the same lines, eating out is not necessarily a bad thing in moderation. Exploring Winston-Salem and getting off campus is important for your freshman experience, and there are plenty of fantastic restaurants worth trying. However, eating out more than one or two nights a week is excessive, given you are already paying for a meal plan.

There are also simple steps you can take on campus to save a little money. The first is pretty obvious, which is to try to get a job. Unfortunately most on-campus jobs require a work study. If you don’t qualify for this, Campus Recreation hires non-work study students. There are also plenty of off-campus stores and restaurants within walking distance that often hire students. Even if you work limited hours, the extra income will help pay for some of your meals off campus and spontaneous purchases you will inevitably make. Another simple way to save money on campus is with books. Although the fresh, new calculus book may look tempting, it is probably double the price of the used one. Buy books used, and rent them when possible — just be sure to return at the end of the semester.

Freedom from your parents is exciting. Being able to spend your money seems just as fun, until it no longer is. It is fully possible to enjoy the same experiences as your peers while also saving some money on the side. Before you find yourself in a situation where you are suddenly uncomfortably low on money, consider these simple tips and don’t get carried away with your new independence.

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