Being in College Without Being Broke


Elizabeth Maline

Money, money, money. Yes, it’s a great ABBA song, but it’s also something students have to learn to manage as they begin their freshman year. 

For the first time, many of you will make your own choices about how to spend money, without your parents keeping close watch over you. It’s tempting to make impulsive purchases (and believe me, you will), but college is a great time to learn frugality. To help you make responsible choices about spending, here are a couple of pointers you should know before you break out your brand new credit card. (If you’re still looking to get a credit or debit card, Wells Fargo is the ideal choice since they have an ATM on campus and you’ll avoid cash withdrawal fees). 

One large expense students have is textbooks. Though the university bookstore is a convenient place to buy your books, don’t forget to compare prices to Amazon. You’d be surprised by how much you can save when you do some extra research. You’ll also choose between buying or renting your books. In most cases, renting is the preferred option, as it is often significantly cheaper than buying a book new or used. Just don’t forget to return it at the end of the semester, as not returning it could result in large fees. If you do choose to buy books and don’t need them after the semester, take them back to the bookstore for the book buyback. 

Use your pre-paid Deacon Dollars to buy toiletries and school supplies on campus rather than with real money at Target. If you do have the impulse to pile in the car with your new friends and go to Target, make a list beforehand. You don’t want to get suckered into buying things you don’t need, and that will just create more clutter in your dorm room. 

When you venture off campus, you’ll find that Winston-Salem is actually a relatively affordable city with fun attractions and exceptional restaurants. Treat yourself, but be sure to utilize your pre-paid meal plan, which gives you access to many of the same options you’ll find off campus, such as Village Juice and the new Camino Bakery in the ZSR library. If you find that you’re not using as much of your meal plan as you thought you would, scale down to a cheaper option next semester. 

Not to mention, it can get expensive to travel off campus all the time. Rather than pay for Uber or Lyft, try carpooling or taking the campus shuttle. If you’re looking to avoid the hassle but have the urge to get off campus, the shops and restaurants at Reynolda Village are walking distance from your dorm room. 

Now that you’re in college, a world of student discounts is at your disposal. Why pay $10 per month for Spotify premium when you can pay half that (and get a free Hulu subscription). Amazon Student is free with your Wake Forest email and gives you access to prime TV shows, two-day shipping and textbook rentals. Also, many local restaurants, movie theaters and stores offer student discounts. 

If you want to make some extra money, there are several opportunities to work a job. Though most on-campus jobs are reserved for Work Study, Campus Recreation hires non-work study students and many local businesses look to hire students during the year. Additionally, Benson University Center is typically looking for student-employees.

This newfound financial independence can be scary at first, but the key is to plan ahead and make smart decisions. Consider every purchase with scrutiny and think to yourself, “Do I really need this?” or, “Is there a cheaper way to get it?”