Q: I've just graduated from high school and will be going to college in September. I have some money saved up from my summer job and I'm receiving a student loan. Do you have any suggestions on how I can manage my money and not be a "starving student"?
A: Students often begin the year with carefully planned class schedules and armloads of expensive books, but fail to plan their finances as carefully. Your grades will be affected if your thoughts are consumed with worries about money. To make a plan, write down how much money you have for each month of your term. Make another list of all of your expenses, including extra supplies, transportation costs, debt payments, food, housing, bills, etc. If your budget balances, you're off to a great start; however, often you need to make some adjustments.
Look for ways to increase your income. Can you keep your part-time job, work on campus or tutor a fellow student? Apply for bursaries, grants and scholarships -- you won't qualify if you don't even apply. Request cash or specific gift cards from family and friends for your birthday or holidays.
Be aware of your expenses and cut costs where you can. Buy used text books; share transportation; use the Internet at school; look for stores that offer student discounts; make your own coffee and bring water and snacks from home.
Make sure your expenses don't exceed your income and then give yourself a weekly amount of money for discretionary expenses. Keep the rest of your money safe in a separate bank account so you still have what you need at the end of the term. Prioritize your personal, academic and financial goals.
You might not be able to live the lifestyle of your dreams right now, but your education will get you there faster.