‘Carpe dime:’ a college student’s guide to being less broke

Many students have learned at some point in their college career the “broke college kid” stereotype is all too real and not so funny when it’s you. When you get invited to see a $6 matinée and have to decline because you can’t afford it, you know you’re not in a good place.

Being a working college student is hard. Being a working college student involved in activities is even harder. It feels like you can have either good grades, sleep, a social life or money, but you can’t have it all. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. 

As a student, the first concern should be school expenses. If students aren’t sure where to start, meet with a financial aid counselor on campus. Cheryl Glazier, one of several financial aid counselors on campus, said they are there to help students with loans, scholarships, FAFSA applications and how to manage school expenses. 

Once loans and scholarships are in order, the next step is to assess personal finances.

If you find yourself struggling to make ends meet, make a plan. Map out your monthly expenses and think critically about your spending habits, Glazier recommended.

For example, Glazier highlighted the high cost of eating out and coffee stops. If a student relies on coffee to get through the day, they can try to make it at home more often and only allow themselves to hit up Starbucks or Choco Latte once a week or on certain occasions, Glazier said.

For many students cutting out unnecessary spending isn’t enough, but Glazier stressed that being financially responsible isn’t all about sacrifice.

Glazier offered advice on several ways students can earn extra pocket money, such as donating blood plasma or using cash back apps like iBotta or Walmart’s savings catcher. She suggested sharing textbooks when feasible and taking only 12 credits, if possible, which is a full-time course load, but may allow students a few more free hours in the day.

Alex Farber, a sophomore speech communication and advertising major, said she challenges herself not to spend more than $5 when possible, and uses any discounts available.

“I use coupons and I shop consignment … I am a really frugal shopper. I make dinners at home when I can, and try to plan my spending around when I receive my paycheck each month,” Farber said. “It’s all about realizing that your future needs exceed your current wants a lot of the time.”

Everyone has their own tricks to save money. Freshman physical education major, Reilly Andresen, chooses to be strict on food costs to avoid unnecessary spending.

“I save money by only buying essentials for food and self keep. I avoid spending money on name brands as they cost more than store brands which can be just as good as name brands,” Andresen said.

Keeping money out of reach can also make saving easier. Glazier suggested the envelope technique by businessman and author Dave Ramsey. With the envelope system, people limit themselves to cash only, making an envelope for monthly expenses, such as rent, utilities, internet and more.

Maddison Wilhite, a senior global studies and Spanish major, finds stashing away cash easier than trying to build her savings account.

“Every paycheck I try to put $20 into my savings account, though occasionally times get tough and I have to transfer to my checking account,” Wilhite said. “I have always had the problem that if there is money in my checking account, it’s fair game as long as my rent and utilities are taken care of.”

Wilhite knew she couldn’t effectively save money this way, so she created a new system.

“I typically will cash $20 to $50 out of a paycheck and put it in a jar. Each jar has a label for some trip or activity I hope to make in the future and I divvy my money between these jars,” Wilhite said. “Putting my money in jars and labeling them makes it harder to cheat and snag some cash … I find that by keeping money out of my bank account I spend less of it.”

Wilhite encouraged students to evaluate their spending habits, as well as their needs and wants.

“We are a culture who thinks we need and want more of everything, but … [w]e can certainly get by with less,” Wilhite said.

Andresen said students should never be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s from family, friends or advisers.

Glazier’s advice for students is to save whatever you can when possible.

“You probably won’t miss $25 a month, but later when you’re in a jam, you’ll wish you had saved that money,” Glazier said.

Saving money is never easy. It’s all about finding what works for you, what you can afford to save and challenging yourself to stick to that regiment.