It’s a never-ending list: tuition, books, a computer, food, housing, transportation, etc. The cost of being a college student seems overwhelming, especially when you look at the balance on your bank statement at the end of the month. But you can make some easy changes to reduce your living expenses and give your finances some room to breathe.
1. Keep it Cool
Just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean you need to run your heat constantly. Put on a sweatshirt and slippers and turn it down a few notches to 68 degrees. Keep it even cooler when you’re at school, not home or when you’re asleep. According to energy.gov, if you turn your thermostat back ten to 15 degrees for eight hours, you can save five to 15 percent a year on the heating bill. If you have a programmable thermostat, adjust the times you turn on the heating or air conditioning with a pre-set schedule.
2. When in Doubt, Hang it
Appliances suck energy. It’s a well-known fact. Among our biggest energy-eaters are clothes dryers. The Consumer Energy Center says dryers use about six percent of a home’s total electricity use. Call it old fashion or maybe nostalgic, but why not hang-dry your clothes like your mom and grandma used to and go green? Put up a clothesline outside and take advantage of the natural heat of the sun. If your community has an ordinance against outdoor clotheslines, use up empty closet space and hangers or get a standalone clothes rack.
3. Who Needs 100+ Channels?
Let’s face it. On top of your studies, work and maybe even the kids, you don’t have enough time to watch every single channel that comes with your overpriced cable plan. Cable is a choice, typically not a means for survival like food and water. Enjoy your local news? Get an antenna. It’s a one-time purchase and you’ll get most, if not all your local channels for free, forever. If you’re not into the idea of an antenna but want your fix of Breaking Bad or Modern Family, subscribe to a monthly service like Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu Plus.
4. Beauty School Discount
Most guys can get by with a $15 haircut at a neighborhood salon. But ladies, it’s a different story for you. A cut, color or partial foils can cost you more than $100. If you live near a beauty school, like the Minnesota School of Cosmetology, get ready to start saving. The services are but a fraction of a typical salon. Most schools have an experienced supervisor on hand to make sure your budding hair stylist gives you the look you want. It may, however, take more of your time and patience since students will be getting their hands-on practice with you. Also, ask about a student discount.
5. Frigid Food
If you’re the typical college student, you open the fridge stare for a few minutes until you decide what you want to eat. So do yourself a favor and set your fridge to the most efficient temperature. The FDA recommends your fridge temp be set at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Much colder than that and it’s a waste of energy. The freezer temperature should be at zero to four degrees Fahrenheit. Try packing your freezer and fridge with as much food as possible. The fuller it is, the less time it takes to cool down.
“I’m gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket.” Like the Macklemore song goes, if you have a tight budget for clothes, try hitting up the thrift store to save money. Whether it’s Goodwill, Savers or a local consignment shop, trendiness never came so cheap. It takes patience and a bit of digging, but you’d be surprised to find designer clothes and barely worn suit coats and pants for your next job interview or networking event. If you can’t find anything at a thrift store, try Plato’s Closet or Cherry Pickers which only buys and sells gently used, top-name brand clothing and accessories.
7. The Gym Costs an Arm and a Leg
The price of staying fit and healthy via a trip to the gym is jaw-dropping. Most big-box health clubs can cost between $50 to $100 a month. There’s also the chance you’ll abandon that gym pass if you’re not dedicated to working out, which is a waste of your money. If you’re a student, you’re in luck. Look into getting a membership at your school’s gym. It’ll likely be free or a greatly reduced price. You can also use your student ID to workout at the YMCA with a discounted membership fee. If you don’t want to pay for the gym but still want to get some exercise, lace up your running shoes and get fit outdoors.
Okay, it’s time to get personal. What are your costly habits? According to Bloomberg, the most common vices that are giving the U.S. economy a boost (or killing your finances) are gambling, booze, sweets, followed by coffee and cigarettes. Don’t let this be a buzzkill. You don’t need to cut out the pleasures of life altogether, but you can slowly reduce your habits which will in turn help you save. Skip the casino and limit your gambling to a scratch-off ticket. It’s much easier to control your spending once you walk away from the slot machines and poker table. Social events and drinking seem to go hand-in-hand, so try reducing your social calendar. In the same way, limit your trips to the cupcake shop. Most often than not, one of your classmates or someone at your workplace will bring in sweets to share. Can’t give up caffeine? Coffee is cheaper when you make it yourself. Instead of hitting up Starbucks, get up a little early in the morning and make your own cup of joe. It’s no secret, cigarettes are expensive. It can impact your health and the cost of health care. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, the average smoker pays $1,600 more annually on health care costs than a non-smoker. If that doesn’t scare you, what will?
You don’t have to give up everything on this list to cut back on your living expenses. Just one or two things could make all the difference. Take a moment to figure out which expense is easiest to give up or reduce. Prioritize your everyday spending and cross it off the list as you begin to save.
What are you some other ways you can reduce your living expenses?