It’s about that time — time to say goodbye to summer fun and hello to textbooks, school supplies and dorm room living. And while going back to school is an exciting time to reconnect with old friends you haven’t seen all summer and buckle down on schoolwork, it’s also the perfect time to revamp your budget and learn solid financial life lessons that you can take with you into the “real world.” Follow these easy tips to ensure you’ll not only save money in the short term, but also have a successful financial future.
1. Even if you don’t have a lot of bills right now, budget early.
Sure, you don’t have a mortgage and daycare to manage, but that doesn’t mean you should master the basic budgeting formula for the bills you do have. Subtract your monthly expenses (e.g., books, rent, etc.) from your monthly income. The difference is how much you have to spend on everything else: groceries, dining out, entertainment and more.
2. Utilize money-saving apps and tools to streamline money management.
There are a wealth of free website and mobile apps designed to help you save money and be responsible with your finances. Manilla.com and the iOS and Android mobile apps allow you to manage all of your bills and accounts in one place online. You can manage all types of accounts, like your utilities, finances, Netflix queue, OpenTable reservations, student loans, daily deals, travel programs, and more. You get reminders when your bills are due so you never pay late fees. Other great money-saving apps include
GasBuddy – Helps you find the best prices on gas in your area. Perfect for your road trips back home
Shopkick – You can earn “kicks” (or rewards) for shopping at certain stores and then use them to make purchases later
Hukkster – Find the best deals on your favorite brand-name apparel so you always get your clothes on sale
3. Be smart about your student loans.
Although you typically won’t have to start repaying your loans until months after graduation, it’s a good idea to think about the repayment options available to you so you’re able to take advantage of any programs that could be saving you money. For example, you can bolster savings with cash back for college when you make purchases from the hundreds of companies that participate in Sallie Mae’s Upromise. Joining the Upromise rewards service is free and earnings can be invested in a tax-advantaged 529 college savings plan, deposited into a Sallie Mae High-Yield Savings Account, used to help pay down an eligible Sallie Mae college loan or you can request a check.
4. Buy or rent used books
Buying brand new textbooks can get pricey. To keep book costs low, consider buying used versions on sites like Amazon, ThriftBooks.com or BigWords.com, where you can get discounted books for a much lower price. You can even rent textbooks on sites like TextbookRentals.com, BookRenter.com and CollegeBookRenter.com.