Aug 26, 2015 / Money Tips

College Life 101: Budget Tips for Back to School

Ah, back to school: the beginning of a new semester, a new school year, and a new list of reasons to be broke.

Before you take that second job dressing up as a furry mascot or borrow more cash from Mom and Dad, check out these budgeting tips.

1. Track your finances.

Tracking your finances is the easiest way to avoid running out of cash or getting dinged with overdraft charges or late fines. Don’t worry, you don’t need a complicated spreadsheet! There are lots of apps available to help.

Keep up with your account balances, transaction history, and student loan status all in one place by using budgeting tools or a personal finance app. (Utah First offers customers free access to online tracking resources… just sayin’.)

Your finances will get more complicated after graduation, so getting a handle on tracking them now will save you plenty of headache later.

2. Stick to a list.

Yes, that new disco ball will amp up the retro vibe of your dorm room – but do you really want to be forced to live off ramen noodles for the rest of the semester?

Take some time to make a list of the supplies, books, tuition fees, and other necessary expenses you can expect each month. Then compare that list against your budget. If footing the bill for another pizza night with your friends means you’ll be short on gas money, stay home with Netflix and make yourself a sandwich. You’ll be less stressed and you’ll develop a habit of responsible spending.

3. Take advantage of student discounts.

Many businesses offer student discounts, even if they don’t advertise it. Get into the habit of asking whether there are any student discounts when you’re dining out, going to the movies, or shopping.

Major retailers like J.Crew and Best Buy offer discounts for college students. And if you’re in the market for a new car, some manufacturers will give you a deal – or you can ride UTA for cheap until you pick up your new set of wheels. Need a new laptop? Most major tech companies also offer student discounts, including Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Sony, and HP.

4. Buy – or don’t buy – strategically.

Yeah, yeah, we all know that buying used textbooks saves some cash. But what about other ways to cut costs and still get what you need?

If there are four books on your comparative literature reading list that you’ll never read again after class is over, check them out from the library instead of buying them. If you’re not sure whether you’re going to like the community softball team you just signed up for, buy a used bat and glove instead of heading to the local sporting goods store. It’s better to wait until you’re sure you’ve found your favorite new hobby before you invest in new equipment.

Still stressed about your budget? Our Grow program will put extra cash in your pocket when you open a new e-checking account or activate a Visa Platinum Rewards Credit Card. It’s available for a limited time, so sign up before the first day of classes.