Save money during back-to-school season
July 30, 2008
LINCOLN, Neb. – As food and gas prices climb ever higher, students must be ever more conscious of how to spend their money wisely as they start the college school year. Among the greatest costs for students are living expenses, said Kathy Prochaska-Cue, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension family economist.
“One advantage of living in a dorm is you know what the cost is going to be for rent and utilities,” she said. “People who live in apartments are going to have to allow more money for heat in the winter and cooling in the summer.”
Utility and meal costs are both figured into fees for staying in a dorm if a meal plan is included.
Prochaska-Cue said the best way to keep expenses in check is to make a budget before spending money. She said including loans and scholarships as income sources in budgeting can help give an idea on how much money is available. Setting a future financial goal, such as having little or no student loan debt by graduation, can help as well when planning in the present.
“It’s the whole thing with needs and wants,” she said. “If they can get a handle on that and stick with the needs first, students are going to find that costs for education are going to be less.”
Priorities for students may include student fees, books and anything else needed for classes. Buying school supplies in bulk can help cut down on costs.
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To save money on fuel costs, Prochaska-Cue said students should try to take a bus. City buses are free to ride for UNL students, and taking the UNL bus between East Campus and City Campus also is free. She said riding a bike as much as possible when the weather is pleasant can save money as well.
Food costs are a concern as prices increase. Alice Henneman, UNL Extension educator in Lancaster County, said choosing between needs and wants is important for grocery shopping as well.
“It’s crucial now more than ever to invest in the kinds of foods that are the healthiest for you,” she said. “Go for quality foods rather than quantity.”
This could mean not buying highly processed foods, because they are more expensive. Certain beverages may be high on calories but low on nutrients.
“The thing about pop is that it satisfies your sense of thirst but it doesn’t really do anything for how full you feel,” Henneman said.
Students also can save money on clothes. They should decide how important new clothes are. Students should think about functional, sustainable clothes rather than the latest fashion trend.
She also said tension could be generated between parents and children over what is and isn’t necessary to buy for school.
“Parents may not understand what students think they need to have. The best thing to do is talk it out and try to come to some compromise in the whole discussion.”
Arguments may come up when deciding what kind of cell phone plan or laptop a student wants, Prochaska-Cue said.
She said the national average for student debt upon graduation is $27,000. For that reason alone, students must budget and make smart decisions about what they should or shouldn’t buy.