One of the biggest things I worried about as I started college was how to manage my money during the next few years, when I'll be spending more than I'll be earning. During this learning time, I quickly realized that if I don't budget my money, I'll have none to use. My very first semester of college was insane, to say the least. I came in as a double-major and my first semester course load was over the 18-credit limit. Because I was taking 20 credits, I was limited on my student-worker opportunities and therefore, this limited the amount of money I was earning while at school. Furthermore, to make things even harder, my already part-time job only lasted half the semester. Clearly this was a problem. Although I had plenty of scholarships to cover my tuition, I still had the challenge of providing myself with enough funds to take care of things like gas, clothing/hygiene necessities, unexpected expenses (for example, I had to replace my windshield after it cracked), and leisure activities.
To solve this problem, I started to get creative with how I use my money. I found ways to supplement my student "income" and save on items that could be purchased cheaper. I found ways to share and improvise. For example, when I needed hygiene items, I started to go to the dollar store and find store-brand items that were cheaper. I found the local thrift store to find some basic coats and sweaters for the cold season in upstate new york. I found out that the church I attend supplied students with gas money if need be. When I had unexpected expenses, I researched as many options as possible before settling for the price I got. I started asking for student discounts. As far as leisure expenses like going out with friends, meals off campus or the occasional starbucks drink, I started to limit myself to one "fun" thing per week. I found that I was able to stretch $100 over the entire semester for both starbucks drinks and occasional fast food stops. It almost turned into a game, to see how much money I could save. How little money could I use to buy an item that I really need?
Now, I'm in my sophomore year, and as each semester has rolled on, I've seen how I've become better at stretching my money. Of of the most recent things I've learned to do to save money is order things online. First I find what I need at the cheapest price. Second, I wait for a coupon to come through or for the site to offer free shipping. Third, I order as much of what I need. The nice thing about this is that I don't have to spend gas money to drive to a store and buy something and I don't have to spend shipping money to get the product to me. Granted, it takes some patience to wait for things like this, but overall its been cheaper. While I was initially presented with the problem of how to stretch my money as far as possible, especially with my academic responsibilities putting a strain on how much I could work, I learned to be creative with my budget and work with it!