Budgeting For College: 5 Tips For Incoming Freshman

Your first semester of college can be a nerve-wrecking experience, full of uncertainty, new social challenges, and a new environment all together. Questions and concerns about what classes to take, what dorm, fraternity, or sorority to join, or even what school you are going to attend can make the process that much more daunting.

On top of those big questions, you also have to concern yourself with trivial conundrums, like figuring out what kind of laptop you will need and whether or not to buy your books right away, online, or at the overpriced campus bookstore. The good news is that you’re not the first person to go in without knowing everything!

Here are a few tips to help get you well prepared for the upcoming year without putting a huge dent in your budget. 

1. Picking a Laptop

One of the first things that will go through your mind is, what kind of computer you are going to need. Unless you are in an engineering or science program that might involve running heavy programs, a fancy laptop full of the most up-to-date technology is not necessarily the way to go. There are plenty of laptops on the market that cater to people who simply need a computer with reliable internet capabilities and the ability to make a PowerPoint presentation or write a term paper. Also note the size of your laptop. If your computer is too large, it’s going to be annoying to carry it from class to class and find room for it on your classroom desk or worktable. Furthermore, smaller laptops today have detachable keyboards, giving you the option to use it as a tablet! That’s pretty neat…

With a $300 budget, you can find a Windows 10 laptop, that can also be used as a tablet, and which will last you your entire college career. If you have a history of cracking phone screens and spilling drinks, you might want to go for a larger budget and buy a machine with a metal casing, as opposed to plastic. Just remember, size and practicality are the key factors you should consider when buying a laptop or personal device.

2. Cell Phones

Every person requires a phone, and if you are just going into college, it’s likely your parents have supplied you with a decent one! As tempting as it might be, however, you are better off sticking with whatever phone you have going in for as long as you can. Phones can bring a lot of convenience to your lives, but as the technology in phones advances, there is little extra each new generation brings. If you are really dying for a new phone, however, do yourself some research. There are amazing phones out there for under $100.

3. Buying Class Books 

The great question of going to college is are you being duped into buying new books? I’d personally say, no, but I was an English major! (I ended up getting to buy tons of novels!). More tech-savvy individuals are likely aware of the myriad of ways to get books online, however, there are legal and equally free alternatives. For instance, going to https://openstaxcollege.org/books will give you the option to download many textbooks in a variety of subjects for free! A tried and true alternative to downloading books is buying them used, or renting them. Remember, if you rent a textbook you need to return it! Otherwise, you’ll just be charged the whole retail price further down the road.

Whether or not you obtain all your books is going to be up to you. If you’re a freshman, I suggest picking them all up, since you won’t know if you need them or not for your own personal study methods. If you’ve been in school for a few years, you probably know whether or not textbooks are of any use to you. An alternative approach is to hold off on buying the book, wait to see your class syllabus, and determine how important the textbooks are going to be to the class.

4. Treat Yourself

Go catch a movie or a concert with your friends every now and then; pick up a few video games every semester, and pitch in for gas and go on a day trip out of town. Don’t go too crazy, and be smart about how often you go, but don’t lock yourself in your room all day. Even if you have no extra money, your friends will still let you come along. Just be sure to return the favor down the road!

5. Save a Bit

Lastly, put a little money aside. It can be for use in the summer when you’re trying to decide about sticking at your college or moving back home, going on a trip abroad after graduation, or putting the first few month’s rent down right out of college. Put some money aside so you have some options for once you have to leave the fairytale land known as college!