Going to college is a daunting prospect; for many of us, it’s our first very taste of independence away from our home and adulthood. Being an adult is hard—we need to buy our own groceries, tidy up our own spaces, plan our own time, and, most intimidatingly, planning our own finances. Putting together a budget and sticking with it is no easy task, especially in New York City, where everything is overpriced. However, don’t worry! With a few tips, Spectrum will help you to rock your first year at college without breaking the bank!
Download a budget app
Simple, right? Oftentimes, the hardest part is to get started. By downloading a budget app, you are already one step ahead of the game and preparing yourself to save money better. A budget app will not only give you the right mentality in managing your money, but also keep you in check. While some apps are directly linked to your bank account, others allow you to set a budget and log your expenses manually. Some of our staff favorites include MINT and Fudget. Hopefully with the help of these apps, budgeting will become more manageable.
Utilize meal swipes
Whether you are enrolled in the 15-meal-per-week or 19-per-week meal plan, trust me—you are most likely not going to be able to use all your meal swipes. Let’s be real. With its abundant offerings of restaurants, NYC just has so many temptations. While Spectrum encourages you to try out new restaurants and treat yourself when dining hall food just does not suffice, eating on campus is still one of the easiest ways to save money. In JJ’s, with a express swipe, you can choose four items from a myriad of choices including Chobani yogurt, instant oatmeal, granola bars and mini cereal. According to unofficial data, each swipe is worth almost 12 dollars, so don’t let them go to waste.
Visit your local thrift stores
SoHo is full of temptations: designer brands, streetwear stores, local boutiques—you name it. It is so easy to indulge an afternoon on Lafayette or Prince Street, but before you know it, you are getting a notification of low balance from your bank account. The best way to channel these desires to spice up your closet without exhausting your wallet is to visit thrift stores instead. New York City has an abundant collection and choices for thrifting, including Goodwill, Housing Works uptown, and Buffalo Exchange downtown. Have fun thrifting!
If you are a caffeine drinker, invest in a coffee machine or buy your own tea bags (or settle for Ferris/ John Jay coffee/tea)
A coffee a day keeps your mind awake. Or a tea. Regardless, if you are a caffeine consumer, consider getting a coffee machine or a kettle and tea bags for your dorm. Alternatively, you can also settle for Ferris or John Jay coffee or tea. New York coffee, like all other goods here, is expensive, and five dollars every morning will build up quickly into a bill that will not be pleasing at the end of the month. An investment will be worth it in the long run.
There you have it: four quick tips for budgeting at college! As hard as it is to balance a budget and have fun in the city simultaneously, it can be done, and we believe in you! Managing your money wisely and having a budget will make enjoying yourself and utilizing the opportunities and cool activities offered by Columbia and this city much more accessible. Whether that’s taking a trip to Brooklyn, going downtown, or visiting the Guggenheim, some fun is worth a little saving.
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