April 1, 2013

How to Create a Budget with Your Scholarship

The cost of higher education can be daunting when looking at tuition, room and board, books and transportation.  Scholarships provide an excellent source of financial relief to the burden of college expenses for students that have proven they are responsible enough to maintain a high GPA, show fortuitous athletic prowess, or make a worthy impression to financiers through essays and submissions to scholarship applications.  However, even with scholarships, unforeseen expenses can put a damper on a student’s college experience. 

Your scholarship budget should account for many variables.  Students should take the time to plan a budget that not only includes the essentials, but also accounts for unforeseen expenses like road trips, supplementary texts, tools, and equipment (think laptops, iPads, or graphing calculators). 

The Essentials

Tuition aside, the cost of housing, utilities and food are the best way to put your scholarship money to good use.  You can really stretch that dollar a few simple ways. Don’t always eat out.  Cook meals as often as you can.  Look for bargains at local discount outlets or rummage sales where you can score portable grillers and waffle presses, miniature refrigerators, blenders and microwaves.  Learn a few recipes and impress your friends while staying well-fed on a budget.  Ramen is its own food group for students worldwide. 

Save big on supplies and textbooks by buying used.  It’s not uncommon to pay over $100 for a single textbook.  Check your university’s student center for fliers from students trying to unload old books, calculators, and equipment.  Also, the campus library may have many of the same resources available for free to students, plus free internet.

Unexpected Expenses

The library might not be open all night, so sometimes having your own laptop might be the best way to stay ahead of your studies.  Whether buying for the first time, or replaced a damaged unit, check the local paper and pawn shops for bargains on electronics.  Perhaps saving a little money and buying an iPad or a tablet would be a great investment.  Apps and portability give tablets the ability to function beyond the performance of traditional laptops, and are excellent tools in the classroom for students and teachers alike.

Prepare for unplanned road trips.  Class trips, extra credit assignments and de-stressing mini-vacations are all a part of student life.  Make sure your vehicle is inspected, your insurance is up-to-date, your tires are inflated, and you are gassed up at all times.  If you don’t drive, then make sure you’ve always got a little gas money to offer your friends, token money for subway travel, or cab fare. 

Travelling Abroad

For students travelling or studying abroad, learning the language and customs of the locals should be priority number one.  Knowing what to say or how to ask for directions will save you time and money when trying to reach a destination. 

When looking for places to stay, look into hostels, or arrange for a place to stay by reaching out through social media formats like Reddit or Facebook.  

Look for a good deal on a bicycle—usually a university can be seen as a microcosm of a city, so everything you need is within only a few blocks, plus it’s great exercise! 

Frugal Tips for Any Situation

·        - Student Unions are a great, free source of entertainment.
·        - Always travel with a group—you will meet new people and will cut down on costs
·        - Get a part-time job.  A little extra cash on top of your scholarship will always come in handy.
·      - Save a little.  Set aside some of your unused scholarship for rainy day, and resist dipping in unless it’s necessary.

Financially planning days, weeks, or even months ahead will be a life-long lesson that can be beyond university.  There is no better education than learning how to study smart, play smart and spend smart. 

Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help students stay financially savvy and save money with NerdWallet student credit cards.


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