How to Make a Fashion Statement on a College Budget

By Alison Stanton

As a college student, you probably feel like you figuratively wear many different hats on any given day. There’s your “in class” hat, your “trying to impress the professor during my oral presentation” hat, the “hanging out in the dorms” hat, and, the ever-popular “heading to my first-ever real job interview” hat.

The trick is to create a stylish wardrobe versatile enough that you’re ready for all of these different situations, without spending a zillion dollars or needing a closet that rivals Ivana Trump’s. Fortunately, it’s more than possible to assemble a fashionable fall wardrobe that won’t require you to take out a massive loan. Here’s where to start.

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5 Smart Budgeting Strategies for College Students (Guest Post)

By Robert Carr. Robert writes full-time for small business, finance and car repair how-to sites.

Some believe the most valuable life lessons are learned in grade school, like being polite, the importance of sharing, and always looking both ways before crossing the street. Others believe critical life knowledge comes from years spent in middle school and high school—useful skills like navigating diverse social landscapes and putting a winning wardrobe together.

College, though, is really when experience comes fast and furious: when you are on your own for the first time, interacting with new classmates and faculty, and completely in control of things such as when, where, and what you eat. Unfortunately, this level of independence can be a challenge for modern college students who enjoy having their own place but may not be ready for adult commitments, including paying the electric bill or creating a grocery budget.

In addition to be being prepared for the rigors of academic life, you’ll need solid financial habits while in college. Master these, and you’ll be the big man or woman on campus. If not, you’ll have a tough time and maybe, gulp, have to head back to the “real” world where your parents set the rules, budget and dinner menu.

College Planning

Here are five strategies for students to manage money while in college:

  • Paperwork is vital, whether you keep actual receipts or use software. This tells you not just how much you’re spending but what you’re spending it on. Bank of America’s Money Management site suggests keeping detailed track of everything for a couple of weeks, then comparing this to income from any jobs, parents, loans or other sources. The difference will be your general budget.
  • Be disciplined. Debt.org, a site dedicated to helping people of all ages reduce costs, reports that it’s not hard to create a budget on paper, but a bigger challenge is having the self-discipline to keep to it. This may mean forgoing regular nights out with friends, or watching TV and making a meal on a Friday night instead of going to dinner and a movie. Your financial institution may even have online or printable templates to help illustrate your planning in action.
  • Be flexible. Though you will have fixed costs like rent and tuition, you’ll have other varying expenses, like your utility bill. Beyond this, you’ll have other unexpected costs that need to be absorbed into your budget, such as repairs to your computer or car. Wells Fargo’s online student budget section points out that you should be ready for everything from a rise in the rent to approval for extra financial aid.
  • Look for ways to save. There are plenty of creative ways to reduce day-to-day costs. See if merchants in town offer a college discount. Consider a roommate or roommates to split costs. Check into ways to combine services, such as bundle.tv that offers Internet, TV and phone service for one monthly price—an attractive option for frugal students who still want all three services.
  • Learn effective credit habits. Creditcards.com suggests paying bills on time, using a credit card for emergencies and then paying it off quickly. Such behaviors will help you build good credit and minimize debt later in life.

Now that you’ve got your budget under control, learn how to maximize your GPA with The Secrets of Top Students.  Order your copy today!

5 Budgeting Tips For High School Seniors Getting Ready For College (Guest Post)

Dave Landry Jr. is a financial consultant and economist dedicated to blogging and the creation of infographics in his down time. He has two young daughters who will be graduating from high school before he knows it, and will be sharing these budgeting tips with them as well. He hopes you find these tips useful for your own pre-college budgeting, or if you’re a parent, will give some of this advice to your children.

Congratulations, you’ve made it through high school! As you get ready for the next big step, it’s important to learn real world skills that will help you transition not only from high school to college life, but also from college life to the world beyond.

Budgeting skills are important in everyday life; learning how to manage your money before you’re on your own in college will keep you from overspending and finding yourself deep in debt. Below are some budgeting tips that will help you get started on to that path to financial security.

1. Learn to track your spending. The first step to creating a budget is to document everything you spend money on or buy. Whether you stick with an old-fashioned notebook and handwritten lists or choose to download spending tracker apps for your smartphone, track everything you spend for at least a month. It doesn’t matter if it’s as small as a pack of gum or a soda from the vending machine at school. While not strictly necessary, it would be good to include notes on your spending behavior, like how you paid for it, where you bought it, and why you bought it.

After a month’s documentation, you’ll have a better sense of where your money is going. If you use apps or a spreadsheet, you can quickly see how much you’ve spent on entertainment, car expenses, clothing, food, and school-related purchases. This will form the base categories of your budget.

2. Learn to develop a budget. Once you’ve established where you spend most of your money, start to set up a budget. The budget will consist of the major categories established during your spending, and will include a space for savings, emergencies, and income.

Ideally, you’ll create this budget on a spreadsheet, or using one of the free online budgeting tools or apps. Once you graduate from high school and enter college or the workforce, your budget categories will change and shift; using a malleable system allows you to customize and adjust as needed.

Establish spending maximums so that your spending doesn’t exceed your income.

3. Pay yourself (start saving). One of the important categories in your budget should be a savings account. Even though interest rates on savings accounts are low right now, putting money in the account is more about the practice and the act of creating an emergency fund, than it is about making your money work for you (even though it is a good idea to start thinking about investments and interest rates).

Whether you’re saving for a rainy day, or towards a particular big purchase like a post-graduation trip or a new car or college, getting into the habit of “paying yourself” and including it on your budget will serve you well in your adult life, when you won’t necessarily have alternative sources of financial assistance.

Learn to prioritize within your budget by putting money in your savings account before you spend any of your income or allowance on entertainment.

4. Figure out financial aid, student loans, and other means of paying for college. Most families will need to rely on financial aid and student loans to pay for school. As you, the student, will need to start paying back the loan as soon as you graduate (up to a six month grace period, or possible deferment if you are going to graduate school), it’s important that you learn as much about your options before taking out the loan. Don’t borrow any more than absolutely necessary for tuition, room and board, and other essentials.

5. Get a summer job. Now that you have a sense of your expenditures, and can project how much you need in order to fulfill all your bills and other costs, you need to start bringing in income. If you’re not already working a part-time job of some sort, consider getting one in the summer between high school and college. Previous work experience can help you get a coveted college job, which will help with bills that the student loan doesn’t cover.

Keeping to a budget isn’t as boring or challenging as it may seem. These are necessary skills that can translate into an opportunity to study abroad, buy that dream car, or have money on hand for an emergency, which greatly reduces stress in the long run. Learning to manage your money is a skill you’ll use for the rest of your life. You can also consider obtaining your education online through affordable programs that offer equivalents of in-classroom learning and degrees. Online degree programs also allow students to pursue their education at their own convenience, allowing them to work full-time to support themselves or a family if need be.


Now that you’ve got your budget under control, it’s time to focus on your grades.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

3 Apps to Keep College Students’ Budgets on Track (Guest Post)

As a college student, you’ve got a lot on your plate: tests, papers, classes, jobs, your social life. It’s easy to let mundane activities like paying bills and grocery shopping fall through the cracks. But you can’t ignore these basic tasks. Before you know it, you’ll find the negative domino effect in action if, say, you forget to pay your electric bill or neglect to make your Internet payment.

Taking control of your finances will allow you to handle academic essentials with ease and peace of mind.

Thanks to rapidly evolving technology, you can enlist smartphones and tablets to manage your everyday life, which will help you make the most of your college experience.

A college student on campus with smartphone

1. Toshl Finance Expense Tracker

Never miss a tuition or car loan payment, and stay in good standing with your landlord with this mobile app, compatible with iOS, Blackberry, Android and other platforms. Maintain consistent and accurate control of your checking account with this free app (or upgrade to the Pro Version for additional features) by creating budgetary guidelines for your spending, then adhering to those guidelines by monitoring your spending. You can rest easy because you know where your money is going.

2. OurGroceries Shopping List

Keep a healthy diet by making sure you don’t come home from work or class to an empty refrigerator. Planning ahead with this free Blackberry and iOS-friendly app will help keep your body trim. An empty fridge can lead to ordering takeout, which is bad for your wallet and your waistline – so making sure you buy healthy and cost-saving groceries with the help of this app will keep you on track and guilt-free. You can also enter in your favorite recipes, favorite ingredients, special trademark seasonings and decadent dessert items reserved for special occasions. Easily edit your grocery lists from your mobile device, laptop or desktop computer, then use your smartphone or tablet while shopping to adhere to your list. Create multiple grocery lists to plan for holidays and birthdays well in advance.

3. ValPak Local Coupons

A free app to save you money is a great double deal. As a college student, what better way to keep your expenses in check than to find useful coupons for everyday items? Just like the bulky envelope that once came in your mailbox, this app gives you the best local deals around. Find deals on dining out, grocery items, laundry essentials, clothing and more with this Blackberry-friendly app.

By creating a healthy budget structure with your mobile phone, you’ll get much more out of your college experience.

Post by Max Cruise
Max is a technology educator at his local community college. He loves nothing more than teaching the next generation about digital trends, and he writes about these trends often.


Now that your budget is under control, make sure you’ve got your grades covered too.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!