Cindy Jones didn't know how to develop a budget. A single mother with two children, she knew the pinch of poverty, but she had no idea planning her expenditures could alleviate it. Her life was in fact an example of what happens when you don't plan: fast food dinners and impromptu splurges at Macy's and five-dollar cafe lattes. And $30,000 in credit card debt.
So when Cindy decided to go back to school, she knew it was time to keep closer track of her expenditures. For a while, it was trial and error, but she soon learned the following lessons:
1. Eat at home. That's right: Avoiding fast food is the easiest way to save money. For students, who often succumb to the temptation to eat a quick and easy meal, this is quite important. It can mean the difference between paying tuition - and not paying it.
2. Avoid all unnecessary debt. Nowadays, there's no guarantee of a job after graduation. That means students need to keep a close eye on how much money they are borrowing. Shun credit card payments like the plague unless their absolutely, positively inevitable. Try not to carry a balance on any credit accounts. Rather, pay it off at the end of every month if you can.
3. Live at home. This tip applies more to younger students, but even older students can pair up with their parents. By living at home, you stand to save over $10,000 a year. For many, that covers the cost of tuition alone.
4. Avoid pet ownership. Universities are often lonely, hostile places. It's not surprising, then, that many students adopt cats and dogs to keep them company. But pets cost big bucks - bucks that would be better saved for, you guessed it, tuition and supplies.
5. Resist the urge to jet off. Spring break may seem like an inalienable right of every college student, but, really, it's an unneccessary expense. Avoid sinking your student loans into a beach vacation and enjoy a "staycation" instead. This means staying at home and just, well, having fun! Curl up with a good movie or two, walk around your neighborhood, or chat with your parents. There's ample opportunity for fun and relaxation on a staycation.
Budgeting while a student is one of the most important things you can do. Millions of students each year spend foolishly without thinking of future consequences. They buy cars and live in fancy apartments and travel to exotic cities. But never do they think of themselves ten years down the road as crushed by debt, unhealthy and unemployed.
Cindy Jones discovered the benefits of being frugal. She recently graduated, with a degree in nursing, and is debt free. She credits learning how to budget her finances for her financial freedom. Her children have also benefited from her frugality; already she has started college funds for them.
The lesson here is that you don't need a degree in finance to know the trick to finishing school without debt is to keep your overhead low.
Budgeting for college is especially important when you're enrolled in a distance education program. A distance education student often feels far removed from the classroom and university environment. It's easier for them to spend foolishly. Their studies are almost like a dream and they do not consider the consequences of their expenditures. And so instead of buying textbooks and notebooks and pens improvident online university students buy a second laptop or maybe a Blackberry, never thinking that they have yet to embark on their professional career. They consume away the loneliness they feel as distance education students.
Distance has cruel associations. We think of emotional distance, intellectual distance. It is not a word for the faint at heart. When we hear it we think of jet engines, Germans, the railroad, divorce and stars twinkling coldly on the edge of the universe.
But it need not be that way! Practice fiscal responsibility! Work and money pave the way to success and love! This every student learns through discipline. Think of Cindy Jones. She was poor, she was foolish. Her womb, it was too fertile, her morals too lax. Yet through financial prudence she has carved a life for herself out of fate's stony indifference. Money is power, distance education students. First we must starve ourselves of it, we must restrain our desire. But soon, we can emerge into our Professional Selves, we can ascend to the middle class, we can be happy.
Our factories have been shuttered. Our roads, they crumble. Only the universities offer a chance at advancement. Follow the tips above for frugal living and you shall reap riches beyond measure. Don't eat out! Don't jet off! Don't own pets! Avoid debt! Live with your parents!