Live cheaply by managing your finances


Ben Tschetter

Student chefs prepare a traditional Korean meal on Feb. 8 for Spice Box Guests. The Spice Box is a student-run restaurant located in Bevier Hall featuring themed pre-fixe menus.

By Nicholas Beckham , Contributing Writer

College students, according to the general consensus, are notorious for having low incomes. This idea is based on the reality many young adults face. To a certain extent, it is inevitable, especially for those who receive little or no outside support from family. The jobs many students work tend to have low pay, and those with busy schedules find they just can’t work very many hours. But even if it is not ideal, learning to better manage finances can prove to be beneficial.

Housing is a large but necessary expense. Public and the various private housing options differ in price. Though expensive, public housing provides amenities such as laundry and internet service. Apartments vary in price largely due to location. Living farther away from campus may be inconvenient, but it is often cheaper due to less demand. 

Food is another large expense, but it is also necessary. To take full advantage of a dining plan, a student should be sure to use their cafe credits and all of their classic meal credits. The price of a classic meal varies depending on the time of day, but they average about ten dollars. Dining plans are expensive, at least $4,500 a year for even the cheapest options. If one doesn’t regularly use their credits and is not a freshman who is required to have a plan, it would make much more sense to cancel. 

There are many cheap dining options on campus, from locally owned businesses to chains. Many restaurants will offer boxes to take home food you don’t finish. Food can be inconvenient to prepare in a dorm room, but buying groceries is relatively cheap compared to restaurants. Groceries tend to offer much healthier options than fast food locations like McDonald’s, which is also important to consider. Those who consume a lot of coffee may want to invest in their own coffee maker, as popular locations like Starbucks tend to be expensive. 

There are many good strategies for buying things like cosmetics and hygiene products. It’s usually better to buy bullk sizes if it can be afforded, as they tend to cost less in the long run. Some stores like Walgreens have loyalty rewards programs that can help save money, as do online stores. It’s also important to remember the McKinley Health Center before going to the pharmacy. They offer free items to students such as bandages, Ibuprofen and many other health items. 

There are many cultural and entertainment events on campus completely free of charge for students. There are also parks, libraries and discounted events as well. While relaxing may not be technically necessary, it is important for both physical and mental health, so it shouldn’t be ignored. There are free self-help materials and the Counseling Center through the University for students struggling with stress, depression or other mental health issues. 

Different courses require different kinds of supplies. Money should be saved for the beginning of each semester, as some expenses are inevitable. Though off-campus, Walmart is a great place for cheap school supplies. Textbooks can be found for very low prices on Amazon, though some professors require a new book for their course, so always be sure to check before you buy. The Illini Union Bookstore offers special discounts and coupons and is in a convenient location for many students. The IUB also offers lab safety equipment, which is mandatory for many science courses. While personal computers are very convenient, libraries offer computers to use free of charge. Printing services are also offered, though these services come with a small fee.    

Overall, it is important to remember the advantages and privileges students are offered, though it should also be remembered autonomy from the University can prove beneficial as well. The school offers jobs, as do many of the businesses on and around campus if one is concerned about income. There is also the Career Center for those concerned about their financial future. Part of making money is saving money, so self-control is a very useful financial skill to have. As long as resources are used responsibly, finances can become much less of a concern.

Nicholas is a freshman in DGS. 

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