Budgeting in College: Four Tips to Keep You from Going Broke

Just when you thought you were finally done with stressing out about money, after all of the financial aid calculators, coin counting, and interest calculating, I’m here to tell you that it is not over once you’re in college (and it probably never will be). College and financial stability have a hard time co-existing in the lives of the average student, regardless of financial background. Here are four tips to keep you afloat during the college experience.

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1. Understand your meal plan.

Now that you are a college student, your main access to food is probably your university meal plan. The University of Rochester offers a variety of meal plans based on where students live on campus. Here’s a little more information about meal plans at the University of Rochester from another blog post by Charlotte.

First-year students usually have either a limited number of swipes (gets you into dining halls) with a generous amount of declining (used at on-campus groceries and food centers in addition to some participating restaurants in the city) or unlimited swipes with a limited amount of declining. It is very important to understand which plan you have and evenly spread out your allowed spending throughout the semester. It is usually best to try to go to the dining halls over spending declining when you have an unlimited swipe plan. If you have a generous amount of declining, then you might want to divide your starting amount by the number of weeks in the semester. This will help your plan last until the end of the semester.

2. Be smart about printing and supplies.

If you are a first-generation college student or from an underrepresented minority, then you may qualify for free printing at some of the University’s offices that are dedicated to minority groups. While printing is only a couple cents, after a couple of weeks taking four or more college classes, the coins can really add up. Instead of rushing to the library every time you need to print something, it might be a good idea to consider purchasing a low-functioning printer that can get the job done for cheap if you expect to be printing a lot. Also ask yourself if you need to print. Sometimes just viewing it on your computer is sufficient.

In addition, you can cut back on school supplies spending by attending lots of events during Orientation that involve visiting booths and tables. These kinds of events not only offer tons of valuable information about the University, but they also provide free post-it notes, pens, clips, folders, and many more things.

3.  Use the University shuttle first, then Uber.

Uber and Lyft are finally in Rochester! Now you can get anywhere you need to whenever you want—sounds great! However, it is important that you are mindful of how much you spend on these rideshare services because it really does add up. If you aren’t careful, your summer savings will disappear.

The University of Rochester has a good shuttle system that students and professors utilize for a lot of their travel around Rochester, for free. Some of my favorite shuttles are the red and orange lines which go to Eastman in the downtown area. It is an easy and cost-efficient way to get to the city and enjoy downtown Rochester life without having to worry about travel cost or parking. You can get to a grocery store, the student store, restaurants and cafes, and all kinds of cultural hotspots. Before you decide to call an Uber, check out the University shuttle maps to see if they can get you to your destination.

4. Textbooks

Please do not buy textbooks from the school bookstore if money is an issue for you. The bookstore is the best worry-free option if you want a one-stop shop with all of the books you need in the exact right versions and volumes, but keep in mind that the books are usually full price and returning books is difficult if you realize that your teacher does not actually use the book. If you’re willing to get creative, you can save some money.

For STEM students, most math and science books are available online as a PDF. In general, sites like Amazon usually offer a better deal with a favorable return policy that allows students to literally save hundreds of dollars over the course of their college career. When you are trying to find the best deal, try slugbooks.com for book price comparisons to make sure you get the best deal.


Whether you are financially well-off or struggling to keep up, we can all benefit from saving a little money. I hope these tips will help you save a few coins and the best of luck on your college journey!

About the author

Sharifa Sharfeldden

Hello! I am a member of the Class of 2021, majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering. I am from Brooklyn, New York and I am involved in a variety of on-campus organizations and offices like the Gwen M. Greene Career Center as a Peer Career Advisor (PCA), Student Employment Ambassador at SEO, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers.

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