Students blog

Explore the latest trends, tips, and experiences in college life in this blog written by fellow students.

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    Budgeting for College Students: Ten Tips for Success

    Amanda Smith

    Being a college student, it’s inevitable that you might find yourself one day with a balance of $0 in your account. Whether it is the convenience of restaurants within walking distance, constant social activities with friends, or anything in between – it is easy to lose track of spending. With simple budgeting, you will be able to avoid becoming the latest victim to overdraft charges or insufficient fund fines. Here are 10 tricks that I have found helpful.

    1. Always know how much money you have in your account before you spend it. Contrary to the popular phrase “ignorance is bliss,” not knowing how much money you have while spending is a fast way to a $0 balance – not to mention overdraft charges!
    2. Use a budgeting app for an easier way to stay within your set parameters. I prefer Mint, which allows you to set up categories of spending for each month and sends alerts when you are approaching your limit.
    3. In creating budgets, separate your needs from your wants. Do you need that extra Chipotle bowl? Or can you make your own version for half the price at home?
    4. Allow wiggle room in your budget. It should not be something that completely restricts your lifestyle. John Wooden describes this perfectly in one of my favorite quotes, “Do not let making a living prevent you from making a life.”
    5. Let yourself have a small splurge every now and then. Happiness is key and if spending $3 over your food budget to get ice cream makes you happy, let it happen and adjust your other spending categories that month.
    6. Make your budget reflect realistic amounts. Calculate approximations on how much you can spend and save in a month and stick to it. The more time that you put into planning your budget, the more useful and productive it will be.
    7. Do not forget to think about the long run. In addition to the Mint app, I have an Excel spreadsheet in which I estimate my spending and earnings in the future. In doing this, I am able to plan for 6-8 months in advance of what my balance may look like after a few months back at school.
    8. Try to be as detailed as possible in your long run budget. Consider items such as continuous monthly payments (car, Netflix, rent, etc.) as well as your monthly budgets that you created for the short term.
    9. Look for ways to lessen your costs and don’t be an irresponsible spender. This could include shopping at a more discounted grocery store, using coupons and rewards card, only buying a “want” if it is on sale, carpooling or even sharing an Uber with others.
    10. Stick to the plan while remaining flexible enough to make adjustments along the way.

    It is vital to keep a balance in your account to prepare for your future. College is the first opportunity most students have to manage our own finances. However, with earning money also comes spending money. It’s not a bad thing, as long as your set reasonable expectations for yourself. If you are able to control your expenses now, it will be much easier to invest and plan in the future.  

    What is your favorite money budgeting tip? Share when you retweet my blog!

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    Community Service: Gratification From a Smile

    Amanda Smith

    Community Service acts as an umbrella for many ways to serve. People may find their passion in serving in a food kitchen, others by donating old clothes, however, there are also some that are off the beaten path. Since my junior year of high school, I have found a passion in helping find a cure to pediatric cancer. Over the past 4 years, I have had a helping hand in raising over $2.9 million for this cause contributing to something as big as research or as small as gas money for families commuting to the hospital. I found this passion from working with the kids themselves. Throughout my 4 years of experience, I have found that just seeing a smile can completely change my day.

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    Find a Mentor in Anyone - Including yourself!

    Amanda Smith

    A mentor is defined as “a trusted counselor or guide” (Merriam-Webster). Throughout my life, I have looked for a mentor in all that I do, and have always tried to reciprocate it. Mentors come in all kinds of forms, whether they are defined as a mentor or not. My first mentors were my parents and my grandparents. Family often shapes morals, values, actions, mentalities, and much more from a young age. My family enforced the idea of working hard while always finding time for the important parts of life. As I began school, teachers and friends became mentors. Seeing how my teachers cared for myself and my peers enforced the importance of compassion in my life. Throughout high school and now in college, my friends have become my mentors and my mentors have become my friends.

    As I have gotten older, I have realized that mentors are not always 20 years older who are assigned the role of guidance. My roommates have acted as mentors in classes that we are taking, or decisions about internships and the professional process, or even just building habits such as eating healthy and exercising. Besides being the same age, mentors can be younger as well. I have met various people this year at school who are younger than myself and have such a drive and passion for life that they have inspired me to continue to work towards my goals.

    With each day passing, I look for an opportunity to work in someone else’s life as a mentor, even if it is just in the smallest way.  This semester I have had the opportunity to be the Vice President of Pledge Education for my business fraternity as I have led 17 students through the pledging process preparing to be an active member. My goal for this role was to develop them professionally and personally as much as possible. At first, I found difficulty in this as I have not had as many experiences due to my young age. Throughout this whole process, I learned that there is nothing wrong in asking for help. I have greatly utilized older members of our chapter for various professional events that I planned, because the more well-rounded an event is, the more useful it is for the pledges. Even acting as a mentor this semester, I have had various mentors and learned more about leadership than what I ever could have imagined.

    Throughout the rest of my life, I will utilize the lessons I have learned from my mentors for the past, but always search for more mentors in all that I do. Everyone has a story, and each story has a lesson from it, good or bad. If you are in search of guidance, a mentor is always there to help, even if they do not come across as that right away.