Budget Challenge: $300 A Month

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Before entering college, rumors of cashing in quarters and strict ramen noodle diets seemed far out. However, we have quickly realized that these “myths” were indeed truths. Whether or not your parents help you out financially, every student lives dollar-to-dollar. Forgetting about rent and utilities, college students can budget to live on just $300 a month.


Food: $40/week

While ordering delivery and eating out is way more convenient for busy students, it’s also the easiest way to overspend.  Sure, $7 for Jimmy Johns doesn’t seem like a bank-breaker, but this favorite for the drunk and the hungry can add up over the course of a month.  Instead, spend $30 on groceries every week and allow yourself $10 a week for eating out. Hello dollar menu! 

When grocery shopping, buy items that are quick, easy and fit your lifestyle.  Do you really want to cook when you’re hungover? Didn’t think so. Think along the lines of lunchmeat, bread, soup and frozen pizzas.  But don’t forget the staples: fruits, veggies and milk.


Transportation: $15/week

We all have places to go and people to see. With gas prices high, 15 bucks is only going to get you a few gallons of gas or a couple blocks in a taxi. Collaborate with friends to carpool and invest in a serious pair of walking shoes, consider it your workout for the day.


Fun: $20/week

A fifth of Smirnoff is $12, but split a bottle with your roommate and for just $6 you can stay buzzed all weekend. Buy a container of lemonade mix or a box of on-the-go packets for cheap and long-lasting 


Bars are expensive. In a matter of three shots, a week’s worth of your budget for fun can be spilling down your throat. Always, and I mean always, leave your debit card behind when you’re hitting the bar scene. Swiping is dangerous.

If you want to check out a movie, see the matinee. Work out a cheap date night with the help of Redbox, a dinner cooked at home and an inexpensive bottle of wine (we’re talkin’ $6-$7). Just be sure to ask your roommates to beat it.


In Case of Emergency: 

College kids slip up; if you know it’s going to be a tight month, plan ahead. Pull money from other sources by saving money on utilities. Make an effort to turn off your lights, utilize natural light when it’s available and burn candles even when you’re not trying to seduce anyone.  Consider line-drying your clothes and don’t be afraid to strip down or bundle up instead of relying on your heating and air conditioning. 

There’s no shame in making a quick buck. Look online for local clinics to give plasma, check your schools’ psychology department for paid experiments or sell your old clothes or electronics. 

Budgeting is something that we all have to learn and eventually master. There’s nothing wrong with roughing it. In fact, during the four years you spend in college, you’re encouraged to rough it and enjoy every minute of it. This is the last time in your life you’ll ever be able to make $300 stretch a month. Good luck!  


Image: Changing Gears

Junior > Journalism/Creative Writing > Indiana University

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