Building your back-to-school budget

October 4, 2023

Do college students need a budget?


Prepping for a new semester means choosing your class schedule, picking out your dorm, and joining new extracurriculars. But do you also really need to build a budget? 

While a college degree is one of the best ways to secure your financial future (college graduates can make $22,000 more a year on average than high school graduates), it’s still a pricey investment. The cost of a year of college, including room and board, tuition, and school supplies, averages anywhere from $25,00 to $40,000 a year.

The majority of undergraduate students end up taking out student loans, but a solid budget can help you minimize the amount of debt you take on to complete your degree. Below are our top tips on building a back-to-school budget that sets you up for success this semester. 


Analyze your spending


If you had some fun in the sun this summer, your spending habits may have gotten higher than you want them to be during the school year. Sit down and look at your spending over the past few months and see where you can make adjustments to maximize your budget. 

Consider canceling streaming services to save you money each month (and to save you from the temptation of a Netflix binge when you should be studying). If you spent a lot of your summer eating out, take a look at your school’s meal plans and see if they have more cost-effective options. 

Need an easy tool to track your spending? Try our Esusu Spending Planner! The planner uses the 50/30/20 method of budgeting (50% of your income for needs, 30% for “wants”, and 20% for savings), and is a simple way to get into the habit of analyzing your spending. 



Cut textbook costs


College textbook prices are notoriously high. In 2022, the average student at a four-year university spent $1,226 a year on textbooks and supplies, with the average textbook costing about $105. 

There are options to keep textbooks from breaking the bank. Check to see if you can get an older edition of your textbook secondhand if there aren’t major changes between editions.  ThriftBooks is an online secondhand bookstore and a great resource for finding cheap copies of books, including textbooks. 

And, of course, don’t forget to utilize your local library. While public libraries don’t often have copies of textbooks, if you need novels or biographies, the library just might have you covered. 


Save on transportation


Transportation can be a hidden cost of college. If your campus is walkable or bikeable, you might be able to forgo a car while you’re attending, but if you live and work off-campus, reliable transportation is a necessity. 

Many campuses offer transit passes, giving you access to public transportation in your city or county and saving you potentially hundreds of dollars as opposed to a parking permit. 

If you already own a car, see if refinancing your loan makes sense financially. Esusu residents can access Caribou through the Esusu Renters Marketplace to get some of the lowest interest rates available for car loans, saving you hundreds of dollars over the life of your loan. Caribou customers can see an average of $110 in monthly savings. 


Ready to start budgeting? 


Getting a college degree is an investment, but with these tips, you can maintain a healthy budget and get your semester started off on the right financial footing. 

Want to learn more cost-saving tips and access financial resources? Check out our Renters Marketplace and follow us on Instagram to see how Esusu is helping renters stay financially stable!