By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
Nearly everyone is feeling the pinch from inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, gasoline, shelter, and food prices have gone up, and the gasoline index rose by 18.3% in March of 2022. Inflation has risen faster than any other time in the past 40 years, causing consumer prices to rise 8.5%.
It seems that everywhere you look, everything costs more. Inflation is coupled with continued increases in the interest rate by the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve has raised the interest rate in an attempt to calm inflation, but that has financial consequences for consumers.
Raises in interest rates will cost us more on anything that we borrow, including car loans and credit cards. The increased cost has special implications for college students who typically live on a budget. Increases in gasoline, food, rent and everyday living expenses creates a substantial financial strain for college students.
Saving Money Starts with Minimizing Your Debt
While remaining committed to your educational goals is important, it is also vital to take every step available to you to mitigate the financial stress coming from these higher expenses. It is likely that inflation will be with us for a while, and there are plans to continue to increase the interest rate.
There are various strategies open to you as a college student to address these higher costs in your life. One of the most important steps you can take is to minimize unnecessary debt.
Some debt may be unavoidable, but debts such as credit card debt should be avoided at all costs. Why? The interest you pay on your balance is carried over month to month, so that will cost you more money than it did a year ago.
If you have a credit card balance that is being carried month to month, consider transferring your balance to a zero-rate balance transfer card that locks in a zero rate for about 12 to 21 months. During that time, you can work to aggressively pay off the debt before the zero-interest promotional period expires.
Buying in Bulk, Using Coupons and Shopping for the Best Deal Are Also Helpful
Another strategy that I have found helpful for saving money is to buy food in bulk. Wholesale businesses such as Costco and BJ’s offer food at bulk prices. For example, you may spend more initially when you buy products in bulk, but the price per item is typically less.
Using coupons and shopping for the best deal on needed items is equally helpful in mitigating rising food prices. Some food pantries even provide food for students experiencing food insecurity.
Increasing gasoline prices can also challenge your budget. One option to reduce the rising costs of gasoline is to pursue online classes such as the courses taught at our University. Our asynchronous format enables you to take classes around your schedule and reduce the costs associated with driving to campus or taking public transportation.
Research Any Fees Involved with Enrolling or Taking Courses
When you’re researching education options, be sure to investigate all the additional costs associated with enrollment and coursework. This information isn’t always easy to find, so it’s important to know the right questions to ask.
Are There Additional Fees?
Does it cost money to apply to your university? Is there a transfer credit fee to have credits from other institutions evaluated and, if accepted, is there a fee to accept those credits? Our University is very transparent about fees and additional costs.
For example, we do not charge students for a transfer credit evaluation or to transfer credits. When calculating the cost of your courses, be sure to include any additional fees into your budget.
How Much Do Books and Other Class Materials Cost?
The cost of books and course materials can add up quickly, and the added expenses can catch you by surprise. It can be hard to know in advance how much books and materials will cost in each course, but it’s important to add some extra money to your budget to cover books and other course material expenses.
Our University offers an undergraduate book grant, so students pursuing a bachelor’s degree don’t have to pay for books. This grant can save you a considerable amount of money over the course of your degree.
Creating and Adhering to a Budget Is Important for Controlling Your Expenses
If you earn a regular income, budgeting is especially important because it helps you understand where your money goes. It’s also a way to identify unnecessary expenses.
In a comprehensive budget, money should be carefully allotted for various expenses, and it is an excellent way to ensure that your money is spent more effectively. There are many budget apps available online.
As a college student, it is important for you to mitigate the impact of rising costs. Speaking with a financial coach may be another option that you can take to reduce your spending.