It’s no secret that setting a budget and sticking to it can save you money. The trick is doing both and doing it well. That’s what we’re going to explore in our new series – Building a Better Budget. It’s all about how you can save yourself some money with a little budget planning and taking advantage of some useful tried and true tips.
Settling into your first college apartment is always a fantastic and liberating experience.After all, it’s NOT your parents’ place — it’s yours. But with all the expenses of tuition, food, electricity, tuition, books, tuition, transportation, more books, and even more tuition, you can practically go broke just thinking about it.
It’s an age-old problem pondered by students throughout the centuries. How do you keep all your expenses and responsibilities manageable, but still have some left over to cut loose once in awhile?
While everyone’s situation has its unique differences, apartment living features common expenses all students face. When you learn to control these expenses to save yourself money, that’s when the better budgeting comes into focus.
1) Control Your Electricity Use
Apart from tuition and rent, your main expense very likely is your energy bill. Being more frugal with your energy use will save you some money. These savings don’t usually come from any single thing, but from cutting back a little bit across the board. Here’s some simple ways you can do it.
- Replace all the incandescent bulbs. When you first moved in, the previous tenant may left incandescent bulbs in all the lights. Swap these out right away for LED bulbs. Their price has come down recently so that they cost almost as much as CFLs. LED bulbs use a fraction of the energy used by an incandescent bulb. A 60-watt incandescent bulb can be replaced by a 9.5 watt LED bulb. LED bulbs also have an incredibly long lifespan — twenty years by some estimates. Remember not to throw out the incandescent bulbs, though! When you move out, put those old bulbs back in the lights fixtures and take your LED bulbs with you.
- Manage your power. Leaving the apartment? Turn off the celing fans, TVs, and game consoles. If you’ll be gone for more than 20 minutes, turn off your computer. When you leave a room, turn off the light. Kill the energy vampires like your phone charger with a smart power strip. Smart power strips turn completely off after a set period of time. That means anything connected to them – TVs, game consoles, routers, cable boxes, etc. – using standby power will be completely turned off when they are switched off.
- Change the air filter on the furnace/air conditioner. If you are paying for your own heat and air conditioning, a dirty air filter will add to the expense. Dirty air filters clog up quickly, making your heat and air conditioning system run longer to heat/cool your apartment. Make sure you replace it with the correct kind and that it fits properly. Filtered air also protects your health because clean filters help reduce chances for illness or allergies. While it’s best to change the filter every single month, you could be brave and change it every three if you’re really trying to pinch pennies.
- Adjust that thermostat. Whether your thermostat is new-school programmable or an old electro-mechanical one, remember to change the temperature settings when you go out or when you’re asleep. Raise the temperature to 78°F to 80°F while you’re out or asleep in the summer. In the winter, set it to 65°F. Thermostat setbacks really do cut down your energy use, especially when it comes to air conditioning during a Texas summer. In the summer, you should also close your curtains on south and west-facing windows during the day, and during the winter, keep them open during the day but closed at night.
2) Control Your Water Use
If you pay your own water and sewer utilities, it’s important to monitor how you use it, because the more you can reduce wasting it, the smaller your bill will be each month.
- Be water-wise. Make sure all the faucets and toilet valves turn off properly. Water leaks can add 10% to your monthly water and sewer bill every month.
- Flush smarter. About 27% of water used in a home is just to flush the toilet. Older toilets use between 3 and 7 gallons per flush, newer ones about 1.6. You can reduce that amount very easily. One way is to be more selective when you flush. In other words, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” And if that’s a hard routine to adopt, you might also displace the volume of water in the tank by putting a brick into the tank. This reduces the amount of water in the tank and the amount used per flush.
- Stop buying bottled water. Nearly 25% of all bottled water is really just tap water with a fancy label. Factor into that the amount of water used for sanitatizing (washing) each bottle, as well as transporting and distributing the 10 billion gallons sold annually, the huge amount of waste and expense becomes apparent. Save money and reduce waste by reusing just one water bottle. If you want filtered water, buy an inexpensive water filtering pitcher that you can keep in your fridge.
3) Control Your Transportation Use
You have to get to class, but if you’ve got a car, that convenience can also increase your budgetary expenditures thanks to insurance, parking tickets, gasoline, and routine maintenance. Instead of driving your vehicle everywhere, we recommend that you walk, bike, or use public transportation whenever possible. Check out the benefits to your budget (and health!)
- Less driving means lower fuel costs and the emissions you create that cause smog and increase greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
- By biking or walking, you’ll benefit your cardiovascular system and increase oxygenated blood-flow into your brain — which may improve knowledge retention before your big exam.
- You’ll spend less time in traffic jams, less time worrying about finding parking, and spend less money with parking costs (both passes and tickets).
- Depending on where you live, the average annual expense for relying on biking and/or public transportation is $200, compared to over $8,000 for an average car.
These are just a few ways you can stretch your budget and save money in your apartment at college. Your circumstances will vary. A student living in Houston may find different ways to save money than another student living in San Antonio. The point, however, is that by looking at and understanding your expenses, you can learn to control and reduce them. After all, isn’t that what’s education is all about?
if you’ve got some more idea, post them to the First Choice Power Facebook Page. We’d love to hear about them!