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Want vs Need: Time to Get Back to Basics


Feeling so stressed about how to pay the bills that you can’t concentrate on homework?

You’re not alone. According to a recent study from the National Survey of Student Engagement (see, “About three-fifths of students surveyed reported that they often worry about having enough money to cover ordinary costs, and students who spend the most hours at paying jobs are, not surprisingly, those feeling the most financial stress. Among those who work more than 20 hours a week, about three-fifths said that their jobs got in the way of school work.”

If you’re part of the majority, we’d like to offer you some tips and options based on actual student experiences on how to reduce stress and improve balance:

Option 1: Change Your Cell Phone Plan

Take a moment and really think about it: do you need to check Facebook, email, and the myriad other apps on your phone throughout the day, or can you do that just as well with a home computer? An old flip phone with a limited plan, or a smart phone with a reduced data plan might suite your needs just fine.

Option 2: Work Part-Time or Reduce Your Hours

If you work while attending college, think about speaking with your manager about working less hours, part-time, or even consider a lower-paying, less-stressful job. Most likely, the job you’re in during college doesn’t align with your long-term career goals. The sooner you complete college, the sooner you’ll start the path to your dream job.

Option 3: Eat Out Less

Consider this: if buying lunch at work costs $7.50, but making lunch at home costs only $3.00, then in a year, you could easily save over $1,000! For dinner, most people could save, on average, $15 or more per meal, per person, by eating at home. If you ate at home just two more times per month, you’d save $360 per year! When shopping for food, use a list and stick to it. Studies show that people who shop with a list buy little else and spend much less money during their shopping experience. Identify publications and online websites before shopping to find coupons, promotions, and discounts.

Option 4: Sell Your Car

For some, this may actually be easier than swapping out their phone! This may seem radical, but take a moment to think of this: if your car payment is more than $300 monthly, consider selling your car and swapping it out for a cheaper car that still meets your needs. Chances are, you need a car primarily to get you from point A to point B. In some cities with good public transportation, you might not need a car at all!

Option 5: Stop Buying, Start Selling

When was the last time you went through your closet and took some clothes to the secondhand store to sell? How about those materials you never used to build that project in the garage that could be posted on Craigslist? A good old-fashioned porch sale is always fun for the whole family and can buy your groceries for weeks, or even months, if you have some valuable items to unload.

Option 6: Internet Only, No Cable

Many have taken this simple step. So much great television is out there on the Internet now that very few need cable to watch their favorite shows. You can always go to a friend’s house to watch Monday Night Football; plus, they get to be the ones to clean up the mess afterwards!

Based on the suggestions above, many college students can easily reduce their expenses by $100 or more per week! This means, for example, if you’re working 40 hours a week with a monthly income of $2,000, you could reduce your work hours to around 30 per week, since you could now live on a monthly income of $1,600 instead!

It all adds up: focus on your needs rather than your wants, and you’ll find more time for homework, more room in you budget, and more success in achieving your new career.

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