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Things to consider when budgeting for college

If the estimated cost of college seems high, take heart! Helpful staff in the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office can help you identify funding for your educational goals, and a wide variety of campus and community resources are available to you.

Once here, you can reduce your living expenses by making informed choices about how and where you spend your money. UC Davis has partnered with CashCourse.org to provide you with budgeting and financial tools to help you make good choices about your money. Read on for helpful tips about how you can economize on housing, food, transportation and more.

Save Money on Housing

Will you be living in the residence halls? Most students choose double-occupancy rooms, which are shared with one other person. A few single-occupancy rooms are available, but at a greatly increased cost. Even if you’ve had your own room your whole life, having a roommate gives you the chance to get to know another person while you save money. In past years, a limited number of triple-occupancy rooms have been available for the budget-minded. The same size as a double-occupancy room, triple-occupancy rooms typically cost about 18 percent less than a double-occupancy.

If you’ll be living off-campus, consider renting a shared rather than a single room. This can save you as much as $250 a month! Does sharing a bedroom sound like too much to ask? Look for a private bedroom with shared bath for typical savings of $50-$70 a month. Also, apartment rent is usually less expensive than rent for houses with the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms. There are many more apartments than single-family houses available for rent in Davis.

Save Money on Food

If you’ll be living in the residence halls, you’ll be required to purchase a meal plan. Think carefully about your eating habits and available funds before committing to a plan. Consider buying a mid-priced plan for your first quarter, then adjusting your plan as you go through the year. You can upgrade your meal plan at any time during the year, and can downgrade at the end of each quarter. Picking up fast food can be tempting but it will drain your wallet as quickly as it puts on pounds! Instead, consider a late night snack with friends at the dining commons—they're open until midnight, Monday through Thursday.

Off-campus residents can save money on food by preparing more meals at home (including bag lunches) and minimizing trips to restaurants. Grocery stores have regular sale rotations on popular items; learn when your favorites are on sale and stock up.

Aggie Food Connection helps UC Davis students eat health on a student budget by partnering with programs like the ASUCD Pantry, Davis Community Meals, Farm Fresh to You and Yolo Food Bank. Students in need are also encouraged to apply for Aggie Meal Share and CalFresh assistance.

Save Money on Transportation

The easiest way to save money on transportation in Davis is to leave your car at home! Most students bike around town and can use Unitrans (free student bus system), Amtrak, Zimride ridesharing or Zipcar to get out of town or on rainy days. Even if you do bring a car, you can save hundreds of dollars a year on campus parking fees and gas by using a bicycle or Unitrans to get to and from campus.

More Ways to Save

Use caution with credit cards. They’re easily available, and if you use one wisely, you can build your credit for the future. But many college students use them for impulse buys and non-essential items and end up thousands of dollars in debt. Consider getting a debit card linked to your checking account for a convenient, safe way to pay.

Think carefully about what you need and what you can live without. Do you really need designer clothing or an expensive dinner out? Davis is full of fun, inexpensive places to go and things to do. Instead of going shopping or to a first-run movie for entertainment, head to the ARC Pavilion to watch a free basketball game with friends or see what the ASUCD Entertainment Council has planned.

A college education may seem expensive, but if you’re willing to make wise budgetary choices, you’ll find it is an affordable and valuable investment.

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