Back to School on a Budget

Back to school: whether you dread or look forward to it, it’s an inevitable endeavor we all must face.  Unfortunately, the start of another school year means there are additional expenses to plan for.  Here are our top tips for saving as much as possible.

1.  Learn to cook ASAP!
If you have a little extra time during the summer, take time to learn how to cook to prepare yourself for the school year.  This is especially important for students living off campus for the first time.  Cooking your own meals is way cheaper than getting fast food every day, not to mention much healthier!

2.  Use your meal plan
For those of you still living on campus, take advantage of your meal plan.  In a recent survey, we found that UNL students spend about $300 a semester on eating out, even when they have a meal plan.  Remember: each time you eat out, you’re paying for two meals instead of one by not using your meal plan!

3.  Invest in a Coffee Maker
You may be in the routine of stopping at Starbucks every morning and grabbing coffee, but that expensive habit is costing more than you think.  For example, spending $4.25 on a grande cinnamon dolce latte 5 days per week adds up to over $1,100 a year.  Instead, buy your own coffee maker (many are under $100) and brew your own at home.

4.  Be Textbook Savvy
Textbooks might be the most despised back-to-school expense of them all.  Before buying a textbook, find out if you have friends in the class and offer to split the cost of the book and share it.  You also can check online and find a cheaper alternative-just make sure you’re buying the right edition.  If you really want to buy from the bookstore, try buying it used or renting your book.

5.  Find Free Events
UNL has tons of free events, especially during the beginning of the school year. You and your friends are probably going to look for stuff to do, and there’s no better place to look than on campus.  If you’re living in the dorms or suites, don’t pass up floor events.  They often have food, prizes, and you just might meet some of your closest friends.

6.  Don’t Slack!
Getting back into the ease of studying may be tough, but don’t let a couple of bad grades early in the semester put you at a disadvantage.  This tip might not save you money now, but it will help you prevent failing a class and having to take it over again, which will cost you hundreds of dollars.

Post written by Amanda Owens, SMMC Program Assistant

New Budgeting Worksheets Available

Here at the Student Money Management Center, we love budgeting! We think knowing how much you spend is essential before trying to create a debt repayment plan or saving for financial goals. Often times when people realize how much they are actually spending, they want to cut back. The best way to do that is to create a budget and stick to it. We have created 5 new budgeting worksheets that you can print off and fill out on your own. We suggest starting your budget on paper, and then you can always transfer it to a spreadsheet, app, etc. You are also welcome to schedule an appointment with us so that we can create a budget together! Here are our 5 budget worksheets:

  • On-Campus
  • Off-Campus
  • Off-Campus with spouse and/or kids
  • Alumni/Faculty/Staff
  • High School

Go to to download whichever budget worksheet fits you best. If you would like a little guidance on how to create your budget, check out our How to Start Budgeting handout or our 4-part How to Start Budgeting blog series, both of which can be found at  There is also a holiday spending worksheet to help you plan your spending around the holidays.

Happy Budgeting!

Free Financial Programs

Did you know that we link to a bunch of free financial programs on our website? You can use one of these programs to increase your money management knowledge, and they’re all free! Check out our list of interactive resources at to find these programs and other tools like apps, calculators, games, and quizzes.

One of our favorites is Financial Avenue. Some of the courses that students can go through in Financial Avenue include College and Money, FAFSA, Loan Guidance, Earning Money, Debt and Repayment, and more! These courses include lots of videos and quizzes to test your knowledge. The best part is, you can pick and choose what courses you want to take, so you can focus on the areas that you need help on the most.

As always, if you have questions about our resources or want personalized help, stop by our office in room 237 of the City Union. We’re open 8 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday!