COVID-19 has money and the economy on everybody’s mind, especially college students’. Maybe you were just starting your college journey and looking forward to that summer internship to start making some money. Or maybe you were getting ready to leave school and enter the “real world.” If your plans have unfortunately changed, I’m here to tell you that there are things you can do right now to help manage your finances during these unusual times and in the future. Here are four to try right now.
1: Tighten Your Budget and Save Where You Can
The best thing you can do for yourself right now is make your money last and plan for the future. Especially if your summer internship or future job plans have fallen into limbo, now is the time to adjust your budget to match that reality.
Focus on these three things when rethinking your budget:
1. Prioritize spending on essentials like food and housing. Plan several months ahead: there’s no telling how long quarantine will last. Use a notebook, spreadsheet, or budgeting app to keep track of your finances.
2. Don’t spend if you don’t have to! Specifically... Cut down on things you can live without: online shopping, subscriptions, luxuries, etc. Avoid traveling (you should be staying home anyway!).
3. Minimize eating out. Most food delivery costs $10, minimum. If you’re ordering food daily, that’s at least $70 spent every week, for just a single meal. Cooking is more cost efficient. With the $70 spent on delivery, you could probably feed yourself three meals a day from the grocery store, if you know how to shop frugally.
2: Slow Down With that Credit Card
This tip is all about minimizing your risk for the time being. Say you’ve been regularly using your credit card before quarantine, paying the full balance each month. Everything has been going fine, but then you get hit with an unexpected bill. Once you take care of that bill, will you have enough left to pay your credit card balance?
If not, you’ll start to owe interest, which increases the total amount you pay for what you bought. And if you miss payments, you could face damage to your credit score. Even if you have an internship or job lined up right now that could provide some income in the future, it’s better to play it safe in the present. Things could change, and no matter what your situation becomes, credit card companies will still expect you to pay. Keep that balance as low as possible and only use your card if you have to.
3: Look for New Sources of Income
If you’ve lost upcoming opportunities, here are some things you can do right now for additional income. See if there’s anything you can sell or have refunded Go through your wardrobe and see if there are clothes you don’t wear anymore that you could sell. Sites like ThredUp and Tradesy are good places to start (there are also many others). The market for used books is hot right now, with more people spending time indoors and having time to read. Sites like BookScouter and others are great resources for selling used books (including textbooks). You could also look at more established marketplaces like Amazon. Finally, if you had a vacation or other travel planned, see if you can get those costs refunded. Consider a side gig if you’re willing and able. There are still a lot of businesses that have remained open and need workers. Some popular ones include food delivery services, grocery stores, and online tutoring sites. Of course, the main consideration here is your health and safety: if you do decide to work, make sure you have the right safety gear and are able to stick to social distancing guidelines. If you’re really strapped for cash, try alternatives like short-term loans. Many companies that offer such loans are aware of the needs of college students and may offer special plans for repayment.
4: Continue the Job Hunt
Believe it or not, a lot of companies are still hiring. Coming out of quarantine with a job would be a huge bonus for your financial security. Now’s a great opportunity to brush up that résumé and practice interview skills, especially for phone and virtual interviews. In addition, you could get in touch with your school’s career advancement office to see whether any opportunities have become available. You can also continue the search online. Intern Queen is still here to help, as well as many other websites specifically geared toward helping college students.
The Smartest Money Move Is Being Proactive, Not Reactive
College students already deal with a lot, and quarantine has made life that much more complicated. I know that managing your finances seems like just another burden that you have to juggle, but it’s one of the most important things you can do for yourself right now. If you follow these recommendations, you’ll be better prepared for the present and poised to hit the ground running when things start normalizing.
About the Author: Bari Goldman is the content specialist at Boro, a personal finance platform for college students. Previously, Bari served as the Director of Communications at the Illini Hillel, as well as the social media director for the Indiana Daily Student. Bari has her master’s in Strategic Brand Communication from the University of Illinois and a bachelor’s in journalism and Jewish studies from Indiana University.