Commencement - May 3 & 4

Plan for your visit to campus to celebrate your graduate. All event details are located HERE

Submitted by Cassidy (Howard) Blankenship, ’23 

Ah, off-campus living – the coveted dream of incoming freshman and underclassmen across the nation.

I remember planning for college in my final years of high school, asking my dad innumerable questions about his own experiences. Mostly, these conversations revolved around his living situation. I’d pick and pry about what it took to live in an apartment with his best friend and shoot pool every night after class. It seemed like the dream. It wasn’t until my college career began, though, that I learned the complexities of this lifestyle.

Now, in my senior year of college, I am living off-campus for the first time. Although the experience itself is everything I could have hoped for, there is not a get-out-of-jail-free card to play on the financial responsibilities that come with off-campus living. So, I’ve compiled a list of the 8 most helpful lifestyle choices and changes I have made to save money as a commuting student. If you plan on living off-campus, I hope this helps you!

Use a budgeting planner or app

This seems obvious, but visually processing a plan for your money is the most helpful step, so do it first. If you’re like me, though, all the math and constant upkeep of a written budget is daunting. The good news? Budgeting apps such as You Need a Budget (or YNAB for short) make keeping up with your finances exponentially simpler. With the option to digitally link your bank account or just keep up with balances manually, YNAB’s algorithm is designed to make budgeting as user-friendly as possible. (And no, they didn’t sponsor this message, this is just the app that I use, and I genuinely love it.) The idea is that, as you assign money to each spending category, you’re given a leftover or “ready to assign” amount that shows how much remains once your primary expenses are covered. Similar apps exist, but YNAB is my favorite! And if tech isn’t your thing, there’s nothing wrong with going old school with a pencil and paper. The point is to have a plan.


I know, cooking takes up time and energy you’d rather spend relaxing, socializing, or whatever else you do in your free time. What cooking doesn’t cost you, though, is extra money. Eating out regularly, even just once a day, is one of the fastest ways to burn through your funds. What’s more, healthy and nutritious options are extremely limited. So, setting aside money to buy actual groceries and ingredients while limiting how much you shell out on restaurant food is one of the fastest ways to notice an improvement in your savings and extra cash. If it helps, plan to set aside a specific amount for each week or pay period for going out to eat and stick to it. Treat it as if every dollar you spend at a restaurant is another you lose from your groceries. Because it is.

Have someone keep you accountable

This may be weird at first, but it actually works. Opening up to someone about your spending habits and areas you’d like to improve self-control in gives an incentive outside of your own willpower to keep up with things. This person obviously doesn’t need to be aware of every cent in your bank account, but they can help you stay on track with specific saving and spending goals!

Use a savings account

Depending on who you bank with, you may be able to set up a savings account that penalizes you for a certain number of withdrawals. This can help regulate an unnecessary amount of flexibility between your savings and spending money. Even without transfer limits, savings accounts are beneficial in visually separating your funds to limit overspending.

Save your change

When I was younger, I had a big blue water jug labeled “Disney funds.” Every coin and spare dollar I got passed through the spout of this bottle until I had over $300 in a matter of months. Of course, this is when I was 10 years old with $0 in expenses, but the principle is the same. You’d be surprised how much money you can accumulate through keeping your change, even in a matter of a few weeks. I keep a change jar in my car specifically for buying coffee when I don’t have time to make it at home. Trust me on this one – this works.

Fetch and Honey

Aside from budget-specific apps such as YNAB, there are a handful of other unique apps and browser extensions to save or get money back. While Honey is a relatively well-known coupon-searching browser extension, Fetch is more of an underdog app. By simply taking pictures of your receipts, you can accumulate “Fetch Points” to be cashed in later for any of a long list of gift cards. No catches, no additional costs. It’s sweet. Certain items are highlighted in a rotating list of bonus-point purchases, but every receipt counts for something.

Limit recurring payments/subscriptions

If you have money coming out of your bank account on a fixed schedule for anything that is not necessary for your survival, ditch it. I’m serious! Recurring payments and subscriptions can land you in some sticky situations. Aside from being generally budget-consuming, these payments also limit spending flexibility and savings by roping you into a contractual cycle of spending. Not to mention their instantaneous withdrawing from your account is easy to lose track of, so they pose a threat for overdrafts and overdraft fees. Yikes.

Necessities before pleasures

If you remember nothing else, remember this. It is not wrong to spend money. Moreover, it is not wrong to spend money on what makes you happy/gives you energy. Even so, you cannot experience true freedom in your finances until you decide to prioritize what you actually need, not just want. When the big, real-life expenses are accounted for first, you suddenly have full range to do whatever you want with the funds that remain. And when you’re budgeting properly, you’ll find this to be a truly liberating way of life.