OGDEN -- How can university students make their tuition manageable, keep their costs down, and limit their debt as they work toward the degrees that may help get them a better job in a career of their choice?
That was the topic this week at Weber State University at a Financial Wellness Workshop hosted by WSU's Center for Diversity and Unity.
Kaitlyn Ott, a WSU Student Wellness Center intern, shared ideas on common sense budgeting ideas and services available to WSU students.
"Avoid unnecessary debts like the plague," Ott said, laughing. "We know debt is needed in our lives. Lots of us have student loans, and lots of us will eventually buy a house, and we'll need to accomplish the things we need in our lives, but is credit card debt always necessary? How about if we have a lot of interest on the debt we are not paying down. We live in a culture where we don't view credit card debt as detrimental to our future."
Ott advised making a payment each month toward the eventual retirement of student loans. She also cautioned her peers about using loan money for non-educational purposes.
"We all have living expenses," she said. "We all need to eat, but try not to use the money for things that don't move you toward your goal of graduation."
Ott urged her listeners to shop around for the best loan packages, and make extra payments when possible. Students should also apply for scholarships and other financial aid, she said. A good starting point is WSU's website.
Anyone can save money by eating at home and packing lunches, Ott said. A $6 fast food lunch every day adds up to $30 per week and more than $120 a month. Using groceries to make a sandwich at home feeds you at about a third of the cost, Ott said.
Part-time jobs help make ends meet, and Ott said on-campus jobs are a good choice because they cut travel time between work and classes. Some on-campus jobs come with tuition waivers, she said.
Ott suggested using alternative transportation, saying the average student pays $200 a month for gas, and an academic year UTA bus pass costs just $20. Students can study on buses, and avoid parking hassles and ticket costs. Riding a bike, carpooling or walking also cuts or eases parking problems, she said.
For consumer goods and services, Ott suggested buying generics for items like milk and toilet paper. Clothing and furniture can be purchased used. The WSU Bookstore rents textbooks, as do several online services. Textbooks can also be purchased used.
Students can get discounted or free services from the Student Health Center and the Dental Hygiene Clinic.
Setting a budget will keep spending on track, Ott said. She also suggested tracking your expenses on sites like www.smartpig.com or www.mint.com, and examining your spending habits for possible improvements.
Students have access to WSU's pool and recreation center. Students and the public can plan cheap recreation by camping, hiking, or looking for free activities on WSU's monthly events calendar.
Ott said staying on track academically is vital. The faster students can complete their degrees, the faster they can qualify for higher paying jobs in their chosen career fields.
Contact reporter Nancy Van Valkenburg at 801-625-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @S_ENancyVanV.