Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema
The financial burdens for low and middle-income families have been amplified by blows from the pandemic and the ensuing increasing inflation. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices increased by 7% and energy prices rose 27% compared to last year. Today, students here at Case Western Reserve University are being affected by the current situation, especially those who drive to campus, buy groceries or buy school supplies.
Furthermore, the current inflation impacts college tuition fees. Some institutions are raising tuition fees in response to higher living costs as well as their staff’s demand for higher wages and benefits. According to NBC News, several institutions have announced tuition fee increases as high as 4.7% for the next academic year. CWRU itself is raising tuition by 5%, citing the recent surge in inflation as the main factor behind the decision.
While some college business officers are expecting inevitable tuition increases, some college officials are trying to prevent this from happening. For example, David Jewell, the Senior Vice President of Business Affairs and Chief Financial Officer at Cleveland State University, expressed his concerns about tuition increases. This is because postsecondary enrollment across the nation has declined by nearly half a million since the pandemic began, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Thus, increasing tuition fees will likely worsen college enrollment decline over the next few years.
Even if tuition fees don’t increase exorbitantly, the rising costs of food and energy will lead to more expensive student meal plans and accommodation fees, for instance. This is expected for any college administration since they will have to cover increased operating costs.
As a student, you have no control over the rising tuition fees, making your pursuit of a degree even more difficult. College students are already stressed out with their coursework; additional financial worries add fuel to the fire. However, making a few plans and changing some habits can make your budget look better amid this bout of inflation.
Track your Expenses
While it may seem difficult to frequently track your expenses, it is an important first step in financial management. You should list all your monthly costs: rent, utilities, gasoline, groceries, entertainment and other personal expenses. Categorizing your spending will help you see your spending patterns, allowing you to separate essential and non-essential items in your list. Doing so will let you decide where you can cut back.
Prepare Meals at Home
You can save money by preparing meals at home. For example, I have seen some of my peers cooking all of their meals for the week on Sundays. Another way to cut outside costs is by making your coffee or your smoothies at home. If you track your past expenses and add up the money you’ve spent on purchasing fast food or lattes, you’d probably be shocked at the monthly total.
Use Coupons Regularly
Over the long term, using coupons regularly can save you a great deal of money, especially since most grocery stores offer discounted or on-sale items if you look out for them. Before shopping, visit Groupon or Rakuten for any coupons, rebates or deals. If you continue to use coupons and play your cards (or coupons) right, you will find that you could save up to 50% of your grocery’s monthly budget.
Around popular holidays or events, people become tempted to shop and buy gifts for their families and friends. However shopping during seasonal holidays can cost more money than planned—especially when the item is highly in-demand and thus more expensive. Hence, it would be a good idea to take advantage of bargains if you want to purchase something during off-season times. For instance, you can buy summer clothes during the winter or vice versa.
If you were a frequent gym-goer during the winter months, and all you did was some cardio workouts, then perhaps you don’t need to continue with your monthly gym membership during the spring and summer months. If you live in a walkable community such as CWRU, you may want to walk, run or ride a bike outdoors—this costs you nothing. Not only will you save some money, but you will also get fresh air, improve your mood and get some vitamin D from the sun.
The current increase in inflation is definitely beginning to put a strain on our budgets, and it will probably get worse before it gets better. Coping with this requires us to track our spending habits, to look for cheaper alternatives and to figure out ways to make savings a routine. This should help us worry less about potential financial burdens and stay focused on our academic and personal goals.