Student Money Management Guide
Managing money can be especially difficult for students on a tight budget, so we have put together a few ideas to help make it easier. On these pages you'll find tips for stretching your dollars. If it seems like you spend more time worrying about money than you do studying, take time out to examine your budget and develop a plan that works for you.
Your budget plan will succeed only if it reflects your personal needs and priorities. Make sure the money you spend provides the things that are most important for your education. Housing, food, health care, books and registration fees are the basic expenses that you will need to continue your education. You should use your income to cover these expenses before you consider luxury purchases such as CDs or expensive clothing.
Credit and Banking - Say NO to credit cards. Not only do you pay finance charges, but you may be tempted to buy more than you can really afford. If you feel you must use a credit card, do so for emergencies only. Open a savings account and make regular deposits. When choosing a bank, compare monthly service charges and ask about any additional costs, such as buying checks, costs for overdrafts and stop-payment orders. Avoid the ATM fast-money trap. Try to limit the number of visits to the ATM. Some banks charge a service fee for each transaction, which can add up quickly. If you use an ATM, withdraw small amounts and don't forget to record the transactions in your checkbook. Balance your checkbook each month; your bank statement provides step-by-step instructions. If you need help, ask for customer assistance at your bank or credit union.
Housing - The UC Davis campus in Sacramento does not have onsite housing. The Office of Graduate Medical Education provides information on a variety of available housing options. Make sure you understand the terms of your rental agreement; rental agreements should be in writing and you should read them carefully before signing. Ask your landlord for a model lease or the month-to-month rental agreement approved by the ASUCD Fair Housing Committee. Find a roommate! Sharing your apartment with one or more roommates will substantially reduce your monthly expenses. You may also want to consider a room in a private home; these are available with or without kitchen privileges.
Food - Develop a weekly meal plan and shop with your plan to guide you. Pack your lunch and avoid fast-food places. If you do eat out, use coupons and look for the best food at the most reasonable cost. Invest in a cookbook (thrift stores carry used ones) and prepare meals at home. Compare prices at different stores and use coupons. Buy house brands and generic products--they are generally less expensive. Buy bulk amounts of dry goods such as rice and flour. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. Check out the various farmers markets in Sacramento and surrounding communities. Consider joining a food co-op. Go food shopping with friends and roommates. Eat something before you shop, and never shop for food on an empty stomach!
Utilities & Telephone - Check into the variety of money-saving rate plans offered by telephone and utility companies. Remember to figure installation costs into your budget. If your computer uses a modem and/or an internet service provider (ISP) to access the Web, add that to the cost of your phone bill. Find out how to connect to online services through UC Davis Computing Services or the School of Medicine's ISMED department. Keep track of long-distance calls, and compare your records with your monthly bills. This is especially important if there are several roommates using the same phone. If you purchase a cell phone, look for the best plan that works for you with the minutes you need. Beware of extra roaming charges, and early contract cancellation charges. Ask the operator for credit if you misdial a long-distance call. Write letters, e-mails and send postcards--your family and friends will enjoy hearing from you! Send pictures too! To reduce your utility bill and save energy, turn off your lamps, TVs and stereos when not in use. Set the thermostat at 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to conserve energy. If you and your roommates are renting a house, ask if you will be required to pay the utilities (water and garbage collection) as part of the rental agreement. Take shorter showers, don't run the water when you brush your teeth and set the sprinklers on a timer.
Transportation - Bicycling and walking are the cheapest means of transportation. Unitrans buses offer transportation to and from the UC Davis campus in the city of Davis. The university also provides a dedicated shuttle bus which runs between campus and the UC Davis medical center in Sacramento. For other trips, Sacramento Regional Transit, the Greyhound Lines and Yolobus serve the surrounding areas. Bus schedules are available online and at bus stops. Try something different and take the train! Amtrak offers service to San Francisco or Tahoe for a reasonable cost. If practical, avoid the expensive habit of driving a car. The combination of high fuel and oil costs, insurance, maintenance and parking fees (and parking fines!) can make a car a major financial burden. If you are planning a trip, be sure to consider a carpool or check ride share bulletin boards for listings of rides and riders wanted. Parking Services provides information about a wide variety of alternative transportation methods.
Recreation - Participate in your favorite sport. UC Davis offers more intramural sports than any other UC campus, so you're sure to find a sport you enjoy (see Recreational Sports). The campus Activities & Recreation Center (ARC) is a great place for fun and healthy resources. Relax in the ARC lounge, lunch at the Center Court Cafe or treat yourself to a massage at the Wellness Center. You might like to go see a movie on campus; the campus cinema shows the latest films at a reasonable cost. The campus also offers a variety of music and dramatic events throughout the year at special student and discounted rates. Schedules of events and ticket information are available on the UC Davis Arts & Culture Web site.
Clothing/Personal Expenses - Shopping in thrift and consignment stores can be fun, and you may find some real treasures! Avoid dry clean-only clothing purchases. Factory discount outlets offer quality name-brand products at less than cost. If you are planning to drive to go shopping, take a few friends and share the cost of gas. Many bookstores and music stores offer less expensive used books and CDs. Avoid late fees and fines by returning books and rented items on time.
Health Care - To do your best in school it is important to take good care of yourself. For those times when you're not feeling well, health care is available through Western Health Advantage (WHA) (for medical and dual-degree students) and the Cowell Student Health Center (for all other students). Students who are not covered by their parents' or another health insurance policy may obtain coverage through WHA (toll-free (888) 563-2250) or Cowell ((530) 752-6055). Feeling a little overwhelmed and just need someone to talk to? Check out counseling services through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at (530) 752-0871.
Pets - If you have a dog or a cat or any other type of pet, or if you are considering adopting one, don't forget about pet expenses in your budget. Food, grooming and health care expenses for your pet can be considerable. Consider carefully whether you have sufficient time and money to spend on a pet before taking on this responsibility