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When you are living off campus for the first time, you’ll find yourself in for some shocking realizations about just how much things cost. If you want to be sure that you won’t be living on ramen noodles for the last few weeks of each semester, you need to get a handle on your finances fast. Learning a few tricks to make your money go farther can help.

1. Learn to cook at home.

Even fast food can be an enormous expense if you eat it at every meal. Instead of scouring the value menu, start looking online for simple recipes. Simple foods like roast chicken, omelets, quesadillas and the many iterations of beans and rice can make a meal better than you’d get in the university cafeteria at a fraction of the cost. Check out cooking sites like Budget Bytes, Serious Eats and TheKitchn to get started on your cooking education.

2. Work out in the apartment fitness center.

Gym memberships can eat up $20 or $30 a month, and that’s before you consider the temptations of $5 wheatgrass shots and smoothies. Many people living off campus discover that their apartments feature high quality fitness centers on site. Not only do these help you save money, they make it more convenient to work out.

3. Take advantage of student discounts and perks.

Investigate the perks that are available through your university. Some offer discounted or even free bus passes. Other schools offer deals with local providers for internet or other services. It may feel awkward to ask if a student discount is available at the movies or other entertainment destinations, but when you’re living off campus the savings are worth it.

4. Remember that little costs add up when you’re living off campus.

A daily candy bar from the vending machine or a latte from the coffee shop may not seem like a huge expense. But, over time, these tiny expenses add up to a big bite in your wallet. Instead of buying a snack on campus, bring one along to stave off hunger. You can also make coffee at home and pour it into a thermos to drink on the go.

5. Repurpose that wardrobe.

When you’re tired of the outfits you have and want something new, don’t head to the store. Instead, invite friends over and go shopping in one another’s discarded duds. Clothing swap parties allow you all to enjoy new-to-you items without shelling out any new cash. Chances are you all have taste that is similar enough to be able to find something exciting to liven up your wardrobe.

When it’s your first time living off campus, it can take a little while to get used to minding your money. But, attention to your finances and a little discipline will leave you more comfortable, better fed and with a nice cushion in the bank.

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