Art Student on a Budget

Learning how to budget your money before you start your college education is more important than you may think. Whether you have government student loans, saved the money yourself or have an education fund from your parents, it’s equally important to learn this skill. It can be tempting to go on a bit of a spending spree having potentially large amounts of money at your disposal, but being a little frugal will pay off in the long run.

3 Reasons to Learn to Budget:

  1. The more money you spend the more you owe once you are done school. There are a number of things that can happen life wise or otherwise that can affect how quickly you can pay your debt back. Contrary to what you might believe, having a college degree doesn’t guarantee you a job automatically. You may need to take a lower paying job than you were expecting to pay your bills in the meantime.
  2. If you have money put aside for your education, having a little left over might allow you to go on a trip after graduation or in between semesters. It could even help supplement your income while you take an intern position that pays little or no money but is a great opportunity.
  3. Most schools will give you an estimated cost of supplies per year, but sometimes that number is truly just an estimate. You could have unforeseen expenses for things like software or additional art supplies that exceed that original estimate.

 Of course no one can predict what will happen, but there are things you can do while you go to school that can help you stay financially in check.

My Top 10 Art Student Budgeting Tips:

  1. Get a Part Time Job: If your school schedule allows for it, do it. Even a couple days a week can mean a little extra spending money for going out with friends. It will also force you to learn time management and may even be the brain break you need from school now and again. Also, get a summer job in between school years. This is another great way to plan financially for the next year of school. You might be able to save up some money for going out with friends, or unexpected expenses. Getting a job at an art store that offers discounts to its employees, has obvious benefits. It will also allow you an opportunity to get to know different products that might help you in future projects.
  2. Take Advantage of Sales at Art Supply Stores: Many art supply stores have regular sales or coupons. They may not have everything you need for your classes but once you get a handle on what you might need for certain projects, take advantage of those coupons by paying less on those items. Online supply stores have great prices as well, but this requires planning ahead for your purchases. Doing a little online research and price comparison can go a long way to save you money.
  3. Split the Cost of  Bulk or Large Supplies With a Classmate: This is something I wish I had done. I did a lot of life drawing classes in college but I never once went through a whole pad of newsprint for one class. Somehow I still bought a new pad the next year, and now to this day I still have a couple kicking around because it’s not something I like to draw on. I could have easily split the pad in half with a classmate and we both would have had more than enough to do our classes with.
  4. Sell Your Gently Used Supplies or Books to Other Students: You should of course, sell them for less that you paid originally but at least it won’t be money lost in the end. Unless you plan on reading that Art History textbook cover to cover again, it’s best to let it go and have another life with someone else. Alternatively, you can also save by buying used textbooks or supplies. At the college I went to, students would put notices up on the bulletin boards around school for this purpose.
  5. If You Eat Out at Lunch, Don’t for Dinner. At the very least set a limit for how many times you eat out. This may seem hard to do, but if you don’t believe me track how much you spend on eating out for one week then multiply that by your whole school year. Unless your school has a meal program or something equivalent in place, this will save you a lot.
  6. Live at Home if You Can. This may seem like the last thing you want to do, but if you are lucky enough to have free room and board while you are in school, DO IT. It costs a lot to live on your own or even with roommates. You can literally save yourself thousands of dollars by living at home.
  7. Take Public Transit:  If it’s available and safe for you to take public transit, do so. Again there is usually a cost savings for students who use transit and you’ll get some exercise as well.
  8. Participate in School Show & Sale Events: If your school offers an annual or bi-annual art show and or sale,participate in it. You aren’t guaranteed a sale, but as much as you might want to hold on to the drawing you spent hours rendering one night, there’s a good chance it will end up collecting dust in a portfolio in a few years. When you’ve done a pile more work, your skills have improved and you don’t like it as much anymore you will be happy to have given it a new home. (Make sure you photograph it first though, for archiving reasons to be discussed in a later post.) Entering a sale event can get you some potential extra income and also works as a start to your career as a selling artist. Generally speaking, people who support the arts and come to these types of shows love to support the amateur artists. Bonus Tip* Don’t forget to include a business card with contact information on you and your work so a potential buyer can follow your career later on.
  9. Resist the Urge to Buy Professional Quality Art Supplies: Buying smaller quantities of professional products or student grade supplies will feel like less of a blow if you abandoned a certain medium. Doing a little research on brands is helpful here too. Some brands offer great quality in their student grade products as well as higher end versions. Remember you are in art school to develop your skill. Buying professional quality products will not automatically make your work look better in most cases. You have to build the skill level and technique to make that product perform at the level it’s intended to. That being said don’t be afraid to upgrade either if it’s in your budget and you want to try other brands or levels of a certain product.
  10.  Apply for Scholarships: Sometimes it can seem intimidating applying for scholarships because you might think too many people are applying and you don’t have a chance. The thing about that is, you aren’t the only one thinking that way. You have nothing to lose by trying. This is also great practice for applying for artists grants if that is something you need to do in your post college artist career.

    The last thing you want to do after working hard for many years at your craft, is to be buried under a mountain of debt. On the other side of things, if  you saved the money yourself or your parents saved the money for you, having some left over at the end can have many benefits as well. Don’t start your post college life off in worse debt than is necessary. The less you are stressing about money the more you can focus on creating  your art and growing your career.

    Future Art Student Advice Posts:

    Art School Survival Tips

    The Good Thing About Bad Critiques

    Previous Art Student Advice Posts:

    Why I Went to Art School

    Choosing the Right Art School For You

Barb Sotiropoulos

Barb Sotiropoulos

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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Hey, I'm Barb!

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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