Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

October 29, 2014

Off-campus fun for college students (on a budget)!


     Something that I say quite frequently here on the blog is that I am a college student on a budget. I am definitely not a broke college student... I work hard each year at my summer job to save up for the school year and my sorority expenses, and I also babysit frequently on weekend nights during the school year to earn extra cash. But I also don't have the type of money to just be throwing it around on whatever I want. Before I buy something I usually have to think consciously about if it's a good purchase, whether that is something as small as make-up from the drugstore or as big as concert tickets! This helps me to stay accountable to myself and my bank account, and has always allowed me to have money on hand for emergency expenses. 

      But being on a budget doesn't mean that I don't enjoy having fun off-campus or visiting new places in North Carolina on the weekends! I haven't had as much time this past semester to go adventuring due to more sorority commitments and my demanding class schedule, but during my first two years of college I was able to do a lot of pretty fun and affordable things on weekends (and school breaks that I stayed at school for!) I wanted to share some of those things with y'all today, and also share a few things for my mini "before graduation bucket list" of stuff that I'm hoping to accomplish in the next year and a half! 

     1. Go hiking. This is something that I don't get the chance to do too often, as I go to college right in the middle of a large city. But the few times that I have made an effort to do this have been so rewarding! The Western part of North Carolina is filled with mountains, waterfalls and tons of state parks, forests and protected trails that are a hiker's dream come true. A lot of these hiking locations are a little bit of a drive from Charlotte, but taking other friends with you is great for both safety reasons and for splitting gas money (double win!). And many of these places have free admission or very low admission rates! Hiking is such a fun group bonding activity, and makes for a perfect day trip with friends. Plus think of all the awesome exercise that you'll be getting! You can read about some of my past hiking adventures in North Carolina here and here. (Now I'm thinking that I need to plan a hiking trip before the end of this semester...) 

Hiking in the DuPont State Forest in Brevard, NC (March 2014)

     2. Stay tuned for free festivals and events. It's great to be aware of what events are going on in the greater community of where your college is located! It doesn't matter if this is a small town or a large city- you never know what free events might be happening! Many of you know that I spent my freshman year of college at a Christian college in a rural part of NC. Even though I wasn't close to any cities with any big attractions, there was an annual attraction close to my school that attracted lots of out-of-towners for a couple of weekends each year... the County Fair! I learned that on Sundays you could get into the fair for free if you had a church bulletin from a service from that morning from a church in the county, so a friend and I were able to go to the fair for free. Also during my freshman year, I learned about a free Indian themed wedding expo that was happening in Charlotte. Neither me or my friends were getting married anytime soon, but all of us enjoyed Indian culture and food, so we made a day of it and roadtripped to Charlotte for the afternoon! That ended up being one of my favorite memories of freshman year (and before I knew I would ever be transferring to a college in Charlotte :-) ). 

My first ever fried Oreo at the County Fair! (September 2012)
My friend Melanee and I enjoying some dessert samples at the Indian wedding expo (October 2012)

     3. Stay tuned for low-cost festivals and events. While finding free events to attend is always awesome, sometimes paying to go to something is the only option. ;-) But it's good to also keep your eyes out for cheap festivals, concerts, and other things to do in your area! Last winter for example, I got to go to the WinterJam Christian concert with some girlfriends when it came to Charlotte in January (the awesome thing about WinterJam is that all tickets are just $10!!). Other things that I can think of would be staying tuned for discount showings at movie theatres, bargain nights at bowling allies, roller skating or ice skating rinks, and any sort of festivals or fairs that might offer cheap tickets! Anything to get off-campus and into the community is always fun! 

At the WinterJam concert with my sweet roommate from last year and my best friend from my former college! (January 2014)

      4. Visit a beach. The beach is one of the things that I miss the most about my homestate! I do go to college in a coastal state as well, but unfortunately Charlotte (and the location of my former college as well) isn't that close to the ocean. However one thing that I've enjoyed doing since coming to school is trying to explore one new lake each spring! Both back home in New England and here in the South there are tons of lakes that have beautiful state park beaches on them, and many have very low cost (or even free!) admission. Lake water can be very enjoyable to swim in, and some of these state parks even have nice sandy beaches! During my freshman year I took a day trip to visit a lake in Georgia (which you can read about here), and last Spring my friend Jessica (who I met through my internship :-) ) and I spent an afternoon at Lake Norman State Park! Lake Norman is a huge lake just north of the Charlotte area. Obviously if you go to college near the ocean then I would suggest that you spend as much time there as you can, but if you live in a more inland location then defintely explore alternative "beaches" at lakes and rivers! 

Lake Day selfie at Lake Norman State Park! (April 2014)

     So those are some of my favorite off-campus adventures that I have had in my college years so far! Of course I have had also had some really fun shopping trips... ;-) But that definitely doesn't count as a budget friendly activity, haha! This year I have been really good about staying away from the malls unless I absolutely have a reason to go. 

     Before I graduate I would like to check out some of the museums in Charlotte (as well as look into seeing if any of them offer free or discounted admission nights), visit Charlottte's main public library branch in Uptown, attend a couple more concerts, and make a day trip to a beach in SC! As I said earlier, the beach isn't close to Charlotte... so that would require an early morning and a late night, but I think that would be a really memorable day trip with friends. And I'm definitely willing to drive for some ocean time! 

     Now I want to ask y'all- if you're a college student, how do you have fun on a budget? Or if you are a former college student, how did you have fun on the cheap when you were in school? Please share away in the comments!

     xoxo Miss ALK



  1. I am a college student on a budget as well! There is a huge lake with an awesome beach super close to my campus that my friends and I have discovered, it's awesome! There are really awesome concerts, plays, and musicals happening at our local theatre almost every weekend- and they are free or super cheap for students! We also have amazing parks, farmers markets, movie theaters, bowling allies, etc. that offer student discounts!

  2. Love, love, love this post! And I love how we both are in love with NC :) Hiking is on my to-do list for this year since NC has some amazing hiking spots. I love how adventury this state is! I also mentioned DuPont Forest today in my blog post. But I haven't actually been there yet! It's where part of the Hunger Games was filmed! Anyways, we need to catch up girl!! I definitely want to try to go to meet-ups more often and maybe I can see you soon!!

  3. I love these posts! In rural western KY we didn't have much opportunity for fun stuff.

  4. Yes, hiking is an amazing activity with friends!

    Mina | Cream Coloured Ponies

  5. My friends and I often rent a car and just drive around the city (I go to school in Philadelphia). We jam to music and get to see some of the Philly sights, and since the car cost is split between us, it's like $8 a person for a night around town. We like going to the waterfront as well, or checking out the shops downtown (window shopping of course!). Great post. I think it is definitely possible to have fun in college on a budget.


  6. If you ever find yourself going to NC's beaches you are definitely going to have to stop in Greenville so we can grab lunch!! I don't know about Queens, but ECU offers free movies as well as keynote speakers all the time for their students- and those are super fun to go to! My friends and I always go out for taco tuesday too, you can't beat a $3 meal out :)

    Pick Your Beau


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