Whether you are a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior, here are some money saving tips that should help you stretch your budget and establish a strong financial start for a prosperous future and wealth creation.
1. Make a budget and track your expenses; act frugally. Good financial management should always start with a budget. Think of it as your business plan and you are a company that has to manage income, expenses (mandatory and discretionary), and savings. Track your actually expenses so you know where all your money is going. Years ago when I was in college, I started doing this a few weeks into my freshman year after I noticed my cash (we paid with cash back then and not debit cards) disappearing. I found that I was going to the back to withdraw more money from the bank in town all too frequently. I also started using credit cards for more than just books and basic school needs. My Dad paid every month, but I wanted to make sure I earned his trust and did not run up the bill. Finally, unless your parents a sending you money like it grows on trees, you need to have what I call a “miser mentality” and act frugally (like a “consumermiser”) in order to conserve your limited resources, manage debt, and/or create saving and wealth opportunities. This could include things such as clipping coupons, buying used clothes and furniture at thrift stores and reducing discretionary expenses.
2. Manage Credit Cards Wisely. A credit card is regrettably a necessary financial tool these days and is useful for things such as building credit, buying certain purchases that you might return or you might want to dispute later, shopping on the internet, and renting a car. However, be careful not to over extend yourself by buying things you cannot afford to pay for later. You do not want to create huge debt that you will be saddled with later. Credit card debt can also be detrimental to your credit score if you carry a balance near your credit limit or pay late. Your credit score will be used for things such as determining what interest rate to give you on other credit cards, auto loans, personal loans or house loans, etc. It may also be used to determine your insurance rates or even in the employment hiring process.
3. Know what kind of debt you are getting yourself into before it’s too late. Does going to that really prestigious and expensive college really make economic sense? Not always. Careful consideration should go into the cost of college, how it will be paid for and who is footing the bill. If you are lucky enough not to worry about student loans, you may care less about the cost, although consider Mom and Dad’s budget too. They want to retire one day. If you are going to pay for school through personal loans, consider the cautionary tale of the NYU college grad who is loaded with over $275,000 in student loans.
4. Live at home (or with a relative or close family friend) to save money instead of on campus. This is more of an extreme option for some since most college students would love to live on campus and or are going to school a good distance a way from home, family or close family friends.
5. Eat Healthy. Consider the college meal plan because it may be a good value and offer a variety of nutritious foods and drinks. Limit or avoid expensive and unhealthy junk food.
6. Don’t Eat Out Much, but if you do, go to restaurants without wait staff so you can avoid having to pay a tip which saves 15% on the bill. Additionally restaurants without waitresses/waiters are usually significantly cheaper than ones with wait staff.
7. “Go Dutch” on dates or alternate who treats in order to share costs. “Going Dutch” is an old fashion term that you do not hear much anymore, but it means to share or split the cost of something. If you are going out on a date (maybe not the first date), consider splitting the cost or alternating who treats. If your date is turned off by this, maybe its not a good financial match.
8. Rent movies instead of going to the movie theater or go to the local campus theater. Also, if you just have to go to a first run movie theater consider the matinee which should be discounted. Also, take advantage of any student discounts by bringing your ID.
9. Carpool for short and long trips. If you drive to school, consider carpooling. For long trips for school break and holidays, advertise to classmates who may be interested in catching a ride and share the gas and toll costs.
10. Bike, in-line skate, skate board, walk or take public transportation to school instead of driving in order to save money on gas. This is great exercise and its saves money.
11. Don’t buy a gym membership if you can use the on-campus gym. Access to this gym equipment is usually free.
12. Try looking for scholarships, grants and student loans. Even if you have already started school, your school or charitable foundations may still offer scholarships, grants or loans that can save you loads of money on college tuition. Check out findaid.org.
13. Look out for Identity Theft. Guard your personal information as best you can. If someone steals your identity and opens up credit cards or other accounts and makes purchases, they can damage your credit for years and leave you stuck holding the bag. Be careful about what you share on the internet and social networking sites about your personal information such as your address, birthday, school, job, etc.
14. Go to School On Line. In general, going to school on-line is much cheaper and are being offered more and more by main stream academic institutions. The schedules are often very flexible and the cost of travel is zero. Room and board should also be minimal is living at home. I am not a huge fan of this option personally as I believe college is a great experience that is best enjoyed on-campus, but for some it is attractive option that should be considered along with many other competing factors.
15. Get a part-time job. Having trouble making ends meet, consider working in the library, cafeteria, or as a teacher’s assistance, hall monitor, dorm monitor, junior career counselor, blogger, tutor, baby sitter, house sitter, start your own business, etc.; provided the job does not negatively impact your studies.
16. Get the best summer job possible. Go straight to the career counseling office and get advice on summer jobs that interest you and preferably will help you find a job in your projected career field. Write your resume. Do research on-line.
Follow these 16 tips and you should have a great financial future ahead of yourself. Oh, and of course enjoy college too!