If college is supposed to be the time of your life, then why are you broke? We want you to have a good time and enjoy your college years without having to sell your body to science to cover the day-to-day expenses. So we’ve got a few tips and tricks to help you gather a little green and avoid a lot of the stress of being penniless. Here are 11 ways to save money in school.
Design A Budget
Budgets may be a foreign concept to many students, but creating one could mean the difference between fun and misery. To start, figure out how much money you have each month and how much you will be bringing in from work (if you happen to have a job in addition to your studies). Then break down that number into categories: food, gas, entertainment, etc. ( Don’t be in denial about how and where the money goes. You’ll avoid a ton of stress at the end of the month if you do. And, you’ll also know how to save a bit so you can blow it on a keg for your “Gossip Girl” season premiere party without having to live on cold pizza to make up for it.
The definition of eating on the cheap isn’t dining at McDonald’s. It means going to the grocery store and learning all about the wonderful world of generic foods. They are made with the same ingredients, but sell for a fraction of the cost. So head on over to your local grocery store and start stocking up on all your favorite foods for a reduced price of the brands you’ve been taught to love. You’ll even have enough money leftover to take the girl from Intro to World Religions class out on a few dates.
Find the time to be a smart shopper. College is filled with silly rituals like the 3pm ‘Coffee in the Quad’ or the Thursday night, ‘Glad it isn’t Wednesday’ party. You can miss an event or two and shop around for the necessities in your life. Chances are, whatever you need, you can get for less by doing a little comparison shopping. Luckily, with the Internet, you have many resources available to help you comparison shop. Sites like BillShrink and PriceGrabber do all the hard work for you so can still celebrate days that begin with ‘T.’
Avoid Credit Card Debt
This isn’t so much about how to save money, but rather how not to spend money. If you are not responsible with money and aren’t in a position to pay off your monthly bill in full each month, then a credit card is not for you. Stick to cash until you adjust to your new budget. If you already have a credit card, remember that it is not free money. You need to pay that money to the credit card companies and they will charge you interest for each month you don’t. You don’t want to find yourself at 23, swimming in debt and moving back home to pay off that forgettable dinner you had at Steak & Shake three years ago.
Avoid Late and Overdraft Fees
Sometimes it’s not about what you spend, but what you don’t spend that means the most. Nothing adds up more than late fees and overdraft charges. These fees are easily avoidable so be smart, pay your bills on time and keep track of your bank account. You can even have your bank account automatically pay the bills on time and you can keep tabs on your checking account from your cell phone to help make this easier.
Spend Your Money on Moments
Don’t get caught on a whim to go to every concert that comes to town or be a co-dependent with your roommate’s obsession with Forever 21. Hold onto your money and use it when the moment is right such as when your buddies want to road trip to the Final Four or when your girlfriends want to celebrate their 21st on the Las Vegas Strip. Instead of having to string together the money to have a good time, you’ll end up enjoying the trip more because you already had the money for the occasion. Skip the small stuff and prepare for the big moments; there will be plenty of them along the way.
Don’t Live on Loans
That extra three grand a semester looks super appealing now, but it could sting for a long. When you’re 40, working through a second divorce, supporting your kids and STILL paying off a student loan for a giant flame you had stenciled onto the side of your ’98 Chevy Lumina, you’ll regret it. You won’t have the Lumina, but you’ll still have the loans. Be smart, loan out what you need and leave the rest off your tab .
There’s no reason, in the age of eBay and Craigslist, to throw out anything you don’t want. Whether it is old clothes, books, or DVD’s, everything can sell. If you don’t think it’s worth the hassle to sell everything individually, then sell it in a lot. Either way, everything you throw out is lost income that could be used for next year’s Halloween party. Just because you are over your Juicy velour track suit doesn’t mean the rest of the world is.
Ditch The Car
Cars can be extremely expensive to maintain, especially when you’re in college. Not only do you need to worry about insurance, repairs and gas, but you may also need to pay for parking or the occasional parking ticket. Many students manage to ride their bike or take a bus, so follow suit. Learn to love the fresh air, reduce your carbon footprint and you won’t get stuck being driving everyone back-and-forth to the airport.
Enjoy Free Events
There are always free events happening at any given time on a college campus. Whether they are meetings about student causes or an extracurricular activity like intramural basketball, clubs and departments are constantly sponsoring things for you to do. The best part is that these often include free food. So take advantage of these free activities for the chance to get a decent meal, meet some new people and for the experience of learning or seeing something new.
Following these tips will ensure that you not only have the time of your life, but that you will leave college without the thousands of dollars of debt. If you need more ways to save money, talk with your friends and roommates about ways to split costs or ask your professors who had to survive on a Ph.D. student’s stipend for years.