College is definitely not getting cheaper. How on earth will students even have a few dollars in their pockets? It is extremely hard to save any extra money based on my personal experiences. The recent recession has scared more people into watching what they spend. I believe that was a big wakeup for America. If we don’t learn to watch what we spend, how will we survive? Here are some tips and strategies that I have used to save a little bit more money.
Tip #1 Think before you sign the dotted line. Before you even sign up for college, do your homework. I looked for colleges in 9th grade. It took me 4 years to find the right one to fit my budget. Some people say pick any school, regardless of the price tag. Buyer beware. Cost is a huge factor when selecting a school. They may have the best football stadium or a high tech library, but is it worth it? For example, I could have went to CIA in New York for $25,0000 per year. Instead, I am going to Mountwest here in Huntington, WV because they are considerably cheaper. Tuition (for me) ranges from $1600 to $2100 per year. I’d say that’s way better than taking out all those loans.
Tip #2 Independence is a great thing. Do you really want to share a bathroom for a whole floor of peers? Living in the dorms may seem cool, but the bill may say otherwise. Before my college was officially separated, I on campus. Four months cost me $3300. It averaged out to $825 per month. Compare that to my $400 apartment. Even on winter break, I was charged $27 per day. What happens when the financial aid doesn’t come through on time? What if you’re left with the bill? Living in an apartment off campus is a much cheaper alternative. I pay $400 per month plus utilities. Those dollars add up.
Tip #3 Put that piggy bank to work. Hopefully, college kids establish a checking account and maybe a savings account. My advice is work up enough change to start a retirement account. You heard it here first. I started up my Roth IRA this year with spare change. I deposited $100 initially and wire $100 automatically each month. It’s like paying a bill to myself. Shop around and pick the right investments that will fit your lifestyle. My recommendation is Edward Jones. They are a great company. (Note: If you decide to cash in your change, head to your bank. They usually have a coin counter there. Stay away from the CoinStar at Walmart and Kroger. It charges about 9 cents on each dollar.)
Tip #4 If you can afford to live off campus, great. No more meal plan to worry about. (My bill was $1500 per semester for the first 2 years. In four months, my grocery bill was about only 1/3 of that. ) Learning how to cook is an essential life skill for everyone. You really appreciate what you do when its your creation. It’s also considerably cheaper than eating out or in the dining halls. I enjoy cooking large meals to freeze up for the rest of the month.
Tip #5 Listen to your parents, get a job. Time management is another skill that people should pick up in college. Earning some extra cash helps keep people on track. I have three jobs right now, besides going to school full time. Do what you have to do to survive. It’s amazing what some free time can lead to. Besides that, the tax return is a handy check to get. It may even start up a future investment. (Writing for Yahoo’s Associated Content can add up, I had 166 views in my first three weeks.
Tip #6 You pay how much? Buying the next smart phone won’t make you smarter. It’ll definitely make you broke. Who wants a cell phone bill of $80? Or $100? Apps are nice but a phone is designed to make calls. I only pay $30 per month with my Nokia Go Phone. I bought it in 2008 for $10. Go figure.
Tip #7 ATMs Beware of all ATMs on campus. If its not your bank, don’t use it. They’ll charge you at least $2 extra on each transaction. This can get expensive when withdrawing tens and twenties.
Tip #8 Debit or Credit? The last thing you should think about is debt. Contrary to what most financial experts say, don’t get a credit card in college. Companies will hound students to carry an unnecessary load to supposedly “boost” their credit score. Careless spending is very common among college students. I stick to debit cards. Keep track of your balance and spend wisely. I would rather start out paying my bills on time than rushing to get a credit card to have credit. Use common sense. With that said, read the fine print. Banks will quickly show you how for $3/month you can get a “gold” debit card. Three dollars could be going towards my savings rather than trying to earn points for discounts.
Tip #9 Textbooks When picking out textbooks, shop for used or rented versions. I have saved quite a bit. Even buying them online doesn’t hurt. You might be surprised on how low the prices can be. However, if you’re class requires a scan-tran sheet, go with the new version. This will save you a headache when buying a test sheet for $45 at the end of the year. As long as you can read it, you’re good.
Tip# 10 Get creative. There are so many ways to pick up more money.
I’m not going to lie, it’s all about the money these days. Young adults have to discipline themselves financially. They need to learn self-control so that you’re not trapped in debt. Take it from me, I’ve been in college for two years with one semester to go. No loans. I have used many financial aid resources. I worked hard to get that “full ride.” You just have to know how to manage your money.