It IS possible to save while in college (and here’s how!)
Traditionally, college life is one that alternates between extremes: excess and brokenness. Somewhere between the two, there is a way to learn and start saving during your college years.
When you’re young it’s easier to fall into the temptation of impulse buying (or crazy partying with friends); those bouts unavoidably leave you searching every pocket at the end of the month. So, today we’re going to show how you can actually save some money while attending university.
Opening a savings account
Start by having a basic saving and checking account at a credit union. This will allow you to have a separate account where you can stash those extra bits. When you get to the end of each month/pay cycle, you can look at your checking and, whatever’s leftover, move it to savings. Also, if you don’t think you’ll be able to resist temptation, it’s perfectly OK to ask your credit union to not link your savings account to your debit card; that way you won’t fall prey to weakness later.
Little by little that money will grow; you can’t imagine how much pride you feel the first time you realize you started really saving for other stuff. It’s a great lifetime habit, and you can definitely manage it, if you set your mind to it.
Starting solidly – by saving on your first college
We get it, going away from home, making new friends, learn a new city, it has huge appeal. However, who’s to say that you need to study all four years away? Community colleges offer college level classes level 100 and 200 for all the core subjects that make up every college degree. They also have some more advanced ones that are part of every student’s syllabus; except that at community colleges these classes come at a fraction of the cost than at a 4-year school. You can study at your local college first, and then transfer to a 4-year university of your choice. Do your last 2 years there and you’ll get a 4 year degree with a much lower price tag. Transferred credits become part of your university transcript, and you’ll save thousands of dollars in tuition/moving/life away.
Learning to cook
It’s one of the best ways to save, in college and in life. By learning to cook you can make things you like, knowing how much it costs. By sharing, you also make friends. We recommend that you check out these two very well-known blogs on the subject of cooking on a student budget:
- The first blog is Budget Bytes, who author Beth Moncel suffered the cost of college food when she didn’t know how to, and set out to learn and share her experiences with others. Hers are recipes that are easy to make, with easy to find and use ingredients and that, to top it all, are affordable.
- The second page is The Spruce Eats, which not only provides affordable recipes with few ingredients at a time: it also teaches you how to cook using the typical college dorm equipment: microwave, indoor grill and crockpot.
Living off campus
Campus living does have its advantages (you’re in the middle of everything and can walk/bike/kick scooter your way anywhere) and its cons (it’s pricier, there’s little personal space and well, campus keeps you far from everything else). Living off campus is a better option in terms of cost and freedom.
If you go this route, look for a shared house or rented room near school or well within the public transportation routes to it. Make sure you know all related expenses before agreeing and signing (not just rent but all utilities and internet) so that you’re sure you’re within budget.
Understanding your monthly budget
A budget shows you on what you spend your money and the ratio that each expenses represents of your total monthly money.
To create your own working budget for a whole normal month (meaning, a routing month without extra expenses) you’ll need to keep a written or electronic record of every single expenses you pay: rent if you have it, utilities, food, coffee, the bus, gas, going out with friends, streaming, the weekend parties, the apps you buy and those in which you spend extra money (like games), and pizzas; everything.
When you have that one month tallied up, here are two options to draw up your budget: you can search online for a free app or site that will allow you to input your data and gives you a budget; or, you can use our article, which includes a spreadsheet and explains how to read your budget results.
Your budget will pinpoint unhealthy habits (things on which you spend too much needlessly) and will allow you –if you decide- to set yourself on a more frugal path.
Joining the circular economy – buying second hand
Almost everything you have in college is temporary; therefore, you have invaluable chances to save by:
- Furnishing your room via Craigslist,
- Shopping online for second-hand books, and
- Shopping for clothes are your local thrift shops.
These are perfectly healthy and frugal options that will save you hundreds of bucks and are planet-friendly. By the way: to get that thrift-shop smell off your clothes? add a cup of vinegar to that first wash.
This is an economics term (it means buying an asset for less than its intrinsic value) that you can apply to life. Translated into everyday life, it means not buying something the moment it comes out, as it will be at its priciest ever then. Common examples of value buying are:
- Waiting a couple of months after products are out in the market before buying them (especially electronics);
- Buying not-name brand food of the same quality for a better price;
- Buying a used bike to use in college.
Many people turn 18 and think “time to get a credit card!” We believe that at that age it’s needless and even risky; the younger you are, the easier it is to make a mistake, and those errors in judgement stay on your credit report at least 7 years. If possible, avoid credit card debt for now.
Paying on time
If you disagree with me on credit cards and are going to get one, here are three keys to proper usage:
- Go for a rewards card that provides rewards that will actually be of use to you;
- Pay off the previous month’s balance every time (otherwise, you won’t be able to use the card for those rewards); and
- Always pay on time. If you can’t pay one month, call up the credit card company and ask for a one month extension (note: this is not something to abuse).
Getting to the end of the month with money – the practical bits
We’ve compiled a list of practical ideas that will help you cut expenses every day.
Don’t hesitate to contact me, Terry Inskip if you have a good idea I could add, as I will definitely publish it.