the best personal finance hacks to help you save money in college

 Photo Credit: Grace Kang

Photo Credit: Grace Kang

I was frugal as f#$@ in college, mainly due to the fact that I'm inherently stingy by nature, but I soon learned after graduation how unknowingly beneficial that was for me. Because while most of my friends continued to scrounge away after college, I immediately was able to start chasing some of those dreams I had during those 4 years I was too poor to do anything about them. And without the stress of how I would be able to pay for them AND my bills. 

This week, I'm featuring a guest post from Lauren Davidson, a recent grad herself who knows all about the ins and outs of how to save while you're in school (um, hello student perks). Check it out and try to utilize as many as you can - the more you save, the better your spring break trip ;) KIDDING. At least put some of that $$$ into savings.


Going off to college is one of life experiences that bring both excitement and trepidation. Many students look forward to the challenge of managing their own finances, yet few are truly equipped to handle the demands of both school and money.  After paying for the high cost of tuition, books and fees, students are asked to stretch their money from the first of the month to the end, all the while paying for their food, transportation and comfort. Mastering these personal finance hacks for saving money in college without sacrificing the experience that will make it all the more enjoyable and certainly less stressful.

ACTUALLY LIVE LIKE A COLLEGE STUDENT

You need to learn to live like a college student, because you are one. That does not mean you need to take a vow of poverty. It means recognizing that your primary job is to take and pass courses and everything else is secondary. To maximize the experience that college life offers, learn to live frugally:

  • Limit the number of times you eat out each month. Get it down to a couple of times and that should only be when you have no other choice.

  • For entertainment, do more dining in, with friends

  • Walk, use public transportation or ride a bike to keep car expenses down.

  • Combine purchases with roommates and friends and shop at the big box stores and never shop when you’re hungry.

  • Limit your other shopping to where they offer student discounts. Here is a huge list of student discounts.

  • Buy clothes, kitchen stuff and furnishings at thrift stores. You can usually find pretty good stuff there.

  • Buy or rent used text books. Click here to read this TIME article for savings data.

  • Pay your student loan interest while in-school. Interest on interest really adds up. You will thank me later!

  • If you’re going to pay top price on anything it should be for a high quality pair of sneakers and a good bike.

  • You don’t need premium cable TV or expensive data plans.

  • Buy a coffee maker. Drinking coffee out is expensive!

  • Take advantage of all the free perks offered on campus, such as the student gym, computer lab for printing and free entertainment.

  • Cut your soda habit; drink water instead. Bottle your own water with a purifier.

BECOME A MASTER OF YOUR BUDGET

There is no other time in life when you will be able to begin managing your finances from a blank slate. Setting a strict budget and consciously managing to it each day will quickly catch on as the discipline and proper habit you’ll need in life after college. Set a monthly spend goal, itemizing every expense, and shoot to come in under budget. Apply any excess to savings or a small splurge.  It’s strongly recommended that you utilize an online budgeting tool, such as Mint.com, for tracking and managing your cash flow.

[RELATED: Budgeting for Beginners: The Step-By-Step Guide on How to Find More Money]

LIVE OFF CAMPUS

In most college towns the real estate near campus is the most expensive. Your best bet is multi-unit housing two to five miles from campus. Sharing a three-bedroom unit with two reliable roommates can save you a lot of money, especially if the three of you vow to share the cooking. You can always challenge each other to come up with new ways to cook ramen. That distance still allows you to use a bike to commute to campus.

FIND PART-TIME WORK

Sometimes you can do all you can to save money on expenses but it just isn’t enough. It can be just as easy to find some part-time work for some extra income to take the pressure off your budget, even if it is for just a few hours a week. As a college student, you have some skills and knowledge that can be useful, especially in the online world. Online tutoring is a fast growing service industry. The beauty of it is the whole digital world is your customer base and you work from computer at home. You could be tutoring high school students from across the country.

Another online opportunity is to apply your knowledge in areas like writing, programming, graphic design or social media as a freelancer. You can find thousands of job postings on websites like Upwork.com or Guru.com. You can bid on any job by creating a short proposal describing why you should be hired and bid on the cost of the project. You work on jobs you choose, during hours you choose. The career center on campus will also have part-time job postings.


By Laura Davidson, guest author and up-and-coming journalist. Check her out at http://laurdavidson.com

 Photo Credit: Clarisse Meyer

Photo Credit: Clarisse Meyer