By Emma Hackett, Staff Writer
We all know the basics of saving money: making money + not spending money = having money. But how can this be achieved in college, when most people are spending ten of thousands of dollars on their education and are therefore literally unable to maintain any sort of lucrative job? Here are nine tips for making - and holding on to - money in the college years, which will serve you well throughout your undergrad career and beyond.
1. Study up on your college’s financial package.
This might seem like an obvious one, but its surprising how many money-saving loopholes most college financial packages have. For example, you might be able to save several thousand by staying in a certain dorm which allows you to have a reduced meal plan, or your school might offer fellowships which allow students to apply their work study earnings directly to tuition. Taking the time to really become familiar with your school’s financial package can save you lots of headache - and money - in the long run. Whether you’re a new or current university student, you have to apply for student finance every year, so it’s well worth learning the ropes now.
2. Spend your summers wisely.
Summer is the great money-making season of the financially responsible college student - use it wisely! You can focus on working as many jobs as you can for as long as you can, or you can focus on one job, which might come with more responsibility but better pay. It’s also smart to look into jobs which allow for employees to return year after year (HINT: a lot of seasonal jobs, such as lifeguarding, working at an ice cream shop at the beach, etc. are structured in this way). That way, you’ll not only have a good flow of cash during the summer season (which you will, of course, put directly into savings), but you’ll have a pretty sweet returning gig every vacation.
3. Stay In
After spending all day on campus sitting in a classroom, what college student doesn't love going out for the evening? Many do, but there's one consistent problem - it costs money. Believe it or not, you can do many of the same things at home for a fraction of the cost.
You don't have to cut going out altogether; everyone needs a break away from the pressures of school. Try limiting your excursions to a certain number of times per month, or special events. That will allow you to still get out, but make it more cost feasible in the long run.
4. Move Out of the Dorm
Living in a dorm is an nice (though at times nerve-wracking) hallmark of the college experience. But if your university offers flexibility in your choice of accommodation, moving out of the dorm and into an apartment can help you save money.
Now don't move off-campus by yourself. Invest in some roommates that way you will end up splitting the cost of utilities and rent. When you compare the cost and space of a dorm versus an apartment, the apartment is a clear winner.
5. Make a Budget, Record it, Check it Twice
It's easy to let money fritter away. A weekend trip here, a dinner out with friends, groceries, a book you need for class... and suddenly, all your money for the month has vanished.
One of the most fundamental financial lessons you could learn while in college is getting a basic idea of how much you're spending each month and, where you can cut back.
We suggest following the 50/30/20 rule when comes to creating a budget. The 50/30/20 rule puts 50 percent of your income towards necessities, like housing and bills, 20 percent goes to financial goals, like paying off debt. And finally 30 percent goes to wants, such as dining and entertainment.
Another key to stay financially fit and on budget is to record every dollar spent. Keeping a notebook or an excel spreadsheet is often helpful for this. There's even a few apps, like mint.com, LearnVest, and Salt which give clear view of your total financial life.
6. Embrace the "money box"
The Money Box is a very effective system for saving massive amounts of money in a (relatively) painless way, and doing it fairly quickly too. The concept is simple - you have a box of some sort, which you store in a safe location (the top drawer of your dresser, or under your bed). Every time you come across a five-dollar bill, it goes into that Box. Before you know it, you will have mountains of cash that you never even knew you had.
7. Live by cafeteria hacks
This is an easy way to save on those Target runs - and to help you resist the temptation to go off-campus for a satisfying meal. Every college cafeteria has its own little hacks to make the food a bit more bearable, and even help it to sustain you past mealtime. Trial and error will help you to determine these for your own particular meal plan, but here are just two of my go to's: 1) Take a chicken breast from the deli bar, put pesto and mozzarella cheese from the salad bar on top, pop it in the microwave for a minute or so, and voilà - instant home-cooked tasting goodness (without the restaurant price tag). 2) Stock up on the fruit in the fruit baskets - no one ever eats those bananas and oranges, let's be honest, and it’s super easy to take them back to the dorm and whip up a yummy smoothie with them later.
8. Get a job
I know it sometimes seems impossible, but maintaining that awesome GPA while having a steady flow of cash is entirely possible. Try to get employed on campus first - the convenience of an on-campus job simply cannot be beat. If you can’t find an on-campus job, look for something you can do in your college community that can bring home the bacon. Does your literature professor have four little ones at home? Offer to watch them for her so that she can have a night off. Does someone in Student Life have a dog? Offer to walk and take care of the dog when they’re at work (as your class schedule allows). You can tutor for local grade schoolers (or even high schoolers, which is pretty lucrative BTW), mow lawns, shovel snow, babysit, perform simple repairs around the house - the possibilities are almost endless. And if you’re determined and single-minded, you will end up with a pretty steady cash flow all throughout the semester.