Saving Money For College Students
Being a student isn't easy. Whoever says it is easy probably forgot about all the tests, homework, assignments, drama, roommates, friends, arguments and issues with parents. Amidst all the fun, being a student can be overwhelming at times. Making it all worse, most students are short on cash. That's a big problem. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be such an issue. If you apply the principles that I will teach in this article, you should have no problem.
Saving Money For College Students: Tips on Making your Cash
First, reflect on your current financial situation. Do you have an income stream? Are you employed? In order to save money, you need to first make some dough. Cash doesn't grow on trees, after all. So find a way to make some extra cash. If you look at my other articles, you will find one on student jobs. There's a big list of 50+ jobs - pick one. Try to find the highest paying job that you enjoy. Always keep your eyes open for new opportunities. Make it a part-time job, and remember that in the long run, focusing school is more rewarding and profitable. So while our goal here is to save money, do not neglect your school work. Take a moderate and manageable number of work hours, and ensure you are being effective with your time.
Aside from a typical job, you save money through other means. Birthday money, christmas money, spare change left in the vending machine... there's an ample amount of free money out there. Don't spend that money on impulse - save it! Even spare change should be collected and saved. Over the course of a few months, these sorts of revenue streams can amount to something quite significant.
Saving Money For Students: Tips on Managing your Cash
First, realize that you don't have a lot of money, so you don't have a lot to spend. Even if you have a big fat loan, be aware that loan is not your money - you owe it to the bank. So given that you have such few funds, how do you spend it? Answer: You gotta be money savvy. Now, everyone hates to discuss money-management, budgets and finding cheap deals, but it's all very important. Listen up!
BANKING: Find a bank where you can open a 'student account' that caters to your needs. If it's not a student account, your probably going to be losing money through small bank charges. Closely examine the charges for ATM withdrawals, checking and transferring funds. With a student account, these three services should be free. You should also be able to access online banking. Make sure that you do not go over the "free" limit. For example, if you're allowed 50 free checks a month, stay under 50 and save money.
CREDIT CARDS: Find a credit card that has no annual fees and a low interest rate. Never go into credit card debt and pay your bills on time.
CELL PHONE: Look for a cheap student rate that suits your needs. See this article for plenty more information on the topic.
BUDGETING: Here's an experiment- log every single purchase you make for one month. That's right, every pack of gum, gallon of gas and bottle of beer. At then end of the month, do a review and find where you can save money. Be ruthless in this process. Another classic tip is to make a budget. Do it with Microsoft Excel, pen and paper or a computer software. Make sure you follow your budget too!
ALCOHOL: Did you know that students spend 5.5 billion on alcohol each year? Can you cut back on your alcohol intake? It's probably a good idea for not only your wallet, but your health and relationships. I wouldn't recommend drinking too often, but if you must, find cheap drinks. Avoid alcoholic drinks at restaurants and sport games - the mark-up is just ridiculous.
BOOKS: The first option should be to borrow the textbook. Search around, ask friends, post an internet ad, whatever it takes. If that fails, buy the textbook used. Look online on Amazon for used textbooks. Shipping is free. If you have to buy new, always opt for the cheaper International Version. When you're finished with your textbooks, sell them and recoup your losses.
FOOD: First, you gotta eat healthy. It's more expensive in the short-term but far cheaper in the long-term. One of the cheapest foods is pasta. There are other great options too - oatmeal, peanut butter, bread and beans. Be a smart shopper at the grocery store. Collect coupons. Eat out less. Stop with the bottled water and Starbucks lattes. Take free food when it's offered.
COMPUTERS: Know what you need. Some students buy an expensive computer that is totally unneccesary for their purposes (read: Facebook). Look for not only sales, but student discounts. Apple, for example, has student discounts. If it's a choice between desktops or laptops, know that desktops are far cheaper. Regarding software, look for free versions online. Lastly, as with all your electronics, keep them safe.
For internet, why not just use free wifi?
ENTERTAINMENT: Entertainment can be pretty pricey. You need to be creative in order to cut costs in this category. First, if you can handle it, ditch the TV. Cable is just too expensive when all your shows are available online. For the cinema, go on the cheap nights. Almost every movie theatre has specials on a certain day/time of the week. Better yet, stay home and rent movies as a group. Or you can discard the screens and start reading more books and newspapers. It's cheap and eduational. For music, use your computer speakers instead of buying a fancy Bose set. When buying new CDs, trade in your old ones.
OFF CAMPUS LIVING: The best idea is to find some roommates to split the costs. Ask your parents for some help too. When decorating, be creative and find ways to save money. Make sure your home is energy-efficient - not only great for the planet but it also fattens your wallet. Lastly, cut back where you can. Turn down the heat/ AC and shut off the lights when not needed.
SHOPPING: Either out of necessity or simple desire, you're going to be making purchases. Try to be a smart shopper, saving money whenever and however possible. A good effort can make a huge difference and save you a pile of cash. Search out student discounts, make homemade Christmas gifts, shop online, buy in bulk, browse second hand stores...there are endless possibilities.
TRANSPORTATION: Try to cut your transportation expenses by living near campus. If possible, do not drive to school to avoid the costs of gas and parking. Public transit, walking and biking are all inexpensive.
EXERCISE: Instead of buying a gym membership, work out by going for runs outside or doing simple body-weight exercises at home. Participate in university intramurals, as they are cheap and a good way to meet friends. Join classes, such as boxing, wrestling or yoga. That all said, never forego exercise just to save money. Exercise is a great investment that almost always pays for itself through good health and lower stress levels. The same idea applies to healthy eating.
KEEPING IN TOUCH: Join your parents' cell phone plan for a cheaper rate. Always compare different cellular dealers to find the best deal. There are usually student packages offered. Whatever plan, make sure that it is minimizing unnecessary or excessive charges. For long distance, consider Skype (www.skype.com), which is free for skype-skype calls. Facebook and other social networking sites are also free methods of communication.
PERSONAL: Instead of going to the hair salon, perhaps you know a friend who can give you a cut for cheap/free. Guys can also simply give themselves buzz cuts. If you go to a hair salon, or anywhere for that matter, ask for a student discount. Avoid high end personal items - you don't need an expensive brand of shampoo when the cheaper product works just as well. Store brands are inexpensive yet of good quality.
TRAVEL: Travel is expensive, so don't take the decision to go somewhere lightly. Be frugal and know your financial limits. Have a solid plan so you don't run into costly problems. Carpool with others on road trips, both for pleasant company and somebody to share the bill with. Try to avoid traveling during Spring Break and other popular times, as the costs are much steeper.
Thanks for reading the primer on Saving Money for College Students! Please leave a comment. How do you save money?