College is one of the most wonderful and stressful times in your life. It is a time of self-discovery and learning. Often, college is when you learn how to be an adult. Your parents aren’t there to be your backup alarm, they don’t make sure you have healthy meals, and they don’t give you a curfew. The no curfew part is pretty awesome unless you live in a dorm with one. But really, it is a time to learn how to take care of yourself, before you find your dream job.
So with all of these possibilities and positives, there can’t be any downsides can there? Unfortunately, there can be, and there is. College is expensive. Tuition is expensive, books cost more than you can imagine, then you have the expenses of life in general. There are so many responsibilities required to hone your new adult status.
I hope I haven’t terrified you. You can still earn money and leave college financially fit. It really is possible to not eat ramen and hot dogs your entire time in college. I personally had to take loans to pay for part of my tuition, but I worked to pay my other bills. This resulted in far less debt than it could have been. I tried to set me up for a decent situation after I donned that graduation cap, but I learned from making mistakes. I want to share what I learned with you.
Get a roommate
Even though you make think getting a roommate is not the right thing for you, I can promise you it is. Sure we have all heard the roommate horror stories, and sometimes they really do happen, but I didn’t have any of those horror stories happen. Most likely, you won’t either. Getting a roommate isn’t rocket science, you just have to learn how to protect your stuff. Also, you need to make sure you room with someone you can trust and speak with openly.
Having a roommate will save you some serious money. A roommate will pay for half of the rent, half of the bills, and possibly half of the food and cleaning supplies. They will also bring their own stuff that will hopefully make a good household. Having this help will allow you to keep more of your money. If you can, consider having more than one roommate.
Create a budget
You can’t always be the life of the party and throw your money around like you create it in your basement. Instead, you need to be thoughtful with your purchases. Set a budget for yourself. Focus on how much you need for your everyday expenses. This means school expenses, house expenses, utilities, food, and gasoline. Once you know those expenses, you should take what you have left and allocate part of it to saving and part of it to going out. I mean you can say you’d just put it in savings, but let’s be real here. In college you are supposed to go out and have fun, so do that.
Cook your meals
It’s easy to want to go out to eat all the time, but it isn’t always the best thing for your pocketbook. Add pricey meals and then late night drinks at the local bar and you could end up with a pricey evening out. Do all of this several times a week, and you are looking at spending a big chunk of your check. Instead, opt for cooking meals at home, taking your lunch to campus, and saving money by couponing. You could also do “pregame” dinners if you want to. Sounds weird, right? I call them pregame dinners, but they are useful for any time you want to go out, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money. You have a small meal at home, and then when you meet up with your friends, you find an inexpensive appetizer to fill you up. Typically this comes in handy when your friends are hounding you to go out a lot.
Of course, you might want a brand new couch, the biggest T.V., a new computer, expensive dishes, and the really soft but pricey towels. I get it. I wanted them too. But, the best thing to do in college is to avoid all of that and save those expenses for later on down the road. Don’t be afraid of the hand-me-down sofa, the thrift shop, or other used items. Search Facebook garage sale groups for decor and necessities for your place. Take old furniture and upcycle it to an item you want. You can easily get your room or apartment looking great with a small budget.
On the same token, don’t be afraid to purchase off-brand foods. There are a lot of grocery stores that sell generic brand items that are pretty much the same as the name brand items.
One of the things I vividly remember about walking on my college’s campus was the amount of credit card booths all trying to get you to sign up. They had school shirts for free, so long as you signed up for their card. This caused me to get a few, yes a few. I wanted the free gifts. I had never planned to use the credit cards; I just did it for the swag. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay true to that mentality. I used my credit cards. It started as a way to build credit and then it was out of necessity. I racked up some credit card debt in college, and I would never have had it if I didn’t want those free gifts. So if you want a credit card, be responsible. Don’t wrack up a bunch of debt that you can’t afford. Don’t skip bills. Don’t pay the minimum payment for years and years and years. Just be smart about it and you can boost your credit.
It is possible to stay financially stable in college. It will take work and dedication on your end, but you can do it. Don’t leave college in financial ruins. If you have any more tips for future college students, please share in the comments.