Prepare For The Complete College Experience Now
College is the ultimate “in-between” period. On the one hand you’re likely still leaning on mom and dad a bit, especially for some of your bigger expenses. But, at the same time, you’re probably responsible for more and more of your day-to-day spend — and, looking ahead, will be responsible for even more the minute you snag that diploma.
Our advice? Start saving — now. The sooner you can sock away a little cash, the better. Not only will you be in a more optimal place to assume those post-college costs — rent on your first apartment, the perfect outfit for your dream interview and, maybe, some celebratory graduation indulgences in the not too distant future — but you’ll start building a nest egg that will pad you not just today but in the weeks, months and even years to come. Trust us — it’s way easier to save a little now than to overextend yourself with super lofty savings goals down the road.
Cut out the extras — and “extras” can be lurking anywhere
Some of the seemingly necessary college expenses, simply, aren’t. What am I talking about? Meal plans, for starters, which may drain your wallet more than buying a la carte (or cooking — more to come on that). Same goes for clubs and sororities. Sure you want to make friends and create a social circle at school, but make sure you know what your membership fee and other dues entitle you to — and, equally importantly, what other hidden costs might pop up down the road. And if you do decide to sink your funds into meal plans, Greek life or other clubs, make sure you get your money’s worth. Max out the weekend brunch (hint: snag snacks for later), take advantage of free or discounted housing and go to every event your membership entitles you to, versus spending money elsewhere.
COOK (or, at least, prep)
If you live off-campus this one’s a no-brainer. But, even if you don’t, chances are your dorm has a great kitchen with all of the basic tools you need to whip up meals and snacks. Even if you aren’t a gourmet you can still slap together sandwiches, pasta dishes and other basics like salads or wraps. Take those in place of costly on-campus eats and stash the cash you would’ve spent for a rainy day.
Get a job and make a plan
Shelving books at the library? Collecting towels at the gym? Babysitting? It’s easy to get a work study or, even, an off campus job for at least a few hours a week while you’re hitting the books. If you need to allocate some of your funds towards tuition, room and board or meals, try to set a savings goal for yourself — for example, you’ll plan to save 30% of what’s left over, and the rest can be used for fun, day to day expenses. Mom and dad still covering your costs? Try to save even more — 75-100%, if possible. As your savings grows you’ll likely find yourself more and more motivated to keep investing — always a good thing.
Sell, sell, sell
You’re moving dorm room to dorm room, from on campus to off and, eventually, graduating. And guess what? There’s another class right below you making the same transitions you just did — and they need stuff. Your stuff.
You can sell virtually anything on a college campus, from textbooks to study guides to furniture, clothes and other accessories. Take the cash you make and set it aside, either for future upgrades (the new couch in the new apartment) or as a slush fund for the future.
Cut yourself off — for a few days, at least
Consider implementing a No Spend Saturday, for example, or identifying one week per month when you won’t spend a penny beyond the essentials — food, tuition or class expenses, transportation, etc. Not only will this force you to get a little creative (potluck, anyone?) but will give your savings a serious boost.
It’s never too early — or too late! — to start saving during your college years.
Whatever you can tuck away today will have a massive impact on your future, believe it or not. Not only will you have the funds for those first few weeks and months out on your own, but you’ll be able to start building real wealth that will impact you in the future. Set aside just $50 per month for your four years in college and you’ll could have close to $3,000 at graduation — significantly more than you set aside in the first place. Aim for $100 per month — just $3.33 per day — and you’ll likely walk away with $6,000+. Not too bad for a small time saver.
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