As of today, I’m competing in an “Education and Wealth” blog competition on GoBankingRates.com and it would be really wonderful if I could win so…do me a huge favor and VOTE FOR ME, PLEEEASE! All you have to do is go to the site and comment with my article #: “19″. That’s IT! SO easy. You should also check out the other articles, they’re pretty good. Below is the article I submitted which I think is a decent read for anyone in school (undergrad, grad, or other). Thanks for your support!!!:
For many, it’s that time of year again – time to head back to school! After sharing my own college credit card debt disaster story, a reader asked me what I would have done differently back in college.
I decided to make my response into a whole new post so here are my top money saving tips [in no particular order] for higher education budgeting (those I followed and those I wish I’d followed!). Comment with any other tips that I missed!:
1) This first one is pretty obvious, but…apply for as much financial aid, grants, and scholarships as humanly possible. FAFSA and www.fastweb.com are the best sites to start with. Every little bit helps and it costs nothing to apply (except your time, but that’s irrelevant ).
2) (if you can help it) DO NOT BUY BOOKS NEW! Get them used or BORROW them whenever possible. The college text book market is one of the biggest rip off scams known to man (right up there with infamous infomercials). Chances are you’ll probably only spend about 5 hours of your entire life with any of your text books – so why spend $300 on each! There are plenty of online markets for trading and bartering for college text books, amazon and google are your friends.
3) To be a true college student, use Megabus, Bolt Bus, or Chinatown bus service whenever possible! Amtrak is just not worth the money when you can use much cheaper means for much better savings.
4) You’ll be surrounded by fellow peers spending (their parents’) money all around you. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses! It’s not worth it – trust! Keep it cheap – shop at forever21, H&M, other less costly stores (and don’t sleep on Target). Because let’s face it – out of everything I bought during college, I probably only know where 5% of those clothes are today – stuffed in some storage bin in my closet!
5) If you can be an RA and live “room and board”-free – DO IT! I never took advantage of this (too busy being a bad example by having parties in my own dorm room), but if you decide to be a Resident Advisor for your dorm, this can save a lot of college housing costs during your latter years of college. Good deal if you ask me…
6) Cheap dorm interior design is the way to go. Keep it disposable. Most of whatever you use to decorate your dorm (whether that’s bedding, rugs, posters, etc.) you’ll probably just get rid of when you start your “real world post-grad” life so why spend a fortune on it now?? I recommend keepin’ it frugal with Target, IKEA, Kohl’s, even Wal-mart.
7) If you qualify, take advantage of work-study. The jobs available should be pretty flexible and shouldn’t interfere too much with school work (not any more than facebook and beer pong already will). It’s always good to have a little cash flow.
8 ) Whatever income you bring in (whether it’s income from a part-time job, work-study, or parental donations), make a monthly budget and do your best to STICK to it! This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Spending more than you make will only lead to DEBT and the delay of your financial goals!
9) Be careful with credit cards because it’s EASY to charge anything you don’t have the cash for. This is VERY dangerous as a college student.
10) Use public transportation or walk. My college campus was good for not needing a car so hopefully yours is too. If you do “need” a car – keep it cheap, keep it used, and try not to use it often – gas and maintenance costs can get out of control. Carpool when you can. And don’t be afraid to ask friends for gas money…
11) Only borrow what you NEED! If you do need to take out student loans, make sure you’re only borrowing the amount that you need to cover school expenses, AND NO MORE. This is KEY! It’s VERY tempting to take out more and I definitely took out a little more than I needed to (not TOO much more, they do restrict that somewhat) but I could have restricted myself a little more, but having that “I’ll be able to pay this extra debt off in no time when I graduate” mentality really set me up for taking on more debt than I needed to.
12) USE THE MEAL PLAN. I know the dining hall gets old REAL quick, but my friends and I wasted so much money by NOT using our meal plans that were PAID for! I spent money on Cosi’s and overpriced meals way more often than I should have. If your school has a “half” meal plan option vs a full meal plan – that might be an even better idea.
13) Cook for yourself as much as you can. I cooked like 3 times during my 4 years (I’ve slightly improved this since graduating lol), but I recommend using the meal plan or cooking as much as possible.
14) BUT…remember to have fun, too – It WILL be the best 4 years of your life so budget for that Spring Break trip. It will provide some unforgettable memories.
15) Bonus Career tip: during your Junior year – get a summer internship with a company you want to work for when you graduate; do your best; get a full-time offer by the beginning of senior year; then RELAX (and start budgeting for your “real world post-graduation” life)!*
I think that’s it, but let me know if you have anything to add!
*Results not guaranteed.
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