Saving money is something we should ALL know how to do. While we often focus on how to MAKE money, we should also know how to MANAGE the money that we have! College is a time that many people spread their wings and become more independent from their families, so it’s the best time to brush up on your financial literacy if you haven’t already! Debt can be crippling and hang over your head for years. That’s why I chose to graduate college debt free, and you can too, with some planning!
There are a few almost unavoidable main categories that people tend to spend their money on. If you control each of these, you’ll always find a way to save.
Let’s start with Social Life. In college, you’re independent, so YOU control your social life and activities. For all 4 years of college, I avoided all social activities that cost money. That means I didn’t go to the movies (unless it was the US $1 theatre or free movies on campus!), I didn’t go to restaurants (cooked at home!), I didn’t go to concerts, or any other activity with high admission fees. Instead my friends and I would have fun potlucks at home, go on picnics, go hiking, play soccer, watch movies at home, or go to the gym together. Most universities have a lot of FREE on campus activities – these won’t last forever so take advantage and go now! Every dollar you save on these silly extras is US $1 you can use for something you LOVE later.
Next, food! Food in is something necessary, but easy to over spend on. The easiest way to save money while also eating healthy is to eat SIMPLE food at home. Avoid cheap ramen and bread, and focus on foods that are seasonal, because seasonal fresh fruits and veggies are always on sale! Oranges, apples, whole grain pasta, and salads are affordable and easy. Frozen veggies are a great option if you’re not sure you’ll use the food before it spoils! Eating out adds up FAST, $10 here, $5 there, can be HUNDREDS a month.
Tuition. I personally chose a university where I had a scholarship and that I knew had low living expenses in the area. I also had a part time on campus job to cover all my other expenses. Going into a huge amount of debt for college usually isn’t necessary, you can also always consider doing the first two years of uni at a community college for a very affordable price!
Housing is also unavoidable, if you live away from your parents you have to live somewhere. Sharing a room can often be cheaper, living a bit farther from campus, or just searching fastidiously until you find a budget room! Remember that who you live with is more important than where you live, so find some cool roomies in a cute old cheap house and enjoy!
Transportation can also add up, in the US, people LOVE to have cars. We often see it as a necessity! But I chose to ride a bike instead. Busses were annoying (I hate waiting!), walking takes too long, but bikes were perfect. While I had many cold miserable days, I’m SO happy I biked my way through university because cars are expensive! The car itself, plus gas, repairs, parking tickets and other random expenses quickly add up.
Remember, US $1 a day on extra expenses is almost US $400 a year. That’s a flight to Europe! Put your money back in your pocket at the restaurant and eat at home 😀