Don’t worry – this isn’t going to be one of those posts that tell you you’re a big boy/girl now, and have to stop being irresponsible with money.
I won’t tell you to stop buying overpriced lattes, $11 nachos at midnight, or comfy college sweatshirts because those things are largely what college is all about.
What I will tell you is that the post-college years can really stink when you’re broke. Actually, worse than broke — so far in debt that you feel like you’re working for nothing but your bills.
So here’s how to give your future finances a fighting chance, and get through college without making those clichéd money mistakes of running up credit card debt and blowing through all the summer job money you earned folding shirts at The Gap…
Learn to beat the system
You don’t have to follow the “rules” at college when it comes to spending money. For starters, don’t buy your textbooks in the school bookstore. Don’t pay for the meal plan (unless you actually think you’ll like/eat the food). And avoid joining clubs and organizations that are notorious for spending a ton of money, and expect you to do the same. Here’s what to do instead:
- Consider textbook rental services like Chegg.com or see if there’s a digital copy of the text available. Ask around or Google for people who might be selling those same books used for a fraction of the price.
- On the food tip, set some limits and boundaries for yourself and stick with them. If you must have your Chai Tea and Friday night pizza, have it, but make it a rule that you’ll prep your own meals/snacks on most days. And when it comes to grocery shopping, it’s a good idea to channel your mom and start paying attention to sales, coupons, and adding those loyalty cards to your keychain. Dorky, yes, but those savings add up.
- As long as we’re talking coupons, if you’re not signed up for Groupon and LivingSocial alerts for your college town, you’re missing out on discounts at local restaurants, salons, and other budget-draining activities. Repeat after me: Paying full price is for suckers.
- Don’t join any frats or clubs right away. Meet people, hang out with them, go to their parties, and then pick which ones are worth a real investment of your time (and money).