Jim Wang, Wallet Hacks
College is a fantastic time of exploration, freedom, and growth.
It’s also a time when many of our habits are formed, especially those about money and saving. These habits can have a ripple effect on your life so solidifying a few good practices today can help you better manage the future.
I have a list of 40+ money tips for college students, which cover the basics like emergency funds and budgeting, but today I wanted to share an extra set of just money saving tips every college student needs.
Avoid credit card debt at all costs
It’s so easy to charge everything to plastic. Whether it’s textbooks, equipment, or a pizza, make sure that you pay off your credit card bill in full each month.
It’s so tempting to pay the minimum and push the debt off another month, but that will result in you paying hundreds of dollars (if not more!) in interest for nothing. If you don’t believe me, you can use this calculator to do the math yourself and find out how much that $20 pizza will cost you!
That’s money you can use to save for your retirement, for a new car, or your first house. Avoiding debt, especially high interest credit card debt, is priority number one after graduation.
Budgeting isn’t the most fun thing to do but getting in the habit early is a good idea. When you budget, you have a better sense of where your money is going.
You can use tools like Mint or Personal Capital to help automate the process and when you’re older, you’ll appreciate the wealth of historic information you’re recording now.
Cook more, eat out less
Your studies and your social activities will probably take up a big chunk of your time, so you’ll be tempted to eat out more than you cook if you’re not on a university meal plan.
Resist the temptation! Eating at a restaurant, even a quick service one, is far more expensive than cooking at home. In the beginning, you’ll be terrible at it. Everyone is.
But stick with it and try to cook as much as you can. It’s healthier, cheaper, and you’ll get better the more often you do it.
Take advantage of student discounts
Businesses give student discounts all the time. They know that students don’t make a lot of money and they still want your business, so they’re willing to give you a break if they know you’re a student.
Always keep your student ID on you and ask if a student discount is available – you might be pleasantly surprised.
Use your student loan for tuition only!
Some student loans are deposited directly into your student account and some are deposited directly into your bank account. If you have one of the latter, do not use the money for anything other than tuition and school related expenses.
If you have no other choice, you can use it on necessities but your goal should be to avoid debt as much as possible. Sometimes you don’t have any other options, and that’s understandable, but make sure before you saddle yourself with student debt.
Earn a little cash in your spare time
We all have downtime during the day and on weekends – try to find a way to turn that time into money.
Whether it’s taking on a side gig, earning some cash online through surveys, or something bigger – building a side hustle that earns a little extra money can pay dividends in the long run. There are a lot of sites online that will pay you money for small segments of work, or gigs, and you can easily finish them in 5-15 minutes of down time.