College can be an amazing experience.
Late night pizza runs, cramming for exams and watching foreign films while discussing philosophy is all part of the fun. However, college doesn’t have to be about accumulating debt or seeing how many free t-shirts you can get by applying for student credit cards.
Here are ten money lessons every college student (and their parents) should know as they head off to class.
1) Get a job. I’m sure your parents hound you about this. Guess what? They’re right! Students who get a job and are actually paying for part, most or all of their schooling tend to value their classes much more than those who survive each semester on student loans.
2) Live like a college student. You’re poor and on your own. You need to live like every penny counts. Maybe Joe Schmoe’s parents are paying for his college and he drives a Mercedes-Benz and lives in the high-end apartments on the good side of town.
Problem is, you’re not Joe Schmoe and you can’t keep up with him because his mommy and daddy aren’t funding your education. Sit back, relax on the couch you picked up off the curb and dig in to those ramen noodles. Chalk it up as life experience. If all else fails, you’ll have great stories to guilt your kids with.
3) Set a monthly or semester budget based on the money you bring in and the expenses you have. The amount of time you have to earn money and the amount you earn is finite. Download a budgeting worksheet and get started today. Believe me, you will have a much better chance living within your means if you are using a budget.
4) Don’t be afraid to shop at garage sales and thrift stores. It’s really easy to get into the trap of thinking that college is about fashion. Maybe that cute guy or girl that you have your eye on is only interested in Armani or Gucci and you want to impress them.
Resist the temptation and remember why you’re here. Besides, by the time you’re a second semester sophomore, your fashion decisions will be based on which t-shirt smells the best and which pair of sweat pants aren’t stained.
5) Live in the dorms. There, I said it. Despite what you see on T.V. or hear from your apartment dwelling friend who can barely pay the rent, dorms are a great financial deal. Most of them come with all utilities paid, Internet, a meal plan and a guaranteed space to crash.
Listen, it’s not like you’re going to be living there forever. Besides, where else can you go into the lobby at 3 a.m. and join a philosophical discussion about parapsychology as it relates to the television show M.A.S.H.?
6) Scholarships and grants are your friend. Even if you have a couple of semesters under your belt, you should stop by the financial aid office and see what scholarships and grants you may be eligible to apply for. The reason is very simple: You don’t have to pay them back.
7) Pass up the credit card offers outside the student union. Who cares if you get a free t-shirt? Think of that t-shirt as 21% interest on debt that you’ll never get paid off. Even the best credit card rewards negate themselves if you can’t handle the card like a pro – and very few college students can.
8) Cut your costs on textbooks. You don’t need new ones. There are too many Web sites that offer you the opportunity to save money on textbooks. BigWords.com, Chegg.com, Amazon.com and many other sites out there can help you save a bundle on your textbooks.
9) Buy your own good quality computer and a color printer. Better yet, ask for one for your birthday or as a high school graduation present. Printing things off at 2 a.m. at your local copy shop is not a right of passage. These shops charge by the hour for your computer usage and your printouts will cost way more then they’re worth.
10) Just say no to cable television. It’s way too expensive. Besides, with that spiffy computer you just purchased back in point nine, you can watch free movies & TV online on Web sites like Hulu.com or Fancast.com.
There are many more things you can do to save money. I don’t recommend skipping showers or never doing the laundry. I do recommend establishing good spending habits, monthly budgets and being thrifty. In the end, your college experience is what you make of it and if you make the most of it without spending the most on it, you’ll thank yourself when you don’t have piles of debt to pay off for the next twenty-years.
This article was by Bob who writes for ChristianPF.com – a personal finance blog from a Christian perspective.
Editor’s note: Bob mentioned the free t-shirt thing. As previously discussed here at ptmoney.com (setting up your finances for college), the CARD Act put an end to the practice of giving away free shwag, like a t-shirt. But the point is the same. Don’t let some outside force drive your credit card decisions. Be intentional about your finances and get a card on your terms.
photo by chris.corwin