Forty years ago, college was a privilege. Only those planning to go into specialty fields were directed to apply. And those who graduated walked into the workforce with a huge advantage and major financial pay-offs.
Today, the number of people who graduate from college has doubled. A college degree is almost as necessary as a high school diploma to find any meaningful form of employment. Teachers now begin asking students in middle school where they plan to apply for college! It’s no wonder that 7 in 10 college students graduate with student loan debt. College is an absolute, and students all over the country are going into massive debt to achieve the standard.
How to Not be a Broke College Student
1. Should You Even Go to College?
The first thing to consider when budgeting your college years to keep yourself out of massive debt is whether or not you should even go to a four-year college. There are now more avenues than ever available to achieve your goal. Trade schools, two-year colleges, and community colleges are offering many of the same career opportunities as those four-year-colleges. Use a high school counselor or career counselor to determine if there might be an equivalent educational resource for far less money before you start applying for student loans. You could save yourself years of paying off debt!
If you do decide that student loans are your best resource for getting a college education, it’s important to learn how those loans work before you sign on the dotted line. Find out things like your interest rate, when you’ll need to begin paying back the loans, and exactly what the loans are paying for. Get educated on exactly how your specific loans work, and how long they will take to pay off.
It’s especially important to understand why you might be getting a check in the mail from your student loan provider called a refund check. Refund checks are the leftover student loan money after all of your college invoices are paid. This is still loan money, money that you will have to pay back. As tempting as it might be, do not spend this money. Put it in a savings account or other interest-bearing account until your loan comes due. If you don’t feel confident in your self-control to avoid spending it, find out if you can immediately turn the refund check around and pay back your loan. Whatever you do, don’t spend it! It is not free money.
2. Apply for Free Money
There are hundreds of scholarships, grants, and other opportunities to pay for things like food, books, and tuition. Every dollar that you can secure to lessen your own burden is well worth the effort. Speak to your high school and college financial counselors about these opportunities. You might be shocked to learn just how much they add up to! If you don’t find financial counselors to be helpful, start your own Internet search. There are thousands of resources and many organizations looking to help college students out there. It might take a while to apply for these scholarships and grants, so set aside time and think of it like a job.
3. Save Money by Finding Free Stuff
There are also many opportunities on college campuses to get free stuff. Vendors in the area often bring in free food, free clothes, and free books. Colleges have a steady stream of raffles and contests that you can enter for any number of things.
There are also tons of freebies offered by national businesses for college students. Free computer programs, free checking accounts, college books, museum admissions, transportation (like busses and Lyft), and free discount subscriptions like Amazon Prime are all available to college students. A quick Internet search will show you everything!
3. Save Money by Finding Discounts
There is a student discount for nearly everything nowadays. Restaurants, movies, clothing, and even technology all offer discounts to people in college. Whatever you need to purchase, pull out that student ID and ask for a discount. Find out if your college has a list of local businesses that offer discounts to students. Do a quick Internet search and see what you find! Take advantage of your position as a student.
4. Save Money by Avoiding Credit Cards
Credit card companies prey on college students. They offer discounted interest rates and double down with high limits. Because so many college students don’t have a credit history, the credit cards sound like free money. Never apply for one of these cards. Starting your adult life with any form of credit card is a bad idea and can be a set up for failure. Instead, read on to learn how you can live within your means and get through college without being broke!
5. Save Money by Creating a Budget
In order to avoid those credit cards, you must determine how much money you truly need to live. Make a list of all of your expenses. This is the money you’re spending on a monthly basis. You’ll want to write down regular bills like rent if you’re not in campus housing, car payments if you have them, cell phone, cable, and internet bills. Then scan through bills like car insurance, or vehicle registrations. Finally, come up with an average number for food, entertainment, pet bills, gas, and electricity/water if applicable.
Next, and this is the important part: decide where you can cut back. Use that student ID and start calling your cell phone, cable, Internet companies, and more. Find out where you could be saving just for being a student. Then, get honest about how much money you need to spend on food and entertainment. You don’t want to cut yourself off from the fun entirely, but you do need to remember that your goal is to enjoy yourself without going broke.
Once you’ve got a very honest budget outlining all of your monthly expenses and you’ve taken the time to whittle them down as much as possible, it’s time to factor in your income.
6. Save Money by Getting a Job
If you’re already working, full or part-time, that’s great. Factor that money into your budget and see if you’re bringing in enough to cover your bills comfortably. If you’re not, see how much you can continue shaving off of your monthly bills like cutting cable and only using Internet at the school library.
If you’re not working, you might think it’s an impossibility to work and go to school. And it can be very difficult. There are far more opportunities for college students to work inside of school these days, including school cafes and administrative duties. If there are no jobs available on your college campus, considering scouring local listings for jobs like house sitting or pet sitting. These are jobs you can easily do while still attending classes.
While it’s possible to work off-campus at a restaurant or local business, you might find that you don’t have the capacity to handle both. That’s why online jobs are such an incredible prospect for college students today. You can choose from transcribing audio files to social media management to becoming a virtual assistant; a quick Internet search will show you hundreds of ways that you can use the skills you already have to make money online. (It goes without saying to vet the companies prior to beginning work for them.) Working a few hours a day from the comfort of your own room could easily cover your bills and then some.
7. Save Money By Paying Your Bills on Time
A single late fee can be as much as $45 for a cell phone bill. Late fees add up and they add up quickly. They also affect your overall credit score, which is a number you will come to rely on when it comes time to rent an apartment or purchase a vehicle (or even apply for a job!). Paying your bills on time every month, even if you’re paying a minimum balance on a credit card, is a simple way to save money on late fees and keep yourself from going down the debt rabbit hole fast. Set alarms in your calendars to ensure you stay on top of your bills.
8. Save Money By Bartering
If you are learning a special skill in college, try and use that skill to barter! If you’re a writer or a photographer or an artist of any kind, use your skills to barter for something else you need. You could post to local listing sites your willingness to barter for the things you need.
9. Save Money By Thinking
It might sound silly, but using your noggin and planning ahead will probably save you more than any other tip out there. When you’re going out, only bring the cash with you that you intend to spend. Pay attention to the most affordable gas stations and restaurants with the best student specials. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this or do I just want this?” There’s nothing wrong with wanting something, but think before you set down the green and be sure it’s not going to put your in a bind. Plan ahead for big expenditures like a dinner date or trip out of town. Spend money based on facts, not based on emotions.
It’s unnervingly easy to wind up a broke college student in the present day. With your focus on classes and homework, it’s not easy to pile “make a budget” and “earn an income” on top of it all. But if you get clear on how much you need to spend each month, and you research the many ways you could save money, it is possible to live life as a financially comfortable college student instead of a broke one.
Disclaimer: Content found on loanreviewhq.com has been created to be used for informational purposes only and help readers achieve a basic understanding of their finances and financial options. The content is not intended to replace or usurp financial advice from professional accountants, CPAs, etc. If you you’re seeking financial advice, always present any questions you may have regarding your finances to a professional. Never disregard professional advice because of something you read on the internet.