This is a must read for college students and their parents. Getting through college is financially tough, even tougher if you are a student living away from home. These tips will help you all get through college and still have the bank account intact. (Note: Written with the assistance of some past and present students)
1. Rethink your (fashion) style
You think you have a pretty good fashion sense do you? Well anyone would if they walked into the most popular fashion stores and bought the outfit the mannequin’s wearing. Join the charity shopping obsession. As well as making a fashion statement and showing up to the party wearing an outfit no one else will have – you would have probably spent less than a quarter of what you’d spend if you bought what the mannequin’s wearing in your regular clothes store. “Vintage” is what’s in; why not honour the fashion movement with true style by wearing REAL vintage, and saving money as well! Here are some quick tips:
- Shop at actual charity shops and not specifically “vintage shops.” Yes vintage shops will sell you interesting vintage pieces, but at ridiculous prices. You’re better off using your own fashion conscious to find hidden treasure in a regular charity shop that will only cost you your spare change. You’re also helping a good cause
- Car-boot and garage sales still offer terrific bargains and the ‘sellers’ tend to be very negotiable so never pay the advertised price
- Traditional charity shops have the highest turn-over of clothes. So get friendly with the staff and ask them to keep an eye out for what you would like to buy.
2. Do you need furniture and electrical goods?
Furniture for most students is not a major problem; there is a tendency to make do with whatever is available. However, you should seriously consider the need to get the basics right which includes a chair and desk. There are lots of second hand stores, but ideally, you can search an office furniture second hand store. These shops will have very good quality chairs and desks which have normally come to the end of corporate lease.
As for electrical, this is a bit more tricky as you want to be safe. If you are buying second-hand, ask if it has been tested for safety and also will it come with a limited guarantee. There has also been an explosion of online auction sites specialising in electrical goods, computers etc and these often provide good guarantees. A quick search on the web will get you on your way.
3. Food and drink
Potentially the biggest part of the spending will come down to food and drink (not necessary in that order!). Some quick tips:
- If you can cook, you should! It’s easy to fall into the habit of buying a new microwavable dinner every night, but this will cost you a bomb in the long run. And let’s face it, some of them aren’t bad, but home cooking is far better!
- When your grocery shopping, always check the expiry dates and ponder whether or not you will manage to eat everything before it goes off. There is no worse feeling as a student when you throw away half a loaf of mouldy bread!
- Buy a flask for your coffee! If you waste money on a takeaway coffee on the way to college every morning, you’re much better off making your own before you leave and keeping it in a flask.
- The same thing goes for packed lunches, make sure you always buy enough snack type foods to quickly shove in your bag and take with you
- Now when it comes to alcohol, it’s partially true that “pre-drinking may save you money, but costs you your dignity.” However, in moderation this is an excellent way to save money. Try to pre drink over a meal with friends; having a meal will normally lessen the effects of the alcohol so you still make it to the club! And friends will watch out for one another to make sure no one takes it over the top
- Always choose a cheap bar to start your night; no one likes to head to the big clubs until late anyways!
- Try to keep a little junk food in the house for your drunken stumbles home. It sounds silly, but this will save you from buying 20 cheese burgers from McDonald’s when you get the “munchies” after a night out.
4. Travelling around town
This can be expensive. The most obvious thing to do is get a student travel card as this will save a minor fortune for most people. Look at travel as an opportunity to stay fit! Start walking, jogging and cycling to places instead of public transport. If you do have a car, consider selling it. The cost of owning a car when studying will normally kill the budget, unless of course it is heavily subsidised from someone else.
5. If you can – get a job
A job will do a few things; it will supplement your income and take time away from you spending your money! It also takes time from the studying so you need to be careful that the job does not distract you to the point that you start falling behind.
As to what sort of job, well it makes sense to get one in the field of where you want to be. Start searching and the key to these jobs is usually through contacts, so start asking family, friends and lecturers from college for help. Competition for jobs will be tough, so look up for tips as to how to get a good looking resume finalised and tips on how to work through job interviews.
If you can’t commit to a permanent job, look at jobs that pop up occasionally. In the bigger cities, you could get an opportunity to work as an “extra” on a movie set, or babysitting or even dog walking. There are also a lot of opportunities to teach English in bigger cities. Be creative and look into these opportunities.
6. Stash some cash (this tip is a late addition!)
It’s never a good idea to keep an excessive amount of money in your wallet at any given time. Firstly, you’ll have the urge to spend it on impulsive and unnecessary things. Secondly, if you’re living in a big city, there’s always the chance that someone could take it all from you.
When you find you’ve got quite a bit of money put it in a safe place in your room. One suggestion is the freezer; “freeze your assets” and keeps it out of site!