College life brings with it a limited budget and almost limitless free time.
There are plenty of hours to fill, but not a lot of spending money in your pockets. However, there are many resources at your fingertips which can make the experience affordable and enjoyable, allowing you to graduate with good spending habits and without debt.
Here are three tips to help you transition to college living while using your time, money and talents wisely.
1. Start Building Your Resume
Once graduation is over, it’s time to get working. Right after high school you have a whole summer to begin saving for the future. Jump right in and get some real life experience to put on your resume and learn what it’s like to have an income.
Once you start school, either reduce your hours to part-time or find another job that better suit your class schedule. For some students classwork can make employment tough, but this does not mean it’s time to quit working. Just working two shifts over the weekend will give you money to use for saving and spending.
There are a variety of jobs out there for you to try. Whether or not you want something social, like working on campus or something to start networking, or doing entry level work in your field, get started early. Even food service or retail jobs can be the stepping stones to learning leadership skills you will use in the future.
2. Evaluate Income and Spending
Putting together a budget requires accurately estimating how much income you have and what regular expenses you will owe. Determine the funds you have to work with by adding together the money you were given for graduation, any regular spending money your parents will provide and financial aid money that will go toward expenses and paychecks from working.
Even if your parents can’t afford much or checks from graduation are small, the money can be leveraged so that you have a cash safety net during college.
Use Microsoft Excel or another online budgeting application to create a budget that tracks the cost of books, cell phone bill and other personal items. Discuss with your parents early on the costs they will assume for you. Making a plan before it’s time to pay can prevent you from spending more than you can repay or taking out more than you need in student loans.
Open a student checking and saving account to receive discounted rates and track your spending to make sure you follow your budget. Start with at least $100 to open the savings account and then deposit some of your earnings every two weeks until you have $1,000. You can use the savings for major expenses such as flying home for winter break or making an emergency visit to the hospital after breaking in your leg in intramural soccer.
3. Manage Time Intentionally
Believe it or not, studying is a major way to save money, not to mention improve your grades and prepare you for a career. Putting a sizable portion of your time into study groups or planting yourself at the library utilizes this time to its greatest potential. Take the initiative to be a disciplined student and devote hours to your class work.
You may feel tempted to use these hours for fun events like shopping, going out to eat or paying for other entertainment. Limit your nights out to once or twice a week so that you are in control of your grades, but still able kick back and relax here and there.
Take advantage of the on-campus events sponsored by your school. After all, part of your tuition is going toward these activities, which are often free to you and accompanied with free food. This will help with immersing you in the community as well as saving you from spending money on other forms of entertainment.
College is a time to embrace many new things, but debt doesn’t have to be one of them. Make the most of your freshman year by working hard, sticking to your budget and hitting the books.
Alanna Ritchie is a content writer for Debt.org, where she writes about personal finance and little smart ways to spend (and save) money. Alanna has an English degree from Rollins College.
I would definitely recommend living on campus your freshman year. The idea of moving from your parent’s house into a dorm full of hundreds of like minded 18 year olds is intoxicating; probably in more ways than one. Living on campus is the best way to get a great college experience. Here are ten reasons why:
Reason #1: Campus PD, P-Safe, a.k.a rent-a-cop. These are your friendly campus policemen that short of punching them in the face or waving a broken bottle at them are not going to arrest you. They are there to make sure no one gets hurt. Awesome. You know that college bubble you think you’re going to where you’re allowed to get away with things ‘normal’ adults wouldn’t? That’s on-campus, not off.
Reason #2 Your walk or drive is much shorter to class / more sleep = better grades
Reason #3 Closer proximity to all the free campus events: concerts, group performances, sponsored appearances, etc.
Reason #4 Your bills will be a lot simpler. No squabbles with roommates over who pays the utilities
Reason #5 All your academic resources are easier to reach, be that office hours with your T.A., books you need to borrow, study buddies or quiet study space.
Reason #6 More places to eat and drink. Small business owners aren’t dumb; they set up shop where the traffic is, and usually give a student discount.
Reason #7 Your parents will feel better about it, guaranteed. And no one needs that monkey on their back.
Reason #8 Imagine a scenario where you’ve had one too many beers (hard to imagine, but bear with me on this one) your walk home will be significantly more legal and safe.
Reason #9 Campus jobs pay well and usually allow you to study. A commute to a job off-campus burns precious time that could have been used for studying, hanging out with friends, etc. Remember that if you’re going full-time, you will often be crunched for time during the semester.
Reason #10 Friends! They will be around you all the time in a way you will never experience again in the real world with a full-time job, and THAT is what college is all about.
I’m reading Hole’s Human Anatomy and Physiology
Dorm life isn’t usually easy, especially when you have to live with someone else in such a small space. If you are not used to sharing a room with someone else then living in a dorm might be hard for you. Living with a stranger makes the experience even more challenging. Dealing with a roommate is not always easy. There are a couple things to remember when living with someone else.
You’re not used to each other yet
If you are living with a random roommate you already know the first couple weeks might be a little bit uncomfortable. If you know your roommate’s name before you move in, try Facebooking them and letting them know you are their roommate. Try to get to know them a little bit before you move in. Don’t bite your roommates head of the first night! Be patient and open to the person your roommate might be.
Know each other’s expectations
Toes will be stepped on (figuratively speaking) if ground rules are not established upon move in. It is only fair for your new roommate to know what you expect of them and what they expect of you. Establish some rules you have for each other and how you would like the atmosphere of your new room to be. Let your expectations be known.
Find out your roommate’s personality
Communication with your roommate might be one of the most important things to have when living with someone else! Is your new roommate a party animal? Are you not a partier? That kind of information needs to be exchanged. Do you confront your problems directly? Do you hold in your feelings until you can’t anymore? Communicate! It’s so important to have peace and happiness in your new room!
Take responsibility for your belongings
Your belongings might be tossed around the room and mixed in with your new roommates. Just keep in mind that even though you live in the same room, you are the one responsible for your things. Your roommate is not going to babysit your stuff, so make sure it is where it needs to be. If you have important or sacred belongings try getting a safe to keep your things in. You cannot expect your roommate to keep track of your belongings, and they cannot expect you to keep track of theirs.
I’m reading Cost Accounting
Roommates are annoying, especially freshman year when they are randomly assigned to you. Forced compatibility is rough no matter how social you are. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
#1 Confess to your roommate that you’re confused, sexually and carnivorously. Lament daily that you should be a vegetarian but just can’t quit eating bacon.
#2 Start every story you tell him/her about high school with “We got so hammered and then ….” End every story with “hilarity ensued.”
#3 Blare loud music so that all your hallmates will have to stop by at least once to tell you to turn it down. Any publicity is good publicity.
#4 If your roommate tells you about someone they like, be VERY supportive of their opinions. Tell them how smoking hot that person is, how you’d be all over them if they weren’t already into them, and then for good measure, flirt with that person at parties to prove you were not lying when you said they were attractive.
#5 Stock up on pungent foods like garlic and old cheese. That way if you need them to vacate, you open up your stinky stash just long enough for them to hightail it to the library. Blame it on the dining hall food you ate last night.
#6 Wait until the pile of dirty clothes is taking up 1/5 of your total floor space to do laundry, then brag about how “green” you are being by hanging your clothes around the room. If she get pissy about your wet floor, lay some eco-guilt on her.
#7 Related to the last one, you can further impress them with your environmentally consciousness by only flushing after number 2. If they complain, show them some stats about lack of clean water in developing countries. They will roll their eyes at first, but just keep talking and they will totally get it.
Have any roommate horror stories from someone who did anything on this horrifying list? Let us know in the comments section.
I’m reading Elementary Statistics