Tuesday, September 3, 2013

25 College Tips

Today is the first day of school for many students so while I was pondering this fact, I thought about all of the things I should have done differently back when I was in college in order to save money.  Here's some tips:

  1. Do really well in high school (this will allow you to...)
  2. Apply for all of the scholarships you possibly can (better to get free money for college than a massive amount of loans which you will need to pay back)
  3. CLEP or challenge any classes that you can (a cheap way to get college credit)
  4. Go to community college for your first couple of years unless you get a full-ride scholarship (this alone will save you a massive amount of money on school)
  5. Keep your living expenses as cheap as humanly possible (live free with family, trade living in your aunt's attic for work around the house, etc)
  6. If at all possible, ride a bike or take public transportation instead of getting a car (this will also save you a massive amount of money)
  7. Don't live in the dorm or get the school's food plan is you can live and eat cheaper somewhere else (rules vary on this by college)
  8. Try to find a job during school that either: provides lots of free time so you can study or provides a free meals which will save you lots of money on food
  9. You may also want to find a job doing something that ties in with your degree (so you will hit the ground running with both a degree and work experience and hopefully some contacts in your industry)
  10. Hang out with frugal friends (if you are poor and hang out with wealthy friends you will either go into debt or always feel like the odd man out)
  11. DON'T use credit cards in college even though promoters will be trying to get you to sign up for a new card every other day
  12. Buy textbooks as cheaply as possible (from others who have taken the course, online, or from textbook resellers; the school bookstore is usually the most expensive place to buy textbooks.  Renting textbooks is also a good idea because once you are done with them, you will never read them again)
  13. Open your own free bank account at a credit union instead of using your parent's credit cards (this will teach you money management skills, give you a leg up on your credit score, and after a couple of years of responsible money management will allow you to get a free or low fee/low interest credit card if you like)
  14. Don't get into contracts if at all possible and NEVER co-sign for anyone else (get a prepaid cell phone instead of a contract cell phone, rent month to month or live with family instead of getting on a one-year lease with friends, don't get into credit card debt, etc)
  15. Don't get behind in your classes and the corollary, if you need help ask as soon as possible (dropping classes is expensive and getting way behind makes you want to drop classes)
  16. Set yourself up for success: stay organized, join study groups, trade tutoring, do more than is required, garner goodwill from your professors who can help you excel in the future (with letters of reference, info of TA jobs, etc)
  17. Don't do stupid stuff (anything that will get you arrested, overdosed, infamous on Facebook, etc counts)
  18. Ask for student discounts on everything (you'd be surprised at how much money your student ID can save you in a college town)
  19. Choose tech wisely: buy the least expensive laptop that you can use for four years, seek out free or cheap software that will get the job done, take care of your laptop and cell phone so they will last longer, never leave these things laying around so they won't get stolen
  20. Seek out free entertainment: there are usually a lot of free things going on around campus to keep you entertained, join clubs (hiking club, etc), use the off campus library to borrow free movies and music, check out free community festivals, etc
  21. Hit up the Goodwill, thrift stores, Walmart, Ross, and similar stores for your school wardrobe
  22. Look for cheap transportation if you live far from home (when you head home for the holidays consider taking Megabus or Bolt bus instead of flying; check out ride shares with other students, etc)
  23. Try "do it yourself" for all kinds of things: manicures at home instead of the salon, potlucks with friends instead of eating out, buying beer to drink at home instead of at the bar, hand washing laundry instead of running to the laundromat every day, making coffee in your room instead of going to Starbucks every morning, etc
  24. When in need, ask: if you need a mini fridge for your room, ask for it as a birthday present from your folks; if you see something useful that someone else is getting rid of, ask if you can have it; hit up grandma for a home cooked meal, etc.
  25. Get familiar with Freecycle, Craigslist, Groupon, r/frugal, couchsurfing, and other online ways to save money

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