Friday, November 8, 2013

How to Not Go Broke in College

Last weekend, I went shopping for the first time in a long time, and I will admit to getting a little over-zealous.  Granted, most of my purchases were gifts as part of my early holiday preparation, but I still felt like I had spent more than I wanted to.

I know that being able to manage their own money is not a skill that most kids bring with them to college.  Personally, I definitely over spent during my freshman year and have since learned to be more money conscious and responsible.  So, in the interest of helping you guys learn from my mistakes, I thought I would compile a few pieces of advice for how to have occasional shopping weekends like I did and still not go broke while in college.

*Please keep in mind that I am in no way a financial professional, and I am not being paid by any of the mentioned companies to pitch their services/products.  I'm simply sharing tips from personal experience.

The Amazon Student App
1. Sign up for Amazon Student
Seriously, Amazon is a lifesaver.  Not only do they sell practically everything (seriously, everything), but Amazon Students gives you all of the free, two-day shipping benefits of Amazon Prime, but at half the cost.  As I've mentioned before, I highly encourage everyone I know is attending students to first try and purchase their course books from Amazon and their affiliated sellers before buying from their campus bookstores, where book prices are often astronomical.  If you'd like to sign up and help me out a little, you can do so through my referral link HERE.

Walgreens Balance Rewards Card
2. Sign up for a local rewards program.
After the first month or so at school, you'll know the stores that you go to most often and have the best selection of products.  Most grocery and drug stores have a rewards program that is free to sign up for, in which you get special discounts and sometimes cash rewards.  I personally have signed up for the Walgreens Balance Rewards program because that is where I do a lot of shopping for food, health items, etc.

Everyone loves Starbucks cards!

3. Limit your off-campus expenses.
If you live on campus and have a meal plan that is included in your tuition fees, use it.  Think about it: you or your parents have already paid that money, so you're really just wasting it if you never eat on campus.  If you do need the occasional off-campus treat like a drink from Starbucks, try this: buy yourself a Starbucks card with just $25 dollars on it and limit yourself to one card a semester.  If you only buy Starbucks when you have money on the card and are not allowed to refill it, you will stop wasting money on expensive coffee and save it for weekend trips and events instead.

Along the same lines, if you live off-campus and don't have a meal plan, pack yourself a lunch.  Consider this: a loaf of bread costs me $3-$5 and will last me at least 2.5 weeks.  Fresh sandwich meat for the week is about $3.50 and my favorite mustard is also $3.00.  Now compare that to the $5+ dollars you could end up spending a day if you buy lunch.  Yeah.  Pack a lunch.

Bank of America Mobile Banking App

4. Download a mobile banking app.
Most banks now have some sort of a mobile banking application for all smart phones, and it's a really easy way to keep track of how much money is on your account at any given time.  Just make sure that you keep a close eye on your phone and never save any account information outside of the secure app.

5. Get a part time job.
This is honestly the best advice I can give you.  Even if you didn't qualify for work study, ask around campus about assistant, TA, and reception jobs.  Work in the cafeteria or the admissions office as a student ambassador.  You don't have to work 14 hours a week like I do; even a few hours a week can help pad the inside of your wallet.

And when you get that first pay check, be sure to put a least half of it in your savings account.

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