Don’t Become A Student Loan Statistic
I won’t bore you with statistics or scary stories - you’ve probably seen and heard them all. Just realize that student loan debt is THE WORST. While sometimes “necessary,” unless you have a blueprint for paying them off quickly after graduation (i.e. high paying job), student loan amounts should be minimal or avoided all together. There is nothing more deflating than beginning your adult life with the albatross of student debt hanging around your neck.
Monetize Your Skills
Realize that regardless of your particular situation, you should find a way to generate an income while in college. Even students who are on full scholarship or have parents with Elon Musk level bank accounts should work. Working helps to develop self-discipline, pride in doing a job well and an appreciation for what it takes to earn money. Students with a bit of the entrepreneurial spirit can find ways to monetize their current (or aspiring) skills to earn more than a minimal hourly wage. The payoff can be exponentially higher (both monetarily & in professional connections) when your “side-hustle” correlates with your major and potential career.
Stick To A Budget (don’t roll your eyes)
Even if you hate it, even if you tried and failed, even if your parents never taught you how to, you still need to create a budget. Knowing how much money you have to spend and where you are spending is crucial. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use an app like Mint, YNAB or one of many other free online budgeting tools. You must learn right now how important it is to spend less than you earn. Create savings goals. Have a savings plan for each paycheck and pay yourself first. Build up an emergency fund and develop the foundation of sound budgeting for the rest of your life. An expertise in budgeting and budgeting tools is also a skill that you can quickly monetize!
Educate Yourself About Credit
It is important that you begin to understand how credit works. Spend time reading, watching or listening to professionals like Scott Alan Turner or Nick True, and learn how to manage your credit and why it’s important to be in control of your credit - even as a college student.
Rent, Borrow or Buy Used and/or Digital Textbooks
The assumption is that all students know that the campus bookstore will price gouge you on textbooks and therefore is THE WORST option available. Yet every year thousands of books are purchased in the campus bookstore and then sold back at the end of the semester for pennies on the dollar. Before buying any books, go to comparison sites like Slugbooks to see all available options. Buy textbooks only when you have to, and always seek out used options. Review your syllabus and talk with your professors and students who have already taken the course to find out which textbooks are required and if an older (less expensive) edition will suffice. A little legwork on the front end can save you hundreds of dollars each semester.
Cut Costs on Housing
If you are attending college in your hometown consider living at home to save money. Perhaps a Mike Seaver/Growing Pains scenario above the garage would offer privacy without breaking the bank. If you are living on campus, rooms or suites with multiple roommates can be significantly cheaper than single or double rooms. Off campus housing is often the least expensive option, but also presents it’s share of obstacles and temptations. I would recommend only exploring off-campus housing once you have established yourself as a successful college student, and even then not until junior or senior year.
Don’t Buy A Car
Spending a chunk of money on a car (or even worse - being saddled with a monthly car payment) is a deadly and unneeded expense for a college student. Save the money you would spend on a car (and insurance) and instead:
a) Make it your mission to become friends with at least one student who owns a car within the first month of the semester
b) Buy a bike or scooter
c) Utilize public transportation
d) Uber if absolutely necessary
Build Professional Relationships
Developing relationships during your time in college may not have an immediate financial impact, but can be priceless in the long term. Engage with and get to know students and professors, especially in your major. Seek out upperclassmen and graduate students who are focused on your area of study. Those relationships will be key as you begin your career after graduation. Utilize school message boards and business social apps like LinkedIn to attend meetups and put yourself in position for internship or teaching assistant opportunities.
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