The high school graduation period has begun, which means there’s lots of future college students trying to get in last minute money to help with one of the most expensive journeys they will ever take. For many students, college seems a hopeless endeavor that they will never be able to afford. Luckily, there’s still time to get ready for college and make it a more frugal experience. These ten tips should help you put back money to help you get by during your first year of college, so you can stress less about finances and more about how you’re going to get that lengthy paper finished before the deadline that is just hours away. So, don’t let your graduation become the beginning of a stressful summer as there are ways to get a frugal start to the college experience.
1. Grab a Summer Job
Without a doubt, one of the best places to begin your journey is to grab a summer job. Usually, places in the mall, fast food chains and even some retail stores begin hiring like crazy just before summer begins. So, with any luck, you can land a good job to help you save up. You might even consider working full time if you can find the right job, so you will be able to put back the money you need to cushion your first year. There is an added bonus to having a job though. It will provide you with the much-needed work experience you will need to land a job later. This will ensure that if you need to get a part time job while you’re at school then you will have something to put on your resume to help out. Of course, if you can’t find a job, in the traditional sense, there’s still lots of options out there for you. You might consider doing landscaping for your community, babysitting or even looking for work online. You will be surprised by how easily it is to create work to help you save up a small nest egg for college.
2. Search for Used Textbooks
If you’ve already enrolled in your classes for autumn semester, then you may want to get a head start on looking for the used textbooks you will need for the course. Some professors like to post this information early, but if they don’t you may try emailing them to see if you can get a list of their course requirements. Having your book list early can really help you save money. For starters, it will allow you to purchase books before they are in demand. This tends to cut down on the price quite a bit. If you can’t find the book right away, then you still have the whole summer to keep your eye out for the book at a decent price. You might also be able to find a student selling their copy. Most students want to ditch their excess books at the end of the year opposed to the beginning, so you might get a better price quote as the end of term arrives.
3. Tour Your College
Believe it or not but touring your college can also help you start college life off on a frugal foot. Of course, this option isn’t available to anyone, so don’t spend your hard-earned money to tour if the campus is across the country. However, if you can’t physically tour a campus, many university websites are now offering 3D tours that new students can check out free of charge. You can also use Google Maps or a similar app to check out the surrounding area. Touring your school will give you a chance to check out many elements of college life though. For starters, you will be able to see the cafeteria and the food it serves. This will allow you to choose if a meal pass is something you should invest in. Another great thing about touring is you get to see the dorms, so you will know what appliances and other items you can keep with you. It will also give you a general idea of transportation, so you can invest in a bike, transportation pass or simply just drive. This will allow you to plan your money accordingly.
4. Thrift Shop
The thrift shop can quickly become your best friend when it comes to college shopping. For starters, you can purchase cheap appliances there like a coffee maker, microwave and so on. These can come in handy for students planning to live in an apartment or those looking to cook in their dorm. Thrift stores also offer a surprising number of decorative items that you might want to consider for your new home. You may even find simple furniture to make things a lot cozier. On top of that, you might get a head start on your new college wardrobe. Clothes offered at the thrift shop are often in good shape and won’t break the bank.
5. Research Simple Recipes
If you’re skipping out on the meal plan to save money, then knowing how to cook for yourself is essential. Of course, dorm living presents its own problems for those wanting to cook. Unless you have a shared kitchen, you’re going to be limited to microwaves, hot plates and other simple appliances to cook with. Luckily, there’s a ton of great recipes out there that cater to the limited options that students have. You won’t have to stress about living on a ramen only diet over the next four years, as these recipes even cater to different diets. You may even find some great coffee recipes too, which will keep you out of your local café.
6. Learn to Budget
Hands down, one of the most efficient things you can do before heading to college is learn how to budget. This information isn’t widely taught in school, so ask your parents to show you the ropes. If they aren’t able to help you then look around online as there are so many financial lessons that can help you get the hang of the task. It doesn’t matter if you’re uncertain what your budget will be as just knowing how to come up with a budget will help you plan better when you do know what money you will have to work with.
7. Pick Up a No Cost Hobby
Before you head off to college, it might be time to make sure you have a hobby that isn’t going to cost you money to do while you’re at school. One great example is learning to play an instrument. Having your instrument on hand will give you a great chance to blow off steam and may even help you make some friends. Photography is a great option too, if you already have a camera. Of course, you can also work on photography with your smart phone, as many organizations are beginning to give this photography a category of its own. Journaling is another great option, which can be completed with in an old notebook or on your computer’s word processing program. If you have yard and thread on hand already then crocheting, knitting and embroidery are also great options. You can even try your hand at drawing.
8. Skip the Credit Card
A lot of students apply for credit cards as soon as they reach 18. May it be just for emergencies or to help supplement your cost of living, this can be a huge mistake. Credit cards are a fast way to get into debt, especially if you don’t have a secure job to keep up with the payments. The interest on cards designed for students can be astronomical too. So, it is best to avoid the temptation altogether. Instead, you should put your excess money into savings where it can gain interest. This will give you an emergency fund that won’t harm you in the long run.
9. Look for Discounts
Another great way to prepare for college life is to begin to search for discounts online. Your student ID card can take you far when it comes to saving money. For instance, some stores will take a percentage off of your clothing when you present your ID. You might also be able to get into the movie theater at a discounted price with the ID. Even restaurants help out students at times. However, it’s important to know which stores actually do this. Some upperclassmen might help steer you in the right direction with this, while some of it will be trial and error. You should also look up online programs to help you. For instance, Amazon Prime offers a very cheap option that gives you the free shipping and streaming TV that will cut down on your budget. There are many online programs though, so use your summer wisely.
10. Seek Out Grants and Scholarships
A lot of students reach the end of their summer year and feel as if it is too late to get grants and scholarships. This couldn’t be further from the truth though. There is no such thing as too late to gain these amazing forms of educational aid. The only thing is, you have to apply for them. So, during your summer break, you might start looking around for grants that suit your needs. There’s lots of great online forums for this, so sign up for a few and get to work. You can even keep these websites close by and use them when you have a break in college. You can keep adding grants and scholarships to your funds until you finally finish up with school. Don’t forget, you can plan ahead and look for your master’s studies too, if you plan on going that route.
Preparing for college is still an option even though it is dangerously close. These ten tips should help you prepare to live a frugal lifestyle while you’re out and enjoying your new life. With these tips to guide you, money should be less of a stressor for you, so you can get the most out of your college experience.