Incoming Freshmen Series: How To Stop Spending Like a Freshman
If your college experience was anything like mine, it was like hitting the big time. I didn’t work in high school until my senior year, and those last few months were torturous knowing college was on the horizon – especially when some of my friends were already there. So when my parents told me they’d provided a monthly allowance for me, I was pumped. Granted, I needed to pay for food, but I finally had money of my own to spend as I pleased, without someone breathing down my back.
College is a brilliant place where some bright lights never burn out – especially those of Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, and McDonald’s. Not to mention those late night diner runs and bar runs. Whether you’re up late studying or partying, there’s always late-night pizza in the back of your mind. Food is just the beginning – not to mention costs for entertainment like sports packages, HBO, Netflix (price hikes and all), and of course those fun random road trips. College is a beautiful place, but damn, can it be expensive.
Let’s not forget to mention those credit card scams and companies who live to prey on college students. It’s a hard world out there for a college student trying to practice frugality, but it can be done. After the jump, some tips on keeping your hard-earned (or not-so-hard-earned) dinero in your wallet.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A good rule to follow in life as well as college finance. Free T-shirt with a bank account? Don’t bother. You’ll be drowning in free T-shirts by the end of the year, I promise.
Choose organizations with dues carefully. Shelling out $80 yearly for another academic honor club or a student alumni association you don’t care about is a waste of your time and money. Be careful. If you’re unsure, try to see if there’s a payment plan or defer dues payment until you’re sure.
Really think before you buy your meal plan. For some people, it’s ideal. For others, it’s absolutely wasteful. Every scenario is unique, so I’ll refuse from making a recommendation one way or another. But just don’t do it because you think you have to or because you think everyone’s doing it.
Learn how to budget. Mint.com will be your best friend. It makes those late-night bar runs less stressful, because you would have already known they were coming.
Look for a good student job. I’m working 40 hours weekly on campus this summer, but during the school year, I recommend no more than 20. Even if you don’t need a job, extra money (sorry Biggie) helps for a rainy day fund or just a quick cash influx.
And last, but certainly not least, live a little. You’re in college. Take that road trip that might run you a little tight. Do what it takes to get to that conference. Most parents are supportive of this, and will do what it takes to get you to enjoy college without always stressing about money. BIG caveat though: it’s okay to be a little over sometimes and call the parents for help, but you can’t run a Boston Bruins-size bar tab and expect to be bailed out. Live responsibly.