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5 College Money Tips

College is one of the most exciting periods of your life. For many of us, it’s our first time being independent, living away from home, and managing bills. As such, many college students end up struggling financially or worse, find themselves in debt. While I’m a little older than college age now, I went to college, paid for my own living expenses and took out my own loans to pay my fees. I worked while I was studying in a variety of part time jobs to be in order to afford the kind of lifestyle I wanted. Here are my 5 college money tips to help you have the best time in college, while leaving without financial stress and perhaps even with some savings in the bank!

1. Work
I worked for a year before I headed off to college, but by the time I moved out of home and went to college I had very little in savings. This was a mistake I regretted, but I continued to work throughout my college years, picking up extra work during my vacations so I could buff up my savings account. I tried to avoid using my loans to pay for my fees and books as much as possible, buying second hand books to keep costs down. I’m glad I got a job while in high school because it allowed me to practice managing my academic work load and my work without risking impacting my degree. It also meant that when I finally go to college, I already had a part time job that I was confident in so I could focus on my classes, tutorials and getting the best grades possible. Working while at college is a great way to cover your living expenses and/or keep the balance of your loans as low as possible.

2. Buy Quality Clothes
It’s tempting when you’re at college to be as frugal as possible with your clothing, but the truth is this is a bad tactic for a variety of reasons. Firstly, cheap clothes often make you feel less confident, which can be a bit of a bummer when you’re young, single and hoping to mingle. Secondly, low quality clothes often don’t fit as well or last as long, meaning you end up spending more money in the long run. It’s a good idea to save, buy less often, but buy quality. For example, Greek shirts are for many students a college essential. If you check out their website you can select your sorority or fraternity and find the shirts, pants, hats and accessories that will match your sorority or fraternity. There’s even jewellery on offer. The quality is great and long after you’ve stopped wearing these items, you’ll be able to treasure them as a fond reminder of your college years.

3. Live Within Your Means
Setting a budget can be a challenge when there’s so many fun activities on that you want to go to, but it’s really important to sit down and calculate your living expenses. Make shopping lists in order to stay under your budget and ideally factor in a bit of savings into your budget so that if you have any sudden expenses, you have a little bit of money set aside to cover them. Living within your means is something many adults struggle with, but the sooner you find your groove, the sooner you can relax and focus on your college classes and creating special memories with your college friends.

4. Cook in Bulk
This could mean different things depending on your living situation. If you’re living alone, or just cooking for yourself, cooking in bulk will mean preparing a few meals at once. Even now, many years after college, I like to cook extra for dinner and have it for lunch the next day. If you have housemates, you may find it cheaper and more efficient to do your grocery shopping together and split cooking between your housemates, meaning you’ll end up cooking 1-2 times a week, leaving you more free time and with cheaper food bills. Whichever option you take will save you money in the long run. Grocery bills tend to be some of the biggest expenses a household faces, so cutting back on these will definitely leave you with spare money each week.

5. Live With Housemates
Whether you’re living in a sorority or fraternity house, or living in other accommodation, having housemates is an excellent way to cut down your living expenses. Not only will your accommodation expenses be less, but things such as electricity bills and internet bills will also reduce. Aside from the financial benefits, it’s also just really fun to have housemates. You’ll have someone to share the journey from young adult to fully self sufficient adult, you’ll always have someone around to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones and you’ll have a more traditional, fun college experience.

You can use a combination of these tips, or all of these tips, to get your financial situation in check. Moving out of home and off to college is a big step, but it’s also a big adventure. Be prepared so that you can relax and focus on creating lots of precious college memories that you’ll treasure for years to come.