College is often one of the best times in a person’s life. It is a time to really pursue goals, dreams, learn, and make new friends. It is also a time to learn valuable financial lessons.
Most people are familiar with the image of the broke college student struggling to afford necessities, and schlepping home tons of dirty laundry on the weekends. It is, however, possible to manage your money while in college. There are ways to not only earn money, but spend it wisely while still in school.
Financial Aid Refund:
Many college students receive some form of financial aid when attending school. Everything from grants, scholarships, and student loans go into a student’s reward package. Sometimes there is an overage on a student’s account. An overage occurs when tuition and fees have been paid to the school and there is some financial aid money left over for the student. This money is not to be spent frivolously. It is given to help the student with various necessities including buying textbooks and supplies. Depending on the amount of the refund, a careful student can spend this extra money to help them have the things they need for an entire semester.
Work Study or a Part-time Job:
Work study jobs are given as a part of a financial aid package. The choice to receive work study must be selected by the student on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/). With work study you are given a job to work in a department or office on the college campus and are given a paycheck. If your tuition and fees are paid in full then the pay check you receive is yours to keep.
The options for finding a part-time job are endless. You can find jobs at retail stores, restaurants, call centers and more on a part-time basis. Babysitting is also a good way to make extra money. The money you receive is yours to keep. This money can be spent however you want, but spend wisely.
Eat in the cafeteria:
If you live in the dorms and have a meal plan included in with your tuition and fees, you should eat most of your meals in the cafeteria. These meals have already been paid for when your balance owed to the school was cleared. Many college students like to order in pizza, or go to the local fast food restaurant. It is important to keep these splurges to a minimum. The fastest way to spend all of your extra money is to spend up to $20 per day on your meals, or coffees.
Free is good:
Take advantage of the free things offered by your school. Does your school offer free rides on public transportation? Use it. Try to choose your entertainment from some of the many free or low cost activities afforded to college students. Go to free movie nights on your college campus. Use the gym for a game of basketball or volleyball with friends. Go and see the visiting artists, lecturers, or performances that are almost always free to enrolled students.
It is important if you do have a credit card to use it for emergency purposes only. When a student is in college they often have a very idealistic view of the future. Credit cards are maxed out with the idea that by the time the bill is due the student will be making tons of money and have no problem paying the balance. This is almost never the case. Use credit cards with caution the negative mark to your credit report will follow you for years to come.
Being in college does not mean that you have to be broke. You may have to be frugal and find creative ways to make and save money, but it can be done.