The general term conveyed by most college students is that they are “broke college students” that have little in the way of extra money. During my last four years in college, I studied business economics, managed over 20k of fraternity dues, started my own business and went from barely affording pizza takeout to purchasing a brand new luxury car. This is not a get rich quick scheme, or an easy way to make money. The tips provided here can be used by any current or incoming student, and should provide some level of financial freedom.
Get a Credit Card
Contrary to popular belief, credit cards are unavoidable for most students. I personally have three credit cards, including a student card, retail store and business card. Credit cards provide reward points, which can earn cash back, gift cards or cool gifts, just for using it! Before you purchase a credit card and buy a new big screen TV or iPad, keep in mind that responsible spending is vital for credit success. If you would otherwise purchase an item with cash, use your credit card. It prevents theft, builds your credit score and gives you valuable rewards. However, avoid irresponsible spending that would leave you in debt. My rule of thumb is that I only purchase what I can afford with my monthly salary. For instance, if my credit card debt is $450 per month and I make $1,000, I would pay the full amount each month to avoid interest and fees.
Parents that disaprovae of credit cards, keep in mind that students need to build a credit score while in school. Having little to no credit history upon graduation is detrimental for getting a loan or an apartment without a cosigner. Responsible credit card use can have students leaving college with scores above 700, which gives them a huge advantage of their peers.
Get a Job
How many times have your parents or peers told you that if you want money you need to get a job? On campus, student jobs pay close to minimum wage and are not the type of job you want to work. Consider freelance writing for demandstudios.com, associatedcontent.com, elance.com, textbroker.com, seed.com, etc. These websites pay for a variety of content creation and can provide a large some of extra income. Are you good at fixing computers, or creating tee shirt designs? Sell your services to students and student organizations for a reasonable sum that is lower than the competition. You would be surprised how much money you can earn by doing something you thoroughly enjoy.
Set a Weekly Limit
During the school year, I make a reasonable salary that can afford many off campus activities and events. However, I set a budget of $500 per semester, not including books, bills, car payments and fuel. This leaves about $35 per week for entertainment, bars, movies and other off campus activities. Although this is not by any means a large budget, it is enough for having some fun each week, the rest of the salary goes into savings. Set a weekly budget that you are comfortable with, stick to it and you will not find yourself bored during the weekends, or flat broke. A common misconception is that students must spend a lot of money for fun, however, that is simply not the case.
Avoid the Back to School Spending Binge
While returning to college, many students find themselves spending a majority of their hard-earned savings for non-essential items. Instead of buying brand new designer clothing or big ticket items, save your money until you absolutely need these goods. This is not to say that if you have a large amount of savings you cannot splurge on occasion, but do not spend all of your money in the first few weeks. Saving your money is vital to financial freedom during the school year. If you want to go on a nice spring break vacation the money is already in the bank because of good budgeting.
Avoid Keeping up With Wealthy Students
Students with higher incomes, or incomes supplemented by wealthy parents are likely to spend more money. For instance if you saved $2,000 for spending cash during the school year, you will not have much extra money to purchase big-ticket items. For those students who earn a considerable wage while in school, $400 per month on clothing or electronics is not a terrible amount of money, but for those on a fixed income it can equal quite a lot. Instead, live within your means and do not spend extra money to impress anyone. Honestly, you will not get much more attention and you will also not be flat broke.
Utilize Cheap Entertainment
Universities and colleges provide many free or reduced rate discount entertainment. The programs included in your tuition bill are often fun to attend; you meet new people and are very affordable. Join a club, fraternity, sorority or a sports team. These organizations provide hours of entertainment and are relatively inexpensive.