College years should be enjoyed without the stress of accruing debt. Unfortunately, most college students spend these years thinking they’re having fun when, in reality, they are hurting their futures by adding to the stress they will face during their post graduation years. Accruing debt while in college can make it more difficult to find a job, afford an apartment, pay back student loans and start a family. Avoiding the “spend” mentality while in college simply takes a little forethought, planning and discipline.
Eat at Home
College students eat out constantly. Fast food, boutique coffee and bar vittles are all main staples in the college student’s diet. By grocery shopping instead of eating out, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars each month. Frozen and homemade pizzas are up to one third cheaper than the cost of delivery pizza. Tacos and burgers prepared at home are half the cost of their fast food equivalents. A 2-liter of soda costs as much as one large, ice filled Coke at a restaurant. While it can be fun to eat out, set limits on how much you allow yourself to spend each week.
Ride Your Bike
Rather than have a car, car payment, car insurance and gas expenses while in college, walk, jog or ride your bike to class or around town. Not only will you be getting exercise and helping the environment, but you’ll be saving up to $500 per month. The added exercise you get will not only help your waistline, it can also help you be more successful in your studies. In 1999, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) discovered that running improved learning and memory capabilities of adult mice, imagine what running can do for you!
For many, partying is a big part of the college experience. Unfortunately, the truth is that partying hard every night can quickly get expensive. Alcohol, cover charges, tips, and other expenses related to your big night out may be helping to dig a hole that you won’t be able to get out of until your own kids are in college. Rather than saddle yourself with party-related debt, make a commitment to yourself to party less. Designate one night a week as your party night and bring cash with you so you can easily stay within your budget.
Another big expense among college students is the purchase of new clothing, shoes and accessories. Unfortunately, most of these purchases are put directly on a credit card and are paid for over many years and after countless interest accruals. Instead of buying new clothes and banishing old clothes to the back of your closet, host a clothing and accessory exchange with others in your dorm. Everyone can bring clothes, shoes, jewelry and purses they no longer want and each piece can be exchanged for a piece belonging to someone else.
While it is easy to lapse into a “buy now, pay later” mentality in college, remember that those four years are a very small part of the giant picture that makes up your life. You should have fun in college, you should try new things and learn about freedom. You should also learn about responsibility and the repercussions of the decisions you make each day. Make the kind of decisions with your money that you’ll be proud of in ten years, not the decisions that sound good today.