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Today I am going to discuss some tips for reducing expenses while in college that I wish I would have known. If I knew then what I know then I could have avoided a lot of mistakes. Below are 6 tips that all college students should incorporate while in school:
1. Don’t get a credit card if you have no idea what an interest rate is.
Who doesn’t know what an interest rate is is what you’re thinking right? Well, I didn’t! An interest rate is an amount charged, usually monthly, for money that you spent (borrowed) on the card. So if you spent a $100.00 in January and you don’t pay your card in full, then the next month you will be charged $12.00 in interest. Basic, right? Yea it is… once you actually have experience with credit cards or have parents that discuss finances with you. However, I had neither when I entered college. I opened up my bank account with Bank of America and they offered me a credit card. Well, of course, I was going to get one! Turning down a credit card would be nuts, right!? Man, it probably took me about 10 years to realize how to utilize a credit card correctly. If you get a credit card and do not pay it off in full, then get a card with a low interest rate. You will thank me in the long run. Nowadays, there are so many credit cards with 0% interest for years.
2. If you love clothes, don’t spend it all on Forever21 and purchase high-quality basics.
I know me and my friends were in Forever21 all the time because we were broke and it’s affordable. However, I wish I would have looked into stores with better quality clothing because I could have saved lots of money in the long run on quality basics. Even if you can’t afford purchases at Nordstrom or Barney’s (which is totally unnecessary), stores such as HM, Zara, Nordstrom Rack and thrift stores have some good quality clothing that won’t break the bank. I can attest that Zara has some of the best fitting, quality jeans for about $50-$70 (sometimes cheaper when they are having their semi-annual sale). In addition, department stores are always having sales so try to catch these items at that time. If you are going to buy something trendy then your best bet is to go to Forever21. However, it’s not a good idea to have a closet full of trendy clothes. The bottom line is: don’t waste your money on a ton of clothes that are going to get thrown out in a year. I can’t stress enough that every closet should have good quality, timeless pieces that will last years. I know once I started working, my style shifted quite a bit. If I had bought quality pieces I would have been ahead of the game when it comes to my working wardrobe. Capsule wardrobes are also awesome because it shows you that you can create a ton of looks with about 20 pieces in your closet. Pinterest has a ton of capsule wardrobe examples.
3. Eat take-out 1-2x a week only.
I was an avid take-out person when I was in college. I could have saved so much money had I learned to cook. It was much harder to find cooking blogs and Instagram cooking pages back when I was in undergrad. There is so much out on the internet now, so there is no excuse not to know how to cook. All it takes is a tablet or smartphone to access any recipe in the world that you want. Damn Delicious has awesome, easy one pot and sheet pan recipes. Two cookbooks I highly recommend are Chrissy Tiegen’s: Cravings and The Dude Diet by fellow Blogger, Domestic Me. Depending on your budget you can also buy meal delivery services which give you all the ingredients with a recipe. HomeChef is a service I use, and if you sign up here (insert code) using my link then you get $30 off your first box! I used to hate cooking, however, cooking has become enjoyable to me because I am so results oriented. I am always anxious to know if what I cooked actually tastes good. In the end, cooking will be more satisfactory even if your recipes aren’t the healthiest. You will be able to see what’s going in your meals and can make alternative, healthier choices if you don’t want to use certain ingredients, unlike at a fast food chain or restaurant.
4. Take a course at the local community college for graduate admission tests.
When I was in school TCC (Tallahassee Community College) was offering LSAT courses for about $100. I decided to be even cheaper and just buy the books from Amazon and try to study on my own. I wish I would have just coughed up the money. It’s worth it in the long run if it helps get scholarships or into higher ranking schools due to scores. Shelling out a hundred dollars today is worth it if you get a scholarship paying for half or all of your graduate studies.
5. CREATE A BUDGET AND STICK WITH IT.
If you don’t listen to anything I say please, please create a budget while in college. Money is usually tight during college, but you will start a habit that has awesome effects in the long run. Since technology is awesome, there are now tons of apps and blogs that teach you how to create a budget. I use YNAB ($50/year), which you can use free for 34 days.You fill out each expense per category for the month or the semester (most students get scholarship money, grants, and loans at the beginning of the semester). When you make a transaction, input it in YNAB, then the balance for that category reduces. Your bank accounts are linked so you can see how much is coming out of your account every time you spend something. YNAB uses a zero-based budgeting system so all your money has a job. You can signup for YNAB here. Had I had it in college, I probably would have been much more responsible with my money. A free option is Calendar Budget (yay free!), which is a program I have yet to use but want to try. The cash envelope system is another budgeting system that many have had success with.
6. Don’t take more out in loans than you need.
It’s not worth it… AT ALL! Once Navient and FedLoan come knocking at your door to pay back those loans, you’ll regret every cent that you took out that wasn’t needed.