Well, it’s July, so it’s officially time to start thinking about back-to-school stuff. At least, according to retailers, it is. I’ll be heading back to school before long, so I’m in the spirit too, and I figured I should share some advice with you all.
Now, I could say stuff like, “buy these items and not these for your dorm,” but this advice is to help you save money, not rule your life. Some people like to have more stuff, some people like to be minimal, and it’s all okay. Besides, I want to share some things that I figured out, but nobody thought to tell me. Now for the real advice:
1. Don’t live on-campus. Your first year, it makes sense to get the dorm experience and live with other students so you can get to know them. After that? You probably won’t want to live in a dorm again, and off-campus housing is cheaper than on-campus, even if it’s still the same distance.
For example, last year, I lived on the edge of campus in a university apartment I shared with 3 other people, with our own bedrooms and two shared bathrooms, for $3,500 per semester (around $700/month). This year, I’ll be right across the street from campus with my own bedroom and bathroom, only two roommates, a balcony, and a swimming pool, for less than $500 per month when it’s split between us.
Expensive as it was, I had some good times. This is one of my roomies with me just after we moved in!
2. Hack your meal plan. First of all, dining hall meal plans are a rip-off because they overcharge. You get so tired of eating in the caf every day anyway, and they have limited hours. If you have your own kitchen (hello, off-campus apartment), then you can buy your own groceries to save money and have control over the quality of your food. If you do go to the dining hall, bring plastic ware in a backpack so you can sneak food out with you.
Fountain View is the name of the dining hall. See what I mean about the hours?
3. Get outside help for miscellaneous expenses. Put textbooks or other school supplies on your wish lists for things like birthdays or Christmas. My laptop, which I could not handle college without, was a graduation gift from my uncle. My birthday is in the fall, so my dad checks my Amazon wish lists and gets me textbooks as an early birthday gift. It’s not as exciting as some presents are, but not having to pay out of my own pocket is a blessing.
Also helpful: when people give you Amazon gift cards so you can order the books or supplies yourself, on your own time.
4. Get used books. Sometimes, this is impossible because the class also requires an original access code only available with new textbook purchases, but otherwise, don’t bother with new books. Rent them, borrow them from students who already took the class, or buy an older edition. Note: Check with your professor to make sure that the older edition has the same information. They usually will just be formatted slightly differently, but it depends on the subject.
Finance textbook: expensive. Peers who already bought the book and now don't need it? Priceless.
5. Pay your interest. If you took out loans, you get a handy monthly or quarterly loan statement from your loan provider. For about two years, I ignored these because I didn’t want to think about it. Then, in the stress of finals last semester, I distracted myself from studying by looking at my loan statements. Procrastination defeated itself! Anyway, I realized that I was accruing interest, but the interest was nothing compared to the loans, at least at that time.
The loan provider has a projection of how much interest will accrue by the time the loans get paid off, and that's much larger, especially because the interest compounds, or adds on to itself. However, paying off interest little by little as it accrues will lower the amount you have to pay back someday. By the time you graduate, you’ll only have to pay back the principal loan, not the additional 4 years’ worth of compounded interest. It takes a few bucks here and there while you’re still in school, but it saves a lot in the long run.
Throwback to the time my Bio professor accidentally gave me the best grade of my life
Bonus: Blog with Steemit! It’s an easy side gig for a college student, and I’ve found it to be a fun source of income. You can learn from the people in the community, which is what you hope to do anyway, right? Otherwise, you wouldn’t be in college!