Being a first-year college student comes with a whirlwind of responsibilities that you may not have had up until this point—you may have your own space you must take care of, a schedule you alone are in charge of keeping, and an unprecedented amount of freedom. With all of this newfound freedom, it is important to remember that now is the time to develop habits that will benefit you in the future. Freshman year of college is costly simply because it is college – however, there are ways in which you can start the year off right, and grow financial skills that will help you through your remaining years as a student
Here are fifteen ways in which you can minimize the costs of your first year:
- Get Your Own Account
Holding and managing your own bank account will let you have complete control of your money. Many banks offer discounts and special accounts to students, so shop around for bank perks, and also ones that are close to your campus to avoid paying fees at ATMs.
- Create a Budget You Can Stick To
It’s okay to consult with your parents on your first real-life budget, but it’s important to remember that you are the one who must stick to it. When you’re sitting down to create your budget for the semester (and yes, you should do this at the start of each semester), do so realistically. Identify the traffic of your pocket money, and find ways to make it work for you.
- Pick Up a Part-Time Job (But Only When You’re Ready)
Many students are able to balance their time between school and work. At the same time, many students realize this after their first semester in college. There’s nothing wrong with taking your first semester to focus specifically on your classes and the new environment around you (if you can afford to); that way when you’re ready to take on more responsibilities, you can better section your time.
- Credit Card with Caution
If you type “student credit cards” into any search engine, you can be sure to find articles, blogs and posts that are both encouraging students to take the leap into the world of credit, and ones that beg for you to wait. Ultimately, the decision is yours. Yes, taking on the power of a credit card can prove to be a downfall for many students—this is less so when you are serious about what you need your credit card for, where you use it and how often, and whether or not you have goals in which having a good credit score will help you achieve. Getting a credit card is a big deal, and it needs to be taken seriously, no matter if you get on now or when you graduate.
- Remember: Cash is King
When you open a bank account, you’ll more likely than not being to carry around a debit card giving you access to the funds in your account. Debit cards, and credit cards too, can end up costing you more money than you intend. If you’re planning to go out, set a limit for how much you’re comfortably spending, and pull that money out in cash. That way, you won’t go over budget. Once the cash is done, so are you.
- Know Your Schedule
Picking classes for your first semester can be intimidating—that’s why schools have advisors. Sitting down with your assigned advisor will give you more confidence in picking the classes you need, ultimately saving you money and time.
- Buy Used Textbooks Whenever You Can
Textbooks are a huge cost that many first-year students don’t consider. However, while buying your books is necessary, buying them new isn’t. Shop around outside of your campus bookstore for a cheaper buying or renting price on books. Ask your professor if using an old edition will still get you through the class to save even more.
- Eat on Campus
Enlisting in a meal plan on campus is a great way to avoid overspending at restaurants or convenient stores that you’ll more than likely find. No, you don’t get to pick exactly which meals are being served that day, but considering you’re able to use your meal plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner without having to spend pocket money, you may be able to see its overall benefit.
Bike. Skateboard. Rollerblade. Take the shuttle, if your school offers one. Using other forms of transportation to get around your campus that aren’t your car can save you a lot on gas, time spent looking for parking, and tickets from parking in areas your parking pass may not cover. Park your four-wheeler away for the majority of the week, and see how much you can do without it.
- Get Involved
Participating in clubs, associations, or organizations may cost you a few dollars at first just to cover “club dues” or “association fees.” However, you’ll find that when you commit yourself to activities on campus, you’ll have less time to spend money on frivolous things out of boredom. Keeping busy throughout college is actually an underrated way to save money.
- Take Advantage of Your Student Status
Being a student comes with perks—discounts in movie theaters, restaurants, even grocery shopping in certain areas. Don’t forget to flash your student ID whenever you’re out. Even if the establishment you’re in doesn’t offer student discounts, you won’t know until you try.
- Know What’s Necessary
It’s important to recognize what you “need” throughout the semester, and what you “want.” Wants can wait while needs are, well, necessary. Getting into the habit buying anything for the simple fact that you “want” it can lead to trouble. Budget your necessities for each semester, and pace out any other frivolous purchases.
- Clip Coupons
Or, download them straight to your phone through useful apps like Groupon. There are many apps and online sites that offer free coupons for everyday items, and using them consistently can save you money over and over again.
- Skip Seasonal Shopping
Shopping with every change of the season can be expensive, and oftentimes unnecessary. Buy clothing that is thin enough to wear in the warmer months, but that you can also layer during the winter. Of course you won’t wear the same set of clothes for all of your college years, but having a flexible wardrobe is more cost efficient, and will end up benefitting you in the long run.
- Stop Asking Mom and Dad for Money
Unless you are close to hitting rock bottom, a phone call to your parent(s) or guardian should be avoided. Growing in your own financial security is very difficult, and it takes time. Still, you should not get too comfortable asking for help unless it’s absolutely necessary. The stumbles you will inevitably make when dealing with money can and oftentimes will be discouraging. However, there is no perfect practice to money management. Have confidence in your ability to learn from your mistakes, and save your phone calls home to catch up.
Becoming financially responsible is hard—you know have to actively think about spending, saving, and the future of your finances in a way that you may have not had to in the past. Still, the some of the perks of being a college student is that you’ve entered into a temporary grace period where financial mistakes may not be as detrimental as when you’re post-grad. So, use this time wisely not only to save money throughout your college career, but to develop skills that will help you once you’ve graduated.