I recently graduated from college and I got to thinking what a huge relief and accomplishment that is. Not all of it was school related and having to stress out about finals and classes...majority of it was actually financial.
It's hard being in college when you have to worry about money.
I guess it's hard to think about money at any stage in your life, but college is the time period where you are just stepping out into adult living and exploring the wonders of independence.
My little brother just started his senior year of high school and is heavily immersed in the college search process. Knowing he has a year to prepare himself for college, I have come up with a list of hacks that will help you along in the years you will be having at your college/university. If you personally are not going or are currently in college- please share this with someone who is. Thanks!
Alright here we go...
HACK #1: Get a Job
I know this seems rude at first glance, but hear me out for a moment. Jobs provide a steady income that can go towards future loans or anything your little heart wants- within reason. Because think about it- how much money are you making when you don't have a job? My guess probably close to none.
Now, I'm going to allow some flexibility with this one. You don't need to have a job during the school year, but it sure does help when you have one during breaks and holidays. I have done the whole work and school scenario and I have never been so stressed in my entire life. It's not worth it- honestly...Unless you have a schedule and homework load that can fit in a job without it getting out of hand.
HACK #2: Deck Out Your Room
Before you go ahead and add any appliances to your living spaces, please check with your roommate(s) first to see if it's ok with them, if you have roommate(s) of course.
One of the advantages to living on your own during college is the ability to decorate your living space to exactly the way you want. I lived on campus and in my dorm I had many amenities such as TV rooms, kitchens, a music room, and more... But I like my space. It saves you a whole bunch of time if you just bring those places into your room already. That way you don't have to worry about those places being taken, used, or being dirty. Throughout all four years I had a mini fridge to keep any food or drinks cold. Most dining halls at colleges don't stay open 24/7 so you have to keep that in mind. Besides they might not be offering something good or appealing that day so it's good to be prepared to whip out good ol' Plan B that you have stashed in your fridge.
Another handy dandy appliance that you NEED to have in your room is the humble microwave. You have probably heard many a stereotype on how much college students rely on microwaves- but these are all true. I visited the microwave around 3-7 times a day depending on how hungry or thirsty I was. They come in an array of prices, but in most places they come out to be around $30. Don't look for fancy ones because really- you're a college student- you don't need fancy in your life.
Appliance #3 that I would have to say offered me a helping hand a few times would be a coffee maker. Now most colleges have coffee shops or stops around campus but most of the time you have to pay for that coffee or the coffee isn't that good- maybe both of those. However, if you have your own coffee maker there are no lines to wait in, no coffee shop hours to abide to, you can pick whatever blend you like, and your room smells like a barista's apron. Pretty good. Honestly, it's a win-win in my book. Come final's week you'll think so too.
HACK #3: Utilize Offers
The thing that saved my wallet a couple of times was reading the offers and freebies that receipts had written on them. I'll use Panda Express as an example. I love Panda Express and I probably ate there more times than I can count during my four years at school but it wasn't until my second year that I noticed the free entree they offered on the back of their receipts. I have a bad habit of just throwing receipts away or in my purse. In exchange of participation in a quick survey they will give you a free entree during your next visit. For a college student with a mini fridge in her dorm room- that sounded like heaven. And if you followed Hack #2, you should be in Panda heaven too. But really, it is so great to have an offer like this available to everyone- especially students. Lunch for the next day! Easily saved me $2 every time I went. Great trade off for me.
HACK #4: Practice Household Chores
Know how to wash the dishes? Do the laundry? Fold that same laundry? Cook, clean, and be a Jedi master? That's pretty much all you are expected to be when living on your own. It's pretty serious stuff being all by yourself. And if you don't know how to take care of yourself before you go off to school then you are in for a rude awakening. So, if you are in high school and don't have anything to do except watch TV, go and do some household chores. Soon enough you'll have to do them all on your own anyways so making it a daily habit will make the transition easier. A hack within a hack would be to create a "chore schedule". I did and it kept me accountable and responsible every single day and week. Assign one or two chores to do every day and allot about an hour or so to complete both. It shouldn't take longer than that. If you finish early all of that extra time can be spent towards finishing homework or downtime. Here is my chore schedule as an example:
Sunday: Clean Dishes (if any *try to wash them right after you use them*)
Monday: Dust the Room (Lysol and Swiffer are savers here)
Thursday: Grocery Shopping & take out trash
Friday: Cook meals for weekend (I didn't have a Weekend Meal Plan)
Saturday: Clean out your fridge of expired food/drink & clean microwave
Bottom Line- If you have structure in your life, you can't go wrong!
So those are a few things to consider before you head off to college. Practice makes perfect so why not practice now when you can? Even if you are already in college, it is not too late for you to start implementing these hacks into your life. If you try any of these let me know in a comment or message me about how it works out for you! College is definitely an experience that doesn't have to be tolling on you or your wallet.