Top 5 Tips for Staying Debt Free in College
- Accounting 101 – Developing a budget is crucial when figuring out your expenses right after college. Having a written plan or using an online tool like www.Mint.com are the best ways to keep you on track and out of trouble. Try only using cash so you don’t lose track of how much you’ve charged. One method is to never spend a $5 bill. Keep them all until the end of the week and deposit them in a savings account (You do have a savings account, right?).
- Find the Freebies – Companies love to market directly to college students through free product samples, gift certificates and discount coupons. Spending a little time surfing the Web on sites likes www.heyitsfree.net and www.mysavings.com can get you everything from shampoo and toothpaste to cologne and makeup. Also, be sure to inquire whether your school offers free student healthcare; expenses related to illness can put you in debt quicker than almost anything else.
- Share and Share Alike – Chances are pretty good that you and your friends are taking many of the same classes during the first few semesters of college. The easiest way to save money is to swap textbooks and materials and download study aids for free. A popular site for free e-textbooks and study aides is www.freeloadpress.com and www.socialbib.com allows you to swap books with others looking to do the same.
- Lose the Car – While you may think having a car at school is a necessity, the money you could save in gas, insurance, parking permits and monthly maintenance could pay for a couple classes! A clever (and green transportation solution) alternative to having a car at college is a Zipcar. Popping up on campuses nationwide, the Zipcar premise is based on the European car-sharing idea. Students can “rent” a car for an hourly or daily rate which covers gas and insurance. Visit www.zipcar.com for details.
- Decide on a Domicile – The largest expense after tuition is housing. With the softening rental market, your most affordable option may not be a dormitory. If you do decide to live off-campus, seek out locations that include free basic cable and Wi-Fi as well as those that include utilities as part of the monthly rent. Roommates are a must for living off campus, just be sure you live with someone reliable and responsible to avoid incurring debt due to nonpayment.
Top 5 Tips for Staying Afloat Right After College
- Make a Budget… and Stick With It – Knowing what you spend your money on is the first step to spending less. Building a budget helps you prioritize your needs and manage your money effectively. Don’t know where to begin? Check out free online budgeting tools like www.mint.com and www.budgettracker.com to help you get started.
- Just like new -- If you’re just starting out you probably have some basic home needs (microwave, couch, lamps) but that is no reason to break the bank. eBay and craigslist can help you find basic home furnishings that are very inexpensive compared to stores like Sears. There are sites like Swapthings.com where people like you are looking to trade in their stuff; and don’t forget to ask your parents if they have anything lying around they would like to donate.
- Trim your tech – Take a look at your cell phone and cable bills. Are you using all of those minutes you’re paying for? Do you really need The Documentary Channel on demand in HD, or can you just watch it on Hulu? Cable and phone companies are notorious for overcharging. Get rid of what you don’t absolutely need.
- You swore you’d never go back… -- While Barnes & Noble offers fresh new books and a very average latte, there’s no reason to pay $20 for what you can get at the library for free. Libraries or $1 movie kiosks are also an inexpensive way to rent movies instead of shelling about more than $10 at a movie theater, not to mention the money you save on popcorn.
- They’re so proud! – While your parents are still basking in the pride of your recent graduation, take advantage of their renewed love; grace their home with your presence until you can land a steady job and save some money. It’s easier to prepare for interviews when you’re not worrying about rent, not to mention your mom’s cooking is probably a lot better than the Easy Mac you were planning on having for breakfast, lunch and dinner.