How to Save Money at College | Sponsored by Regions Bank
College is stressful enough. Leaving home for the first time, surrounded by smart peers, missing your family and friends. Just typing this is practically causing me to hyperventilate from the memories. On top of all of that is the worry about money. Money before, during and after. So when Regions Bank approached me to write this article, I was thrilled to discuss the money matters I wish I’d known back when I was a broke college student.
The syllabus and course outline are passed out at every student orientation or first class, but there’s almost no discussion about budgets and hidden costs. Everything I knew I picked up in the hallways like some sort of illicit conversation. Regions Bank has you covered with advice so that you don’t find yourself relying on the equally clueless in your classes. Here’s an outline for students out there:
1. Make a budget. Seems basic, but how many of us actually wrote out a budget before college? Sure we learned Excel spreadsheets, but I thought of those as a way to keep track of my outfit options and as a way to keep track of who was coming to parties and what everyone was bringing.
As simple as it sounds, add up all the money that will be coming in and subtract the money that will be going out. Regions Bank helps you consider all the bits and bobs you have going in and out so that you can see if you’ll be able to afford it all, or if you’ll need to textbook-share with someone. There are so many hidden or lesser-known costs (because how often do you first go off to college? It’s like when you’re expected to budget for a wedding and you think “how should I know?”) but Regions has your back. And don’t forget if you want to join a fraternity or sorority. It’s an amazing experience, but it’s comes at an additional cost.
2. Get creative when it comes to vacations. Welcome to college and the real world where getting creative is more than learning Adobe and Instagram filters. For example, Regions Bank is always looking for great ways to help with finances and even has some really interesting thoughts on low budget vacation ideas. Hostels are traditional, but there’s also Couchsurfing.com and staying with your new college friends. Facebook is a great way to look for friends of friends who might let you stay with them for a short while. I have a friend who recently travelled across the United States, just by reaching out via Facebook to see who had a friend in the next town that she could crash with. It doesn’t cost anything (except a small thank-you gift to your host(s)) and you meet new people.
3. Look for scholarships. You’d be surprised by how many random, narrow-focused scholarships there are out there that few people know or qualify for. I’ll bet there’s even one for left-handed, red-headed, ferret-loving women under 5’. My cousin applied for and got so many scholarships that he ended up making money during college. And don’t just look for scholarships your first year, keep looking. Sometimes a student drops out and their scholarship opens up, and some are just for sophomores or juniors. No need to stop looking for free money.
4. Get into habits you’ll maintain the rest of your life. And no, I don’t mean “beer on Fridays.” I mean learn to:
Save. Even if you only have $50 at the end of each month, put it away in a savings account. In 20 years you could have $14,000 there with interest earned. And all you did was pass up Starbucks a few times a week. Regions has an interactive calculator to help you estimate how much your savings will be worth.
Get a credit card but use it judiciously. It’s great to start building credit, but don’t spend more than you literally have, cash-wise, or else you risk running up a debt that goes above your possible tuition debt.
I’d love to hear anyone else’s tips - I’m sure I could still use some, and I know college kids who should be all ears. Regions Bank has more ideas than the above and you can find them all on their site here.
Now I’ve gotten to thinking about all the other things I wish I’d known before college. Such as how to get coffee stains out of denim, the best alarm clock, how to deal with obnoxious housemates, when fabric softener goes in the laundry, and am I ever going to use what I learned in “Introduction To Gothic Literature.”