So you’re finally on your own. No curfew, no need to bargain for the car with your little sister, no phone call home if you’re going to miss dinner. And yet, independence during your college years is bittersweet: many student still depend on their parents for financial support. While some students may receive financial aid or scholarships from school, others enjoy full access to their parents credit card account, and still others must work to support themselves throughout college. If you’re not one of the lucky ones, you are likely looking for a couple ways to scrimp and save, and still enjoy the occasional shopping trip while in college. Here are a couple tips and tricks to saving up while still having fun:
1) Sign up for mobile banking ASAP
My bank, Bank of America, allowed me to set up mobile banking on my blackberry that has made managing my accounts on the go very manageable. The mobile banking application has saved me from overdraw fees, kept me informed of my balance, and allowed for easy transfers, etc. I highly recommend checking to see if your bank has a mobile banking option so you can stay on top of your finances.
2) Eat in the dining hall
If you have a meal plan, it is best to make the best of it and eat every meal that you (or your parents) pay for. Off-campus dining options can be tempting, especially if you go to school in a big city, but its not cost-effective to pay for meals you don’t eat. Check and see what alternative options your school has, including partial meal plans, and point programs. Maybe you can even request a dorm with a kitchen where you can cook your own healthy and cost-efficient meals.
3) Limit online shopping
Freshman year, I mistakenly signed up for far too many clothing store email lists, online auction sites, and online boutique sales. I also was carless, making it impossible to get to the mall. Solution? I online shopped as a procrastination tool, as a good grade treat, as a bad grade consolation, if I was bored, if I was hungry… and so on. It is best to set yourself a monthly budget for online shopping… and DO make the extra effort to find a box, walk to the post office, and return something you order online that doesn’t fit.
4) Embrace public transportation
Many students are fortunate to attend school close to home, and may be able to bring a car along. Unfortunately, this was not an option for me. I am often tempted to take a taxi when I need to head into town, however, it is much more economical (and environmental!) to take the subway or bus into town. Public transport is quick, reliable, and easy and traffic is never a factor if you’re on a train. Many city transportation departments have student or frequent buyer discounts.
5) Hold your friends to their debts
Many times I have bought a friend a drink, spotted her during a shopping trip, or picked up her lunch, and have never seen my money come back to me. While it’s easy to forget about borrowing and/or loaning money to friends, oftentimes someone ends up on the losing end. Casually mention a friend’s outstanding debt in a private setting, offering to give her change if she doesn’t have exact chance or accepting her offer to pay for the next round of frozen yogurt you share.
Hopefully these tips help heading into summer! Saving up for a new warm-weather wardrobe is key, after all….
— By Kylie Thompson, Harvard College