Ah, college. I may be an old geezer now – well pushing middle age anyway – but I was once a young whippersnapper myself. Yes, there was a time in my life where all I worried about was going to class, partying, and girls – and not necessarily in that order. But, alas, I’m all grown-up now…and let me tell you, the view is much better from up here. You see, I really wasn’t the least bit focused on how to save money in college. In hindsight, I thought I had it all figured out. After all, I was a big shot. I was an educated, cultured, college boy. I knew what I was doing, and nobody could tell me different. Now, I am old enough – and wise enough – to know better.
Looking back on my college days, there a lot of things that I wish I had done differently. As a young adult who was out on my own for the first time, I made a lot of mistakes – especially with my money. If I could go back, there is a boat load of stuff that I would have done differently. Here are a few things about how to save money in college that I wish I would have known then.
Investing in Liquid Barley is NOT a Good Strategy
I had a great time in college. At least, I vaguely remember having a great time. Basically, there is a period of about 6 years of my life where I can only recall large details. For instance, I remember that I used to go to a different bar almost every night. I don’t really recall what we did there…except drink…a lot…and occasionally play trivia.
Honestly, I still believe that college is a time to have fun. Looking back, however, I wish that I would have kept my fun to only 2 or 3 days a week instead of 6 or 7. The amount of money that I spent on booze has to be astronomical. I have no idea what the exact figure is, but I know that I was flat broke coming out of college. I kept a job almost the entire time I was in school, but I didn’t have a cent to show for it. Instead, I peed and puked it down the drain, literally.
Start Saving for Retirement ASAP
Now that we know that buying booze isn’t a good investment, let’s look at some actual ways that you can save money in college. If only I had begun saving even a portion of my income during my college years, I would be a lot further ahead now. If I started saving just $25/week in an IRA when I was 20 years old, I would now have over $26,000 in additional retirement savings. And that includes investing over the worst decade in the stock market’s history. Arrrgh! 5 fewer drinks a week could have made me $26,000!!!! I hate myself…
Renting a House is Cool, But…
Do you want to know how to save money in college? Live in the dorms. My freshman year, I lived on-campus. It was really nice to be within walking distance of all of my classes. I had my meals made for me in the cafeteria. Life was good. But, I didn’t care about all the convenience. What I really wanted was to be cool. I wanted to be able to throw parties and pick up girls. In my tiny 19 year-old mind, that meant moving off campus into a house.
Living in the house was pretty cool. I enjoyed living there with 4 other roommates. However, personally, I would have saved a lot by living on campus. At this point in my life, I had no idea how to find deals at the grocery store. I simply bought whatever I wanted – which was usually instant or easy prep – and ate it. I also spent money on cable tv, utilities, and gasoline. Sure, those bills were split, but they would have been much less had I been living on campus…or at least been driving a Prius.
Choose a Major That Pays
The first time I went to college I majored in theatre arts. The theatre was my passion. I could not live without acting. It was all I ever wanted, to be able to do something that I loved and scrape out a meager living while doing it.
After I graduated from college, I realized that just scraping by wasn’t as glamorous as it seemed. The starving artist lifestyle really wasn’t a ton of fun when you had to figure out how to pay your bills. Then, it came time for me to begin repaying my student loans. Yep, I financed my entire education – an education that I could have gotten for close to nothing had I went to work in the theatre and not went to school at all. Alas, I was convinced that I “needed” the security of a college degree. Now it was time to pay for that “security.” Something had to change and change fast.
You see, I majored in something that I thought was “my passion.” Don’t get me wrong, having passion for something is great. Most successful ventures come when passion and marketability collide. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that passion alone won’t pay the bills. It is hard to continue to be passionate about something when you are buying your groceries on cash back credit cards and wondering how you are going to pay your rent that month. Take it from somebody who has been there; if you are going to a college or university, be sure you are spending your money on something that will provide a decent return. In other words, choose your major wisely.
The experiences I had during my college years made me who I am today. Even if I could, I wouldn’t trade in any of the lessons I learned along the way. However, I wish that I would have known how to save money in college while I was actually going to school. If I could do it over, I would definitely choose to spend my money much more wisely. I guess it is true what they say, sometimes wisdom really does come with age.
What were your college experiences? Did you know how to save money in college, or did you waste your money like I did? Let me know, and make me feel better in the comments below!