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For some students, college is about wearing all black and talking about world events in the coffee shop. For others, it’s about finding the best frat party or pulling an all-nighter to write a stunning paper. The one thing that all students have in common, however, is that they are usually broke. Not having money to line your pockets won’t ruin your college experience. In fact, it will define it, but you can make it a bit more comfortable by embracing some of the following tips on how best to be a broke college student.
If attending a brick and mortar college doesn’t seem affordable right away, wait a year or two before enrolling at your dream school. Instead, start your degree at a community college or find an online school at CollegeOnline.org. Both options give you the chance to live at home, rent-free for another year or two. But if you opt for online college, you can schedule your classes around your work schedule, giving you even more time to save.
You are practically an adult now, and your gift wish-list should reflect that. Instead of asking for that must-have video game or a new shirt that you don’t really need, ask for things that could help you out next year. Cash is always helpful, but gift certificates to the grocery store, the hair salon or area restaurants are a great idea, too. If the people who give you gifts prefer to give you things, ask for practical items like a new printer, microwave or blender for your dorm room.
Before you leave home, make sure that you understand how money actually works. Once you get on campus, there will be credit card companies begging to offer you credit, and you need to know how to handle it so that you don’t finish college flush with debt and shackled with a horrible credit score. The National Endowment for Financial Education offers free educational materials for college-bound students who want to learn the basics about managing finances.
Gift Cards and Online Subscriptions
Countless websites request credit card information before they give you access to what you need, and most of these sites have a monthly subscription fee. Instead of wrecking up and forgetting a bunch of monthly subscriptions, BuzzFeed recommends using a Visa gift card when signing up for anything online. This allows you to enjoy the service, without a surprise bill in a month.
Even before you ship off to school, you should start tracking your expenses and income with budgeting software. This is an effective way to save money in the year or two before you go, and it can be useful even while you are at school. My Budget Planner for College Students helps you save money, and it reminds you when bills are due.
Eat on a Dime
Even if you have a meal plan, you’ll still get stuck paying for some of your own meals. Instead of spending $10 or $20 getting a burger or a late night breakfast, try your hand at a bit of cooking. As long as you have a microwave or a hot plate, you can cook things like hash browns, scrambled eggs and breakfast burritos for less than $1 per meal. Seventeen Magazine reports that you can even make your own cheap pizzas in the microwave with a bit of pita bread, marinara sauce and cheese.