Before you send a child off to college, there is so much advice to give! Start with these lessons during the teen years so they'll be ready to save money in college. These “old school” ways worked for us way back when. Was it really that long ago? Gulp.
Ways to save money in college
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Take Advantage of Scholarships
There are so many scholarships out there for the taking! Encourage your kids to keep on top of the deadline for their renewable scholarships. They can also keep an eye out for scholarships at the college they've chosen to attend. Often there are programs for upperclassmen available. You may both be surprised.
This is a lesson to start very young–I know we have by talking about value vs. price. Encourage your student to buy used textbooks to save money. Most school bookstores offer used books, but there may be more selection with online retailers along with student discounts. Then those textbooks can often be sold back at the end of the year, so they're worth taking care of. And this strategy applies to more than textbooks. Thrift stores offer used furniture, clothing and small appliances.
Limit Credit Card Use
Once your student is on campus, they will be inundated with opportunities to open credit cards. Use the high school years to teach that if you can’t pay for it in cash, you can’t afford it. Many people start the debt trap during their college years (myself included!). Help your college kid understand that using cash or paying off the credit card each month is essential to avoid fees–plus it builds positive credit for the future.
Ditch the Car
As you know–cars are expensive. Between insurance, license plates, gas, parking, and unexpected repairs, it can sink a college kid's budget. Whether or not your child has their own car during high school, make sure they're aware of all the expenses that go into car ownership so they'll see the benefit to walking and biking instead. Remind them they'll need the exercise!
Look for On-Campus Jobs
Most colleges have tons of on-campus job opportunities, it is just a matter of finding a good fit. Many of these jobs have extremely flexible hours which allow students to make it to class, study well, get adequate rest, and earn some money. That income can go towards entertainment and other ways to make the college experience more fun without adding to post-graduate debt.
Use the Meal Plan
Most freshmen get the college's meal plan. Encourage your student to find strategies to use it to the fullest. For example, there may be points available for snacks and non-mealtimes which are lost if not used. Spending money going out to eat and wasting the meal plan is a bad habit to start.
Make Coffee at Home
Buying coffee is an expense that adds up quickly. Get your college kid in the habit of making their own at home to save a few dollars each time–it adds up! A great apartment-warming gift or birthday present would be a decent coffee maker (or split the cost with roommates) so they can enjoy coffee at home.
This is one lesson I've struggled to get across to my teen son (but I still have a few years!). Most store brands cost much less than the name brands–whether it's snacks, shampoo, soap, detergent, etc. At our house, we've taste-tested a lot of store brand foods to find our favorites.
Find Free Entertainment
Just as there was when the kids were little, there are plenty of free events and activities to be found. Most colleges offer them as well as the surrounding town. Choose from concerts, exhibits, or other events that are free or discounted for students.
It’s getting more and more difficult to survive full-time school without major debt. While it’s likely your kids will have student loans, it’s a good goal to not end up with other debts on top of them. All of these are lessons that can be taught during the high school years to set the tone for saving money during the college years. The ultimate goal is for your kids to start young adulthood off on the right foot.
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