I wish someone wrote me a ‘how to’ piece on this very important question, so here’s my feeble attempt at answering it, after the fact. I’m sure many of you have other excellent ideas. Feel free to share in the comments.
- Open a bank account and establish a good relationship with one of the bankers. Check for annual fees and processing fees – usually these fees could be waived for college students. Make sure you ask clearly about all fees before opening an account with a bank. You should aim for zero fees – you’re a student!
- Ask the banker what types of wealth growing strategies are available for college students. For instance, a popular choice is to periodically put money into a flexible time-deposit and earn interest throughout the year. This also encourages a saving habit.
- Check your bank account periodically. Keep track of what you’re spending on. Make sure that cheques aren’t bounced, as those incur processing fees.
- If you get a credit card, make sure there is no annual fee, or if there is, get it waived by your card centre.
- Do not pay the minimum pay on your credit card. Clear your card charges monthly, and pay in full. Credit card charges are ridiculously high, often upwards of 30%, and if you ever find yourself starting to incur credit card interest charges you will find yourself deep in dept in no time. Avoid the mistake from the start and clear your monthly credit card bills in a timely manner. If you’re the type that stretches out your payment schedules, do not get a credit card – spend cash only. Do not spend what you do not have. The motto: save first, spend last.
- Get a college job. Anything from working in the library, the IT department, the bookstore, campus dining is good experience. Not only does it teach you how to interact with people who are working full time, it also adds experience to your resume, and teaches you how to manage your time wisely.
- Get a job outside of college. Babysitting, modeling, freelance writing, secretarial work, tutoring are all great choices, and there are plenty of other options too, depending on where you are.
- Make sure the part-time work you choose is healthy and isn’t a hindrance to your academic studies. You are, after all, a college student. Academics comes first. The jobs are just an addition to your main responsibility of learning as a student.
- Cut bad habits. Habits like smoking, excessive drinking, gratitude shopping, are all behaviours that can burn a hole into your wallet if not monitored. If you’re very serious about saving, cut on store bought coffee too – limit it to say, once a week. Make your own coffee or tea – get a reusable mug and fill it up in the morning. Cigarettes and alcoholic drinks are expensive – if you can manage to cut these lifestyle choices, you will find saving much easier.
- To do this, you may have you surround yourself with like-minded, healthy friends. Remember – your friends influence how you behave and vice versa. If you want to develop some healthy habits, apart from having a strong will of your own, you also need good friends to encourage you along the way. Those who pressure you into picking up unhealthy lifestyle choices like smoking and binge drinking are not really your friends. Friends care about each other’s well-being.
- Get an internship over the summer. Internships are a great way to get working experience and save money. Ideally, look for internships that pay. Banks, government agencies, law firms and big corporations are known to pay students well for summer internships. If corporate or government life is not your thing, go for a humanities or science focused internship, a building project, a curator program etc. If the internship doesn’t pay, see if you can get a stipend from your school or a scholarship/grant from your home country. Alternatively, look for grants aimed at students from big NGOs or corporations that reward students who do meaningful volunteer work or an arts/science focused internship.
- Consider living abroad in a country with a lower standard of living over the summer. This way, not only can you experience life in another culture – you also save on living and rental costs. Teach the local population English or a skill that you know (e.g. piano, guitar, sign language). Many countries in Asia and Latin America offer excellent volunteer/teaching programs. Make sure you check the visa requirements and restrictions on working as a foreigner before you go.
These are just some points off the top of my head. If you have any amazing saving tips, please share with us.