Jennifer Fonda* is currently pursuing her MS in computer science from Oxford University in the UK, which is deemed to be one of the most expensive universities in the world. Even though she comes from a middle class family, she made it to one of the most expensive colleges in the world without having to worry. She says,
For me it really was not hard to come up with the required admission fee. I had already saved quite a lot during my undergrad. My parents inculcated the habit of saving every penny I could since a young age. It really helped me pay off my tuition fee.
Being short on funds is the permanent state of every college student. But if you have bigger dreams in mind and want to go study outside of the US to gain global exposure, you need to start planning early. Jennifer knew her parents would not be able to afford the expenses of living abroad, but that didn’t deter her from pursuing her dream. If you want to study abroad, you have two options: either give up or go through the hard work of earning and saving money. It is up to you which one will you choose.
Planning throughout the four years of your undergraduate course will help you save money during grad school. Here are a few points which will not only help you save money but also guide you on making some:
Manage your money
- Set a monthly budget – This doesn’t have to be a difficult task. An Excel spreadsheet will be enough. You need to keep track of your monthly expenses and stop any unnecessary spending habits. List your fixed expenses like transportation costs, food etc, and keep money aside for these. Put aside some for saving, and the remaining balance can be used for unplanned expenses like shopping or gifting.
- Plan your expenses – Has buying expensive things left you cashless? Simple math and bit of planning can help you avoid this situation. Cut down your expenses by a certain amount for a couple of months and save the leftover money. Planning ahead is the easy way to avoid bankruptcy. Keep your eyes open for clearance sales at big-box stores – you may find some great deals there.
- Save money for emergencies – For students without a regular source of income, it is mandatory to have a fund for emergency situations. Rather than borrowing from friends or family, save money yourself by making small adjustments like skipping a movie or a trip to help you prepare for an unexpected crisis.
- Open a savings account – Rather than going for a regular bank account, go for an account specifically designed for students. Student savings accounts have other benefits apart from zero-balance facility which make them better than any other no-frills account.
- Avoid misusing credit cards – As mentioned above, if you open bank account for students you may get a credit card with low interest rates – but you want to avoid paying interest as much as possible, so if you are going to use a credit card, make sure you can pay off your bills on time and in full every time.
- Choose prepaid plans for your phone – Choose prepaid plans instead of pay-as-you-go for your phone will help you avoid surprises at the end of the month.
Increase your savings
- Be patient – If you want to buy a new iPhone, wait for a few months – gadgets’ prices fall as soon as there is a successor of the same model in the market. Postponing your purchase for some time can get you a reduced price.
- Watch for online discounts – If you are shopping or booking shows online, Google discount coupons, codes, or deals. Discount sites are the new money-saving method, as you can easily get a discount of 20% or free shipping with using a coupon code. You can get good bargains at restaurants, movie tickets, clothes, gym memberships, etc. Get an Amazon Prime account to get the best deals and discounts.
- Make shopping lists – A good way to control impulsive shopping is to make lists before going to the market. Though the market is filled with options, stick to your requirements, and you will save more money at the end of each month. Or use the wish list option many websites offer while shopping online.
- Save, save, save – Buying course books often leaves your pockets empty. Instead of buying, borrow them from a library or purchase them at a second hand bookstore. Once you graduate, the secondhand books can be re-sold and the money can be put towards your savings.
- Try getting cheaper accommodations – As a college student, you can save a lot of money on lodging. Rather than living in a studio apartment near college, try getting a shared apartment in the suburbs. It could cut your rent money in half. Or try sharing your apartment with 3-4 roommates, which further reduces your share load.
- If you’re in the city, don’t rent a car – Big cities like Toronto or New York have a good public transportation system in place, so you can save a lot of cash by not buying or renting a car to move around the city. Invest in a train pass or student pass to save more on travelling.
Earn some money
- Turn hobbies into careers – If you love to bake, or are great at painting, you can always turn this passion into earning. Form your own music band or start a blog or vlog. If you have talent, you can make it a career even before you finish college.
- Work part-time – Get a part-time job to earn some pocket money. Many jobs have a constant demand for interns. Remember, at this stage no job is small or big; you need to do what is required without feeling embarrassed of your job. Many job search engines are specifically designed for college students, and can help you look for temporary jobs. You can also talk to your college placement cell and consider the options available in your city.
- Participate in college activities – Be part of cultural societies and participate in competitions which offer cash prizes. Find out about scholarships offered by your college. If you are eligible to apply, do so! If your professors are involved in some research work, ask them if they need some assistance. You may get a stipend for doing so.
This article was contributed by guest author Harleen.