We've all heard our fair share of college clichés and daydreamed about weekly restaurant hangouts, Facebook-worthy photos of exotic college trips and unforgettable late night adventures with friends.
Unfortunately, college really isn’t as glamorous and carefree as the movies make the experience out to be. In reality, for most of us, college requires quite a bit of number crunching, working long hours and resisting the urge to splurge. Let's be real, college isn't cheap! There's tuition, room and board, living expenses… you get the idea.
Luckily, you can already start to lessen the financial burden now while you're still in high school. Check out these six ways for pre-collegiettes to save up money before going to school!
1. Get a job, any job
Talk about a tough job market! Adults are definitely not the only ones struggling to find jobs these days. What can a pre-collegiette possibly do in a situation like this? Not be picky, for one. So you're probably not going to get a paid job at your dream company, but that doesn't mean you can't get a job, period. It might mean wearing a ridiculous hat and handing out hot dogs while the sun is out and the palm trees are swaying, but by giving up a little fun now, you'll be getting a big payoff in the near future once you start college.
"I would definitely advise girls to take advantage of the summer as a time to make and save up money," says Sarah Desiderio, a senior at Penn State. "Get a job, pick up extra hours, babysit every chance you get. You may feel like you're missing out on fun, but trust us, college is so much fun that it'll be worth it."
Check supermarkets and retail stores to see if they're hiring students. Keep your eyes and ears open for anyone looking for a babysitter, a coach, a tutor, a dog-walker, someone to weed the yard or a person to clean out garages in the neighborhood. While certainly not glamorous, odd jobs will, well, get the job done.
"Sometimes you look and you look and you can't find a job, so that's when you resort to plan B, which is doing manual labor. For most girls, babysitting and being mother's helper, playing with the kids while the mom's at work, could be an easy way to make some money," says Paula Bishop, a college financial aid advisor. "And usually it's only during the summer anyway because kids have to go back to school in September, so it's kind of a natural ending for a high school student."
Not really into odd jobs? Well, luckily for you, summertime can also be a great time to look for a short-term job. "Normal jobs are actually more limiting because no one wants to hire you for three months, in general, unless it's a seasonal job, and they know you're going away so they don't look at you as a long-term employee, so they're more hesitant," Bishop says.
Once you have a regular paycheck, learning how to spend your earnings wisely is another important life-long skill to have. According to Bishop, the percentage of a paycheck that pre-collegiettes should save for the future really depends on how much you earn and how much your parents expect you to pay for personal expenses. "If [high school students] earn $50 per week and need to pay for clothes, shoes, gas and entertainment (and heaven forbid, their own cell phone), they have to watch every penny... so perhaps saving 25 percent 'for the future' would be a wonderful goal," Bishop says. "If the parents pay for everything, they should save all of it."
Working part time during the school year, plus full time during the summer, will not only make a financial difference, but will also give you the chance to grow and become more responsible. What future collegiette wouldn't want that? And who knows, maybe you'll even have enough to go on that spring break trip with your new college friends next year. Yup, totally worth it.
2. Cut back on expenses
It's fine to be a little impulsive sometimes, but impulse purchases are a whole other matter. Do you know how much junk food, magazines, make-up and clothes you buy that you don't actually need? All these extra items can quickly put a dent in your wallet. To save up the money that you already have in your bank account, cut back on things that you don't need. Watch your expenditures for one week, then assess your spending habits and see if there are any purchases you can cut out. You can even use your handy dandy smart phone to help you out—there are lots of apps to track your expenses like the free personal finance tool Mint, which lets you set a budget, track your goals and much more.
"It's so tempting to buy every cute summer outfit you see at the mall, but this is the time for self-control and thinking about the long run," Sarah says.
So if you find yourself bringing yet another tub of lip gloss or pack of candy to the check-out lane, give it a second thought and ask yourself if you would rather make your college fund a little bigger instead. Every dollar counts!
3. Use cash
There's really nothing like the feel of crisp dollar bills in your hands and the smell of money under your nose. In fact, you'll probably even feel a little bit richer just by having some cash in your pockets. Plus, you’ll be less tempted to spend all that hard-earned money when you’re actually watching it disappear!
Credit cards seem to swipe themselves; because they're just so easy to use, many people find themselves overspending. Making yourself pay in cash allows you to physically see how much you're spending, which can help you get a better sense of your spending habits and budgeting. "What I do is have a set amount of cash in my wallet that I've allotted myself to spend as opposed to using my debit card all the time," Sarah says. "That way I feel the pain of handing over the physical money and am more aware of my purchases!" Next time you're tempted to buy some extra nail polish or clothes, think of how you and your wallet will have to part ways with your newly acquired dollar bills. Remember, no one's making you say good-bye.
Irene Berman-Vaporis, a recent Boston University grad, also found it easier to save up money in a similar fashion when she worked at an ice cream shop the summer before college. "I limited my spending money to only the tips that I made while working, and I saved every penny I made from my paycheck," Irene says. "It helped that my paycheck was direct-deposited into my debit account each week, because I paid for everything using the cash I had earned from tips. That way, I could physically see when I was out of spending money." Having a wallet-full of cash might just be incentive enough to think twice about spending it all.