University of Virginia

Live like a broke college student

Teenagers say in survey after survey that they want to contribute to the cost of their college education.  The majority seem to feel a sense of responsibility, but they also don’t have a lot of money to chip in.  So what can you do to help out?

Reorient your spending!

Make it your primary goal to live like a broke college student.  You don’t need to wait until you go to college to do this, you can start right now.  Think of all the discretionary expenses you have, the things you’ve gotten into a habit of spending (most likely your parents) money on.  Your clothes, your hair, your unlimited data plan, your entertainment…how would you spend less if you had to?  “But I like Polo shirts,” is not an answer. 

Tell your parents what you are doing and make yourself accountable.  You’ll have to make some hard choices and not keep doing the same things you have been, but it’s worth it for the lessons you will learn and the money you will save.

If you don’t know where to start, being by tracking your spending and the spending your parents do on your behalf.  What’s your financial footprint?  Once you have a couple months of data, you can start identifying where you can cut.

Sooner or later, your standard of living is going to decline sharply.  College can be a great, safe time for that.  Most things you need (food, activities, shelter) are provided for you and you can really focus on keeping the discretionary expenses down.  Find new ways to save money…share, be cheap, get by. 

When you get out of college, hopefully you’ll have an income, but your newfound savings habits will still be with you.  You’ll have extra money to save, and if you can do that, it will be worth more than much of what you learned in class.