College life is exciting, but it also comes with a very, very expensive price tag. Even beyond tuition and room and board, textbooks, your social life, and other expenses can eventually add up to make college a pretty demanding enterprise on your personal and parental finances.
Having little hidden expenses creep up on you can be intimidating, which is why it’s always a good idea to save up for college! It doesn’t matter if you’re going to be paying out of your own pocket or having your parents help you out, having a little more in the bank is always a good idea. Find out how you can get started on saving right now!
1. Get to work!
One of the most surefire ways to have money for college is to get a job! Plenty of high school students work part-time or summer jobs to make their own money, something that you should definitely look into if you want to save up.
There are tons of high school student-friendly jobs! Take the retail and food industries, for example, both of which frequently depend on high school students to help sell their products. So if you’re looking for a part-time job, definitely consider hitting up your favorite store or nearby restaurant for job openings, as University of Chicago junior Liz Behrens did.
“One of the jobs I had during high school was working at a Jamba Juice near where I lived,” says Liz. “It was actually fun because I got paid by the hour and got tips while working in a really great atmosphere!”
Don’t want to work in retail? In that case, Liz suggests finding a family who needs someone to babysit their kids, another popular option for high school students looking to make a few extra dollars.
“Babysitting is probably one of the best paying jobs for summer,” Liz explains. “Try to find families that have parents who work full-time since they need the most help. I actually still nanny and babysit; it’s a great way to make money and I get to spend time around kids.”
Sites like Sittercity can help you land a babysitting job. Otherwise, try getting in touch with friends and family members to see if they know of any job openings suitable for you! There’s always someone who needs a babysitter, tutor, and more! You can definitely keep an eye out for job ads and postings, but taking out your phone book and actively making use of your connections is a very easy way to hear about jobs you may not be aware of. There are tons of job opportunities for high school students out there, it’s just a matter of looking!
2. Say goodbye to impulse buys!
Whether it’s food, clothes, or just little bits and pieces of everything, buying things you don’t need takes a huge chunk out of your finances, and hence a huge chunk out of your potential college fund. While you should definitely treat yourself to something nice every once in a while, don’t make constant spending a habit – that will only hurt you in the long run.
“The biggest way I saved up for college was making sure I didn’t buy much for leisure,” says Michelle Feng, a junior at the University of Chicago. “About 90% of the money I have now for college comes from saving the money I got from jobs, science fairs, and allowances in high school.”
Get started by making a list of your expenses for a week to see how they add up, and make a note of which items are necessary and which ones aren’t. You’ll be surprised at how many unneeded things we buy, even within a week! Once you’ve got your list, start to see what you can afford to cut down on, and then follow through. You can definitely start small by taking out, say, junk food, and eventually work your way up to cutting maybe half of your unnecessary expenses.
While you don’t need to cut down on all your “for fun” expenses, realize that you’ll have more money in the bank once college comes around if you do cut back! Whether you choose to forgo your daily Starbucks run or give up your monthly online shopping orders, there’s always something you can cut back on.
3. Fun can, most definitely, be free!
Eating out, going to the movies, having a good girls’ night out… how can you cut back on spending when so much of your high school social life also depends on money? Though you can’t avoid throwing down some money every once in a while, you can definitely try to come up with fun activities you and your friends can do together… for free! Every free activity you opt for will give you more money for future use in college, where there will be even more events and activities for you to explore!
Strapped for ideas? Look for nearby parks, beaches, or even discounts to shows and places that you and your friends would enjoy! You’ll notice that a lot of what you find involves being outdoors quite a bit, so what better way to save money and stay healthy?
“Beaches are free, have bonfires in your backyard if you’re allowed, play tennis, kick a soccer ball around, go on bike rides… pretty much anything that involves exercising is a good idea,” says Liz. “Or if my friends and I wanted to stay indoors, we would have movie nights. Instead of going out to eat, we would also meet at one of our houses and cook for the entire family! You can save a lot of money that way.”
4. Keep your grades up to get scholarships!
We all know scholarships are a huge help in college, so the more of them you get, the more money you can save! While you should focus on getting bigger scholarships, make sure to also take the time to research smaller scholarships as well. Every dollar you can save counts towards your college years, and the more chances you give yourself to save that money, the less stressed out you will be in college.
“Definitely apply for little scholarships, even the ones that only offer you $1000,” says Michelle. “Apply for as many as you can, because every little bit helps! A lot of the smaller scholarships are also less competitive, so you actually have a better shot at getting them.”
A lot of high schools put out an annual schedule featuring the year’s scholarship deadlines, making high school sites a great place to start your search. Otherwise, search engines also dig up scholarship sites directed at high school students that offer an even larger assortment of scholarship options.
If you’re worried about whether your GPA will affect your chances of getting a scholarship, know that a ton of scholarships are actually based on your extracurriculars. So whether you’re interested in art or sports like gymnastics, make sure you also base your scholarship search around your non-academic interests as well!
There are always scholarships at the local, state, and national level; it’s just a matter of finding and then applying!
Spend less now, save more for the future!
While it will always going to be tempting to splurge at your favorite boutique or eat out every weekend, keep in mind that saving as much as you can before college will help you in the long run! Whether you decide to work, hunt for scholarships, or cut down on your spending habits, you’re guaranteed a much easier time in college. So save up! It’s hard to figure out just how much you’ll need, so you want to be prepared for any circumstance.