Budgeting & Saving

10 Ways College Students Can Save Extra Money

You’re in college.
That means you’re probably broke. Like, scrounge-for-change-between-couch-cushions broke.
Like go-to-boring-club-meetings-just-for-the-free-food broke.

Most of us have been there and done that, and we want to help you save as much as you can while in college. Follow these top ten ways to save extra money while in college. Who knows – maybe you’ll even leave college with a surplus of cash.

1. Save Money on Room and Board By Bossing People Around

Room and board is one of the biggest expenses you’ll pay. Many merit scholarships don’t cover room and board  and colleges typically make you live on campus for at least the first year.
However, there are ways to reduce your expenses in this category. While not usually open to freshmen, explore the option of becoming a Resident Advisor (RA). RAs do more than boss people (usually freshmen) around . RAs are there to mediate disputes, make sure everyone gets out during fire drills, and make first years feel welcome. If you’re social, like to plan fun events, and don’t mind being “the bad guy” every once in a while, an RA is an awesome job that gets you free room and board.

2. Free, Yes I Said Free, Textbooks

You’ve heard everything about buying and selling your old textbooks online. While that common knowledge still holds true, don’t overlook the best place of all to get textbooks: the library!
Yes, not many people know, but you can borrow textbooks through your school’s library. Even if your school doesn’t have your textbook, most universities have reciprocal agreements with other schools and libraries around the state. You may have to make some calls but trust me: you will save a bundle borrowing textbooks this way.
Note that you can’t write in the book like you own it, but you can’t do that with rented textbooks and you shouldn’t do it if you buy a textbook with an intent to sell. Also, you can’t usually borrow textbooks from your library for the entire semester. However, you can renew. If there’s a hold on your book, request another copy (well in advance!) to have waiting for you when it’s time to return. You may be surprised how much librarians are willing to help you acquire the book you need – for however long your need persists.

3. Stop the Starbucks Addiction (Or At Least Reduce It)

Make coffee at home. I know, buying coffee from Starbucks before class is practically a religion, but trust me: home brews are better. Even if you’re in a dorm, you can buy a small coffee pot and brew to your heart’s content. The best part of at-home brewing? You can make as many cups as you want, all for a fraction of the price of a grande latte! Getting more and save extra money at the same time… and who said life is expensive?

4. Go In As a Group

If you have to feed yourself, either because you don’t have a meal plan or are on a limited plan, consider shopping at big-box stores. Instead of buying your own individual big-box membership, go in with friends. This will allow you to reduce the cost and allow you to purchase tons of coffee at stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. Top tip: Before you get your own membership, ask a professor if you can get a buddy pass. Often, people with memberships can get one-day access cards to the store. The professor can give you the card and you’ll get to shop – for free – at the store for a day.
Don’t want to shell out for a big-box membership? Check for high-volume discounters in your city, or outlet grocery stores. Simply do a Google search for “grocery outlet + (your city)” to find the closest store with discounted food. Don’t worry, the food is still quality.

5. Use Your Student ID

There’s a reason you still see 30-year-olds trying to use their old student IDs to get discounted movie passes: your student ID rocks! Your student ID can be used to get discounts on movies, restaurants, drinks, events in your city, and more.
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Not sure if you can use your student ID for discounts off campus? Ask! Many places, particularly in college towns, are accustomed to giving discounts to broke students. The worst thing they can say is no!

6. Get An On-Campus Job with Perks

Work at the library (get the best books reserved first), gym (no excuse not to exercise at your free gym!), or as a tour guide for your school (you’ll never know who you may run into). Seriously, in almost every on-campus job, there’s an opportunity for you to learn, network, and improve your skills. Even if you end up hating the job, you learned something: that line of work (or that type of boss) is not for you.
Plus, who couldn’t use extra money in school?

7. Go Attend Free Events on Campus

Whether you live on campus or off, it’s worth it to check out free events. Many colleges host lectures with eminent scholars and even celebrities. These events are usually completely free to students. You’re paying for all these activities through tuition anyway, so why not use them?
In addition to lectures, your college likely offers all types of free entertainment including movie screenings, intramural sports, and free concerts. You’ll miss having all this free entertainment after graduation. Take advantage of it now!

8. Be Smart About Planning Classes

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only one-third of full-time students seeking bachelor’s degrees graduate in 4 years. More than half graduate in six years. Given the exorbitant cost of college, unless you’re given a very generous scholarship package, you won’t want to spend more money on extra class time.
If you focus and plan your class schedule 2 years ahead, you can graduate on time without taking an insane course load. Once you have your major mostly decided (hopefully mid-sophomore year), sit down with the course catalog and your major’s requirements to determine what classes you need and when they’re offered. Some classes are only offered in the spring, and may have pre-requisites. You have to get classes out of the way first before even taking that only-offered-once-a-year class. Planning is key to graduating in 4 years!
Your college adviser should help you plan out your course schedule too. Beware as good adviser’s often book fast. Schedule a meeting with your adviser early every semester, before your appointment gets lost in the shuffle.

9. Curb the Partying

No, I’m not telling you to stop partying, just set limits. If you love to go out and have a good time, by all means, keep doing it (safely). Just how about instead of going out WednesdaySaturday (or beyond), pick one day to go out and give yourself a budget. You can survive going out with $20 by planning around happy hours and discount drink nights. It might mean you’re drinking $2 PBRs or bottom-shelf rum and cokes, but you’re in college – you can deal.
Of course, the best idea is to just go out once a month and spend the other weekends having less-expensive fun with friends. Why not plan cheap events with your friends? You can have a ton of fun hosting movie nights, planning dinner parties, getting out of town for camping (and s’mores), or attending the tons of free activities put on every weekend by your school.

10. Learn How to Cook

Even dorms often have kitchens at the end of the halls. Take advantage of your broke-student status and learn a few handy meals. Stir-fry and one-pot meals are best for college students. They’re quick, easy, and don’t require a lot of clean up. Now you’ll never go hungry at 2 a.m. when the cafeteria is closed!
By following these frugal college student tricks, you’re well on your way to enjoying college while saving a little green!

Originally posted 2015-08-19 10:00:29.

Budgeting & Saving

How Much Should I Save?

When starting out in your first job, it can be tough to save. Between rent, transportation costs, student loan debt (and more) you may think saving money is impossible. Luckily, it’s easier to save than you may think! You will need to create a savings plan. Boring, right? But once you’ve identified your goals, you’ll be well on your way to having a fat savings account.
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Having a strong savings account is more than just a point of pride. It means security. You’ll be secure in your finances and more secure in yourself. Even more than owning things, saving money can bring you great happiness. There’s a deep sense of happiness to obtain when your savings are high. Let’s start building your account:

Identify Your Savings Goals

When deciding how much to save, it’s important to first determine what you’re saving for. Even if you’re simply saving money to give you peace of mind (ie: an emergency fund), it’s still important to set some goals. Let’s say you want $10,000 to feel secure. That’s your goal. Your goal will determine how much and how quickly you will need to save. Here’s a possible list of things you may want to save for:
  • Emergency fund (short-term goal)
  • A wedding (short to medium-term goal)
  • Down payment on a house (medium-term goal)
  • Retirement (long-term goal)
  • Saving for children’s college education (potentially medium- or long-term goal)
Once you have determined your savings goal(s), it’s time to make your budget! It’s a lot easier and less boring than you think. Think of it this way… a budget is about thinking about how you want to use money to improve your life. Creating a better life is one of the most rewarding things we can do with our time. Let’s get to it.

How Much to Save Depends On How Much You Make

Clearly, how much you can save is determined by how much you make. Someone who makes $100,000 should be able to save much more than someone who brings in $30,000. That’s not to say the $30,000 a year person can’t save, it just means they need to be more strategic and ruthless about it.
Even if you have substantial student loan debt, you can still save money. Take the first step to create a monthly budget which will help show you where and how much you can save.
If you realize you need more money to reach your savings goals, read this post we wrote about using your “other 8 hours” to generate more income. You’ll be surprised how much you can make by hustling a little on the side! All that new found money can go towards your savings goal(s)! And new house, car, whatever is less out of reach than you may think.

Can You Sacrifice A Little?

Let’s get real: do you really need that gym membership? Or can you get away with workout videos on YouTube or DVD’s from the local library? How much money can you save by cutting cable or switching to a low cost phone carrier? Hint: A lot.
You can further reduce the amount of money you spend by looking at your food expenses. In stead of going out for lunch, simply bring your lunch to work. Instead of hitting the bars after work, host a happy hour at your place – just make sure it’s a fun BYOB event.
While these life changes may seem like a sacrifice, you’ll get used to the new norm. You may realize bringing your lunch to work is easier than driving to a restaurant during lunch traffic. You may realize you’re more comfortable hosting an event than being a customer at a bar. Sometimes saving money doesn’t really equate to many sacrifices.

Save Half of Your Income – Or More

It sounds crazy, I know. How is it even possible to save half your income or more? Between taxes, health care costs, plus actual living expenses… Depending on your income, savings discipline, and side hustling abilities, you’d be surprised how many people actually do save half their income.
While Will Lipovsky, from First Quarter Finance, has extremely low transportation and living costs, he’s currently saving over 50% of his income. He’s saves 85%, actually. See, saving a large amount of your income is possible.
Kali Hawlk, who quit her job to start her own business, also saves 50% of her income along with her husband. She does this by prioritizing affordable and fun hobbies over material goods and wisely using credit card rewards to fund her travel wanderlust.
You may have heard of the incredible popular, Mr. Money Mustache. He and his wife saved over 50% of their income in order to retire at the age of 30. His story, profiled by Forbes, is incredibly inspiring and informative. I encourage everyone to read it.

Savings Account Vehicles

Depending on your goal, you may need to consider different places to stash your savings. If you need your savings to be liquid, you won’t want to put your savings into stocks. For example:
  • Emergency fund:
    • Since you need this fund to be easily accessible, keep this in a regular savings account, either at your local bank or an online bank.
  • Retirement fund:
    • Since this is likely a long-term goal, consider keeping your savings invested in the stock market. Yes, the stock market gets a bad rap but, over the long-term, you’re likely to realize a significant increase in your initial investment.
If you’re curious about online investment options, check out LaTisha’s review of Betterment. Betterment, and other online investment companies like it, is a very good option for retirement savings. Betterment offers easy investing options with low fees. While Betterment and other long-term investing options may not be the best option for short or medium-term goals, you might want to check out Betterment for your long-term goals.

It’s up to You

I now pass the microphone to you. How do should you save. How do you plan on doing it? What will you do with the money once you have it? Comment below if you have questions. We’re here to help.

And without further ado, let the savings begin!!!

Originally posted 2015-07-22 10:00:24.


Choosing a Broker

Ready to put some real money in and start investing?

In that case you are going to need a broker. A stockbroker is an intermediary that buys and sells stocks and other securities. In the past, if you wanted to place a trade, you would have to call your broker and they would place the trade for you.

These days you can simply place trades online with an online stock broker. Now all you have to do is choose one.

Choosing a broker to trade online with can be easy if you know what you’re looking for.

Do you trade often? Then you want a broker that allows you to trade for free or inexpensively.

Are you a hands-off investor? Then you may want to open an account with a broker that creates an optimized portfolio for you.

I choose to invest with more than one broker because I like some of the benefits of one broker and different benefits of another.

Here is a list of top brokerage firms:

Companies like Motif allow you to buy partial shares if you only have a little money to start with.

Make sure you pay attention to the ALL of the fees. Some brokers have fees to close an account and there may be account minimums so watch the fine print when opening your account. After you open your account be diligent about depositing your 10% savings consistently even if you are not ready to purchase a stock yet. It’s all about getting in the habit.

Also your broker should be a registered member of FINRA and SIPC.

Curious to see how I invest? Click here for my portfolio.

One of my favorite movies is Wall Street and Charlie Sheen’s character is a stockbroker that sells stock picks and aspires to be a financial success and a very wealthy stockbroker. The movie is brilliant and it can give you more of an idea of the stockbroker business.
Choosing a Broker | Young Finances
Happy trading!

Originally posted 2014-05-28 08:11:29.

Budgeting & Saving

The Wealth Number Book Review

Time for another book review! Although I regularly read books for personal development and skill enhancement, I don’t always take the time to write a review unless a book really makes a great impression on me.

Click here to see the best investing and personal finance books for young adults.

I recently read The Wealth Number: A Financial Solution to Pursuing the Job You’d Love.

the Wealth Number book

I purchased this book on the recommendation of a friend. The book starts of with a summary of what it means to be financially free. So many people are stuck at jobs they hate and do not pursue a job they would love because they don’t have enough saved to support themselves.

In The Wealth Number, the author provides a straightforward way to increase savings to a ‘wealth number’ which equals one month of expenses saved. As you increase your wealth number, you move closer to the freedom to pursue a job you love.

This video really says it all.

I really like the book because it is an easy read that simplifies the concept of saving. I actually read it more than once; the second time I read it, I figured out a way to move my expenses to one paycheck in the month, and save the second paycheck of the month. (Then I joined the Save Half club)

There were salary examples in the book that helped me make the change. In this way, I increase my wealth number by one each month. It feels good to have the freedom to choose the perfect job because I have a high wealth number.

This book is perfect for someone that is looking for an easy way to start saving for a purpose. You may want to start a business, travel the world or take some time off to write a book or volunteer. Regardless of why you want to increase your savings, it is important to have a high wealth number so you have the freedom to pursue a life you will love.

Great read.

I was so excited about how this book changed my finances, I even posted about it on Facebook.

increase your wealth number
If you haven’t gotten the book already, don’t wait. Get it now and increase your wealth number.


Curious to see the one book I recommend to everyone starting out? Click here to watch.


Originally posted 2014-04-20 06:00:40.


4 Tips to Landing Your First Job After College

Graduating from college is a huge step! You are almost there and ready to join the ranks of the working world and get your first job. You put in four years of hard work, sweat and tears. You stayed up late, crammed as much as you could before the final exams and you finally get to walk across the stage to receive your college degree.

But, wait a minute.

Something’s wrong.

You actually don’t have a job lined up yet.

Not to worry! I have 4 tips to help you snag your first job after college so you can jumpstart your career.

How to Land Your First Job

If you're trying to get a job, this guide will help. I used 3 and 4 to snag my first job after college.

Go To Your School Career Center

The first thing you should do is head over to your college’s career center. There you will get help to tweak your resume and cover letter. You want to make sure that when opportunities come your way, you are ready. The career center is also connected with local organizations that want you! Businesses contact the career center on a regular basis to offer open positions just for graduating college students.

Call, Email, or Meet your Professors

Using this one technique, I landed an interview with a company that I never would have known about. There are companies that specifically ask professors and department heads for top talent. If you were smart enough to become friends with your professors or if you were memorable in some other positive way then you should make it a point to contact them for help. Call and tell them you are still looking for a position.

Join an Industry Specific Organization

I used this technique to get an informational interview with someone in my field. When you meet people in your industry and continue to learn about your field, more and more opportunities will be available to you. Make sure you have some personal business cards printed up. Focus on meeting 1 to 3 people at each function. Don’t feel like you have to meet everyone there. It will make it easier for you to make a meaningful connection and keep in touch.

I Have a Job! How Do I Spend My Paychecks?

Congratulations! You finally landed a job! Before you do a happy dance, there are a few things you need to take care of to make sure you get started on the right financial footing.

Ok, maybe you can do the happy dance first.

First Job, How Do I Spend My First Paycheck?


Take Advantage of Free Retirement Money

The first thing that you want to do is to figure out if your company has a company match program for retirement. There are typically retirement options where the company will match your contributions.

Let’s say that the match is dollar for dollar for every dollar that you put up to the first three percent of your salary. In order to claim your free money, designate three percent of your salary to contribute to your company sponsored retirement plan.

Start Saving for Emergencies

Think of that contribution as long term savings that you will not get to use until retirement. You still need some emergency savings. Set a goal to save at least ten percent of your take home pay. That is a principle that I learned from the book The Richest Man in Babylon and it’s helped me so much.

That is the simplest way to budget. Start with your savings and then enjoy yourself.

Spend some money. You’ve earned it.

It’s all about balance. It’s all about what you want to do and what your personal financial goals are.

How did you land your first career position? Do you have any tips on how to budget that first paycheck?

This post was originally published for the PNC Achievement Sessions.

Originally posted 2016-06-01 10:00:41.

Budgeting & Saving

Last Day of the Year: How Much Do You Have Saved?

The end of the year is nearly here! If you’re like 45% of Americans, you’re probably starting to think of resolutions for 2016. If you’re like me, you might be regretting some of the resolutions you set in 2015 and didn’t keep (I’m looking at you, running goals!) You may have set budgeting, saving, health, family, or any number of goals for yourself in 2015, and maybe you’re thinking of continuing a lot of those goals into 2016.
Since you’re a Young Finances reader, you’ve probably been better than most at keeping at least a few of your money goals. We’d like to know, how much have you saved this year? What were your goals for saving and how did you do?
If you’re interested in determining your saving rate, you can look at it a few ways. Here’s how to determine how you did on saving this year:

The 50/20/30 Method

One way to evaluate how well you did on your saving goal this year is to see if your spending and saving followed the 50/20/30 method. LearnVest outlines examples of how this method works but here are the basics:
  • 50% of your take-home pay (after taxes) goes to fixed expenses like rent, utilities, food, and fuel. LearnVest lists student loans under “financial goals” and not fixed expenses but I would include student loans under your fixed expenses. Unless you make so little, or you’re in school and can defer your loan payments, every lender considers your loans non-negotiable. You have to pay your student loans, unless you get a forbearance or deferment. If you don’t, you’ll go into default and damage your credit among other repercussions. Student loans also cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Bottom line: they’re a fixed expense!
  • 20% of your take-home pay is for savings and other financial goals. This is where you get to calculate some of the fun stuff! What were your 2015 saving goals? Take a look at your savings or investment accounts, and see if you put at least 20% toward saving of some form. If you were able to save or invest 20% of your take home pay, you’re on the right track! No worries if you weren’t, though. Any amount of saving puts you on the right track. For 2016, you can always find additional ways to hustle and thus be able to save more moolah.
  • 30% of your take-home pay is for flexible spending like shopping, entertainment, and hobbies. It’s just fine if you spent less than 30% on hobbies or entertainment. Some people prefer to save their money for big ticket items, like travel, instead of spending money throughout the year. If you spent more than 30% of your take-home pay on flexible spending, though, you’ll definitely want to go back and read more Young Finances articles.

Emergency Savings Evaluation

For some of us, especially those who’ve just graduated and maybe aren’t making a huge salary, sometimes your saving goal is determined by your emergency savings. If you have emergency savings, you’re doing really well!
Take a look at your emergency savings right now. See if you have enough saved to cover at least 3 months of expenses. For example, if your monthly fixed expenses come to $1,000, you should have $3,000 in your emergency savings. Even better is 6-9 months of emergency savings.
If you don’t yet have enough saved to cover 3 months of expenses in case of a job loss, this should be your biggest priority in 2016. No matter what age you are, emergencies can happen at any time. It doesn’t make sense to put money you don’t have on a credit card with a high interest rate.
For 2016, let’s make saving a priority! By evaluating your saving rate in 2015, you now know where you’re doing well and where you can improve.
How much were you able to save this year, and how did you do it? If you’d like to see more articles on how to save, let us know!
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Originally posted 2015-12-30 10:00:20.