(Originally appeared on bankrate.com)
1. Don’t get sucked in by store credit cards
Credit cards are nice to have if you can manage them wisely. They can help build your credit and are a safe piece of mind in the case of an emergency. But signing up for all of the store credit cards just to save 10% on a purchase is not the definition of an emergency. >>See How to Lose Control of Your Credit in 10 Ways
2. Stick to the four-year plan
Getting through college in the traditional — and increasingly rare — four years is the very best way to save money on your college costs. In small schools, that means planning your course load ahead of time, so you take the classes you need when they’re offered. (Enlist the help of your counselor here.) In schools of any size, it means staying focused.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others
Consider college your first real experience with keeping up with the Joneses. “A lot of your friends are going to be using student loans to finance lifestyle expenses like staying in nicer places or eating out. Most people spend their lives making not great financial decisions, but the freshman year of college is really prime for that,” says Zac Bissonnette, author of “How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better-Looking Than Your Parents.”
4. Use the envelope system
In an ideal world, you’d budget. But most freshmen don’t check an Excel spreadsheet — or even an app — before swiping their debit cards. So use Bissonnette’s cheater method, which basically involves budgeting your cash. Give yourself a set amount of spending money each month in cash, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. I guarantee you won’t run out of money more than once without learning your lesson.
5. Understand where to spend and where to save
Spend: On a computer that works, a tutor when you need one and a dining plan that fits your lifestyle.
Save: On textbooks. Buying new shouldn’t even be a consideration these days when there are so many options for buying used. Swap with friends on Facebook and check Amazon in addition to your school’s bookstore.
6. Start Saving Now!
I know, this is a tough sell. But if you can work toward saving 15 percent of your income (even if it’s from a couple weekend shifts waiting tables) you’ll be setting yourself up with a good habit for life, says Pat Seaman, senior director at the National Endowment for Financial Education. She suggests opening a Roth IRA, where you’ll be able to invest and see your money grow. That can be addictive — in a good way! >> See Giving Your Savings Superpowers!
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