Back to School Financial Tips Special

As you head back to school, some back to school financial aid tips…

  1. Make a budget BEFORE the semester begins. Figure out what kind of money you’ll be able to earn and what you’ll be spending and stick to it.
  2. Team up with a roommate, hallmate, or friends to enforce each others budgets. The power of the group works. Social financial apps like Wesabe, Mint.com, and Geezeo can help with this, too. Set a goal that you publish among your friends and stick to it. Set rewards for achieving those goals.
  3. Take a class online while everyone is out partying – or during a break.  If you take one class during one spring break and one class each summer – you can graduate a semester early!
  4. Go for a lot of walks on campus. You’ll meet a ton of new people, and you won’t have to spend money to do it. Being visible is the easiest way to meet new people. Want to meet lots of new people really, really fast? Volunteer at any kind of event, work at the help desk, etc. Be helpful and you’ll make amazing, fast connections that often endure long past college.
  5. Everything marked free isn’t. Beware of any free offer that requires you to sign up for anything. Not saying it’s bad, just know what you’re signing for like a stealth student credit card application.
  6. Some of the best conversations you’ll have are on playgrounds. Hang out at places like that vs. cafes or other money-spending venues. Want to make your own game socially? Go off campus, wander around (with safety in mind) and find the best hangout spots in the town, then share them with friends. Museums, galleries or the city gardens as examples.
  7. Check your campus email every day. Financial aid offices often send notices to campus email addresses. Don’t miss a bill. If you’re technically savvy, just forward it to your other webmail account.
  8. Buy and bring to campus an indoor dryer rack. You’ll cut your laundry bill in half and the rack will pay for itself in weeks, especially if it’s around $18. You can find magnetic and closet-based systems for as little as $10 online.
  9. Bring resealable containers. I’m not saying bring them into the dining hall or anything but, you know.. Make sure you don’t skip meals if you’ve paid for them. That’s just throwing money away.
  10. Have a small lockbox in your dorm room. Keep your checks, debit card, etc. in there and locked up. Make it a combo lock so that if you lose your keys, you’re not out of luck. And it’ll make you think twice about reaching for the good stuff when you have an impulsive thought.
  11. If you have a student ID card that’s tied to any kind of financial account, punch a hole in it, stick it on your keychain, and put your keychain on a lanyard.
  12. Opt out of as many fees and unnecessary bills as possible, such as campus phone and TV service. Seriously, you have the Internet. What else do you need? Use free applications like Skype, change your mobile plan to unlimited calling if you call home a lot (and you probably will if you’re a first year student), use Hulu.com for television, and avoid those extra, unnecessary expenses.
  13. Shop around online for better textbook prices.
  14. If you’re living off campus and on a partial or no meal plan, sign up for the supermarket loyalty card plans, coupon hunt online, and get a decent meal plan together. Planning ahead a little will save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on food.
  15. Set up an affiliate program during college and get your personal professional web presence going as soon as you can. You’ll have more free time in college than you will after college, so take the time to set up your blog, web site, LinkedIn profile etc. and develop professional contacts early. By the time you graduate, you’ll be way ahead of everyone else playing the resume cannon game. Get known for something in your field of study or focus early on.
  16. Keep hunting for scholarships! Pick a time each week, 1 hour per week, and apply for a new scholarship each week. I guarantee after a year you’ll be happy you did. Better yet, get some friends together and make it a social thing.
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