College students these days have a proclivity for being pigeonholed as entitled brats without the faintest idea on how to progress into adult existence. While some of us may be more affluent than others, the lot of us are relatively poor souls just trying to do the best we can with what we have. Here are a few tips that I've picked up through personal experience as someone who's lived paycheck to paycheck.
1. Itemize your monthly bills.
Make a written or digital list of everything you need to pay every month. This might include rent, a car payment, your phone bill, or anything else you regularly pay. It also never hurts to account for things such as gas and groceries. Keeping these numbers fresh in your head will allow you to keep much better track of your money and it takes very little effort.
2. Pay everything when it's due (or before it's due, when possible).
Bills add up fast if you put them off unnecessarily.
3. Make room (judiciously) for fun money.
After taking care of the bills, there's no harm in making room for a little fun every now and again. It's important to both work and play.
4. Avoid credit cards at all costs.
This is one I've had to learn the hard way. Stay away from credit cards. A lot of card companies prey on unassuming folk and eventually slap them with ridiculous line increases and interest rates. If you find that you might need one for emergencies, seek one from a local bank and read the fine print before signing up.
5. There is no shame in driving a beater car.
As tempting as the hottest set of wheels may be, there is nothing wrong with staying within your means and driving a cash or hand-me-down car. My last car was a 2004 Pontiac (named Bellatrix) that I paid for up front and out of my own pocket. It was passed down to my girlfriend and still runs like a champ.
6. If you have a car, take care of it.
Keep on top of your car's routine maintenance to the best of your ability. It might even be worth taking a little time to learn how to do simple fixes like oil changes, air filters, and spark plugs. Keeping your car regularly checked and serviced will extend its life immensely. You never know, a $30 oil change now could save you several thousand dollars in repairs later.
7. Working in food and retail is not beneath your dignity.
There tends to be a negative stigma attached to people who work in food, retail, or other parts of the service industry. It's kind of a shame because you can learn a lot about people while working an "unsavory" job. You might luck out and find a plum gig while you're on your way to getting that degree, but in the end, work is work. I work at Walmart. It's not glamorous, but my rent, bills, and then some are at bay.
8. Grocery lists will save you a fortune.
Make a list and stick with it, avoiding impulse buys whenever possible. Shopping store brands will save you even more money as many of them are just as good as name-brand products. Aldi is my preferred place to shop (the stores are even set up streamlined to avert people from impulse shopping).
9. Plan meals and minimize eating out.
Admittedly, this is something I still struggle with, though recently I've gotten much better about it. Take a little time once a week to plan what you're going to eat that week and shop accordingly. This will save you gobs of cash.
10. You would be surprised at what you can find in thrift stores.
Especially if you live in a college town, thrift stores can be a mecca for clothing, furniture, books, and even things like electronics and movies. Most of these shops sell their merchandise for a fraction of the original cost and benefit charitable groups.
That's all for now. I hope these little tidbits help.