College Connect: Saving requires doing the little things

Posted By sabew

By Theo Keith Saving

I’ve spent a fair amount of time this semester on investing and making your money work for you, but how do you get the money in the first place?

It seems to be the hardest thing for college students, especially those who are paying their own college bills. I’m fortunate that my parents are paying my tuition, leaving my to cover my day-to-day expenses.

Besides my work as a reporter, I’m a University of Missouri campus tour guide. I always suggest to incoming freshman that they get an on-campus job. It might seem intimidating at first to balance school and work, but once you make the transition to college life, it’s much easier.

Campus jobs aren’t hard to find. No matter your major, there are all sorts of positions available — at the library, as a tutor, handling phone calls, or something more specific to your interests.

I work about 55 hours a week, but only about 20 of these are paid. Even at the wage I earn, which is only slightly more than minimum wage, that’s still plenty of money to cover my expenses and save some, too.

Once you have the money, you need to be able to budget in order to have some left over for savings. I try to eat out three or four times a week (most of these are lunches at sandwich shops when I’m in the middle of a busy reporting shift, so it only totals $40 a week.)

It takes another $40 a week to make my gas-guzzling truck happy, and I spend about $50 every week on groceries. Add in some incidentals, such as hair cuts or dry cleaning, and my total spending comes to about $150. That even leaves a few dollars to add to savings.

Some other tips:
• Don’t buy bottled water. It’s like pouring money down the drain. The stuff out of the tap is the same thing.
• Don’t crank the thermostat up to 75 degrees. Studies show the optimal sleeping temperature is in the mid-60s anyway.
• Look online for coupons. I save 30 percent every time I go to the dry cleaner by printing out a coupon on the store’s website. I don’t think many people bother to look.
• Make a list when you buy groceries. Then, don’t buy things that aren’t on the list. (You probably don’t need them.)

Many of my friends at school have jobs, and they make a fair amount of money for being full-time college students. But only a handful are able to budget well enough to make their income last.

Fewer still know what to do with the leftover cash — but if you have extra money on hand, you might as well make it work for you. Decades from now, something called “compound interest” will make you awfully happy you did.

Theo Keith, a senior at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is a SABEW/National Endowment for Financial Education fellow. He has had internships at Bloomberg News in Detroit and Fox News Channel’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” and he plans a career in business journalism.

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