We’ve all heard that the education we are getting now has a direct impact on our income later in life. But the real challenge facing those of us who continue to invest in the dream is to ensure our financial survival right now. Here are a few strategies I’ve found for keeping my head above water while my nose is in the books.
Utilize work-study programs.
I know the pay is usually lousy, but work-study jobs are designed for people whose schedules are constantly changing. In addition, the benefits of having a job extend beyond the actual amount of your paycheck. A working student is seen as a better credit risk in the event that you have to increase your education loans or even take a personal loan. If you are lucky, you can find a job that has additional perks: if you work in the food services you might be allowed to have one or more of your meals for free. If you work in the library, you will have some time to study.
Pool your resources.
Shop for staples with a group of friends who are in similar straits. You can get bargains on non-perishables, such as bathroom tissue and cleaning supplies, if you buy in bulk at the big-lot stores.
Evaluate your food plan.
Most students can purchase their own food for about 30 percent of what a meal plan costs. If you don’t have access to storage and cooking facilities, or if your school requires a meal plan, evaluate the options. Most schools offer different combinations of meals and snacks, and some offer the equivalent of a food debit card. Don’t waste money on a plan that provides food you won’t eat.
Avoid credit cards!
Everyone says they have to have a credit card for emergencies. However, once that credit card is in your wallet, your definition of “emergency” is likely to expand to include a post-exam celebration or a morale-boosting excursion to the shops. For real emergencies, consider short term student loans. While the rates for student short term loans are sometimes higher than for traditional student loans, they can be approved more quickly. They are a viable option for handling truly urgent expenses. And unlike credit cards, short term loans for students are a one-shot deal. They eliminate the temptation of that magic plastic burning a hole in your pocket.
The fact is, managing finances during the university years is never easy. However, knowing that you are making an investment in your future can take the sting out of passing on some luxuries. When you feel the urge for extravagance coming over you, think about how good you’ll feel when you emerge from university with less debt, rather than more!
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