The Smart Cookies are a group of five Canadian women who got themselves out of nearly $50,000 of debt in one year.
One of the best ways the Smart Cookies learned to avoid debt is to save where you can during the school year. Here are their 10 tips for students to help them stretch their savings during the school year.
1. Start a syllabus for spending
One of the biggest mistakes young people make is spending money without any pre-planning. You map out your classes for the year, you map out your spring break road trip, you map out your outfit for that party on Friday night. To successfully arrive at the end, you've got to have a plan to get there from the beginning. Figure out how much money you have, what's necessary, what's a luxury, and then budget (on paper!) how much you need to stay afloat over the year.
When it comes to phone services, one way to avoid sinking your budget is by choosing a provider that offers unlimited add-ons for features you may use a lot, like text and long-distance (important when your friends and family are across the country).
2. Swap your old stuff for new swag
Odds are if you don't want something, somebody else at your school will. From purses and shoes to textbooks and hockey equipment, you can easily turn that old clutter in your closet into cash or trade it for something else you need. Auction sites and classified ads are great, but don't restrict yourself to online outlets – posting signs around campus or hosting a swap soiree can achieve the same goal and you’ll have a lot more fun. An added bonus is by reducing waste, you're also helping the environment.
3. Academic life is an active life
Classes, student clubs, traveling to and from campus – the academic life is a very active life. Mobile phones aren't just a great way to stay in touch on the move; they're an important tool for ensuring your safety and security: late nights at the library cramming for the chemistry final, winter road trips home for the holidays – a mobile phone can be your lifeline! As an added bonus, a mobile phone can be your lifeline to great credit. Applying for wireless service is the first time many young people receive credit. Paying the bill punctually can be the first step towards a sound credit score, increasing the likelihood of getting mortgages and car loans later in life.
Page 1 of 3 – Find more great money-saving tips on page 2.
4. Get Carded
Under normal circumstances, being asked for ID can be a bit of a buzz kill. But if you're in school, there are two magic words you need to add to your vocabulary – student discount. Whether you're having dinner, going out to a movie, buying a computer or traveling, flashing your student card can often save you 15 per cent. And don't be afraid to ask – even places with unadvertised discounts or no formal policy will typically give a student a break.
5. Advanced credit isn't just for courses
Post-secondary school is typically the first exposure many students have to credit. Educate yourself about consumer credit, including credit scores, interest rates and payment periods. You're in a very transitional period, establishing good (or bad) habits that you'll likely carry with you for years to come. Paying your bills on time is a good way to ensure freshman year doesn't flunkout your credit for life. Setting up e-mail notifications and automatic bill payments are a great way to ensure your payments aren't tardy, but perhaps the most important rule is pay cash if you can.
6. Kick-it old school and share
In primary school, they taught you to share. As a teen, your behaviour was a little more selfish – or at least that's what your parents said. It's time to take it back to the playground and share. If you're driving home over the holidays, offer others a ride in exchange for a portion of the gas money.
Sharing things like DVDs, textbooks for half-year classes and Xbox games can be equally elementary when it comes to keeping your coin. And if you're on Facebook, sometimes all it takes to borrow what you need is a note in your status.
7. "Used" is not a four-letter word
For those of you destined for business school, your marketing professors will tell you the allure of what’s 'new' is one of the reasons consumers spend themselves into insolvency. Your microeconomics professors will tell you that the use you get out of an object justifies the money you spend on it – that is, a book's value is in being read; a car's value is in being driven. Listen to your learned academics. A used car can still take empties back to the store and a used textbook will still give you a headache before your psychology midterm – you'll just spend less.
Page 2 of 3 – Discover how to save for what you really want on page 3.
8. Bling from being green
Leonardo DeCaprio, Brad Pitt, Jay-Z and even Miley Cyrus are actively involved in environmental causes. It's clearly cool to be kind to the planet. However, the Earth's forests aren't the only green you'll save by being environmentally responsible. Ways you can save cash while saving the planet include:
• Wearing more layers in that drafty student house instead of turning up the thermostat
• Using compact fluorescent light bulbs whenever possible
• Taking timed showers – hot water heating uses one-third of the energy in a home. A shower schedule also prevents the battle for the bathroom with housemates.
9. Picture your purchases, then spend the scratch
Have your eye on a new computer? Thinking about a reading week holiday to the Bahamas? Want to graduate without a government loan? It's easier to save money for a purchase when you're constantly reminded about it. Download photos of what you're saving for and put them on your cell phone, day planner or on your computer's desktop. This technique will also help you avoid impulse buys that typically get charged to a credit card – you'll save the money and have lots of time to contemplate if you really want it.
10. Spend the evening in
A glamorous night on the town seems like a perfect way to spend time with a special someone or blow off some steam after an exam. But the next morning, all you'll be left with is a headache from the house music and a back pocket full of bar change that used to be a back pocket full of bills. Staying in is an economical yet equally fun alternative to going out (think high school house party). It won't solve the headache, but at least you'll know the pain in the brain isn't stress because you're concerned about making rent.
Page 3 of 3