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6 Steps to Achieve Financial Independence at College

moneytreeIt’s no secret that going to college these days is both intimidating and expensive. If your parents aren’t in the place to help, or the thought of student loan debt haunts your nightmares, adopting some simple pre-grad behaviors can help you gain the financial independence you want, while you earn that degree.

If You Qualify, Apply

Did you know there’s a scholarship for wearing duct tape to prom or reading an essay aloud? You do now. Scholarships are helpful in gaining your financial independence because unlike loans, they don’t need to be paid back. Apply for any scholarships you qualify for—sometimes lesser-known scholarships only have a few entrants and your chances are higher.

Go Your Own Way

Everyone’s path to a college diploma is different, so don’t feel pressured into going to a four-year university the second you graduate high school. If you’re putting yourself through college or are contributing a significant part of your education funding, you may consider earning an associate’s degree at a local community college and transferring to a university later. You may also consider forgoing campus altogether—many public universities offer full degree course offerings online. If the pressure of working and courses is still too much, consider working full-time and taking classes part-time.

Be Separate

Many money-conscious college students think staying on mom and dad’s family plan is the most cost-effective solution to not having an early 2000s flip phone in college. But in taking steps to earn your financial independence, having your own phone on your own plan is a good step. For example, you can get affordable individual data plans from T-Mobile, even if you are on a Ramen noodle budget. Starting at just $50 per month—that’s five meals out—you can definitely find the plan that works with your social calendar and lets you text your lab partner as much as you want.

Buy Groceries

Groceries can help you become more independent? Since when? Buying groceries is not only cheaper than eating out—$4 for a jar of pasta sauce and a box of linguine, as opposed to $11.99 for the same at a restaurant—they promote healthier eating habits. When you buy fresh groceries regularly, you’re more inclined to learn what to do with them.

Only know how to make that one dish? Eventually, you’ll get sick of eating the same thing and you’ll look for new recipes to liven up your meals. Learning new recipes will also teach you to be more comfortable in the kitchen — an important skill in any self-sufficient adult.

Work Hard, But Not Too Often

Working a part-time job as a full-time student can help you earn your financial independence while also boosting your GPA. Busier students tend to focus more on their studies and procrastinate less because they have less time to do so. More isn’t better though. Working over 20 hours a week as a full-time student can lead to the opposite of productivity. Anxiety, forgetfulness and decreased focus come with the territory of spreading yourself too thin. So while it’s good to work steadily, make time for yourself too.

Save, Save, and Save

The best amount to save will vary by source—some say $200 per month and others say each $5 bill you earn in tips at your serving job. But the decision is up to you—you’re the one seeking financial independence. Instead of setting an amount goal and maybe not achieving it, consider setting a percentage goal of savings. Saving 10% of your income adds up quicker than you might think, and it’s an amount you won’t miss too terribly. Saving by percent and not amount also lets you account for different earnings each month.

Financial independence in college may seem too good to be true, but with some smart saving and wise money decisions, you can make the future you want, both financially and educationally. Maybe after graduating debt-free you’ll be tempted to move on to even higher educational pursuits or have the financial freedom to travel for a year. Who knows? Put your financial plan into action today and take hold of your future — without relying on anyone but yourself.

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One Response to “6 Steps to Achieve Financial Independence at College”

  1. Andrew says:

    Ahh yes procrastination is every students worst enemy, easier said than done to stop, takes practice. Everyone knows that student who works 20-30 hrs a week and still maintains a perfect GPA, unfortunately it doesn’t work for everyone, I tried…:(

    Could do with one of those $10,000 scholarships for wearing Duct Tape!