Everyone knows college is expensive. You might not know that the years before college can be, too. Luckily, there are ways to save before you’re truly inaugurated as a broke college student. If you’re living at your parents’ house before going to college, consider helping out by getting a job or taking up extra chores. A lot of parents consider high school graduation as your first step into adulthood, and with more freedom comes more responsibility.
Your belly might thank you for eating out every day, but it adds up quickly. Learn to cook so that you can plan ahead both nutrition-wise and financially. I like to use a website called Budget Bytes, which totals up the cost of your meal within the recipe. Another site filled with pure variety of recipes is All Recipes. The website includes every recipe you could ever think of, as well as shows you the sales for ingredients in stores near you.
Living with your parents doesn’t have to end with high school. Sometimes being a commuter student can save you money on both room and board. On the other hand, some students enjoy the independence that comes with living on campus.
If you absolutely must live on campus, then consider rooming with another people. Living in a single might seem like living the sweet life, but your privacy could come at the cost of a few extra thousand dollars. Plus, roommates aren’t so bad! I lived in a room with three other people my first year of college and we all got along swimmingly. If you do have roommate trouble, you can always request a different one. If you can’t get a different one, you’ll probably get really close to your resident advisor, a slightly older college student who is in charge of the hall of a certain dorm.
Remember that as fun as it is to take a cab or Uber everywhere, the expense will catch up with you. Even if you drive, you have to have money for gas and potential car repairs. To negate the cost, you could explore carpooling with a friend. Also consider biking or public transportation. Not only are both options potentially cheaper, but they’re better for the planet!
You can’t truly know where your money is going unless you have a budget. When you know where your money is going, you can start saving. And when you start saving, you’re prepared for emergencies. Emergencies are the bane of the frugal teenager. An untimely one can wipe out your cash on hand, savings fund, or drive you into debt. You can’t be emotionally or physically prepared for anything that happens, but by setting up a savings account and trying to save a little whenever you get income means that you’ll have a nice little rainy day fund for when you need it.
If you’re in college, look at your specific school for ways to live frugally. Some universities have emergency funds for students who run out of money for necessities during the school year, online groups that post whenever there’s free food on campus, micro grants for students who need funds for things like textbooks, work study, and part-time jobs. Seek out these opportunities and take advantage of them.
Being in high school doesn’t mean it’s too early to start looking for ways to save. In fact, many of these tips will make high school life a little easier as well as preparing you for the world beyond.
Arlena , 19, is a sophomore at Barnard College who loves writing, reading and exploring the city. Say hi on Twitter @lenamcclenton.
This story and many more relating to preparing for life after high school will be in our Back to School print edition, reaching schools and nonprofits around metro Atlanta in September and at the Decatur Book Festival Teen Poetry Slam on Sept. 4.