Going to college is expensive. There's no doubt about that. Aside for the sheer cost of tuition, room and board, and fees (the so-called “student budget"), there's also the cost of life outside the classroom. As they say, all work and no play can make us quite dull.
When I was in college (back when Fred Flintstone and I were neighbors), the big deal for me was getting a five-dollar bill in the mail from my parents. Then, I would celebrate by heading to the Hilltop Sub Shop that night and getting one of their world-famous steak sandwiches. (See how pathetic my social life was?) Of course, I was involved in varsity sports (tennis), which kept me quite busy in the spring, and my roommates and I had a good relationship that kept us entertained with many late-night bull sessions. But it's not like that today.
These days, the social demands on college students are considerable. And with that comes the cost. It's not cheap to hit the clubs on the weekend. For those of you fashionistas, there's also the free-cash-draining element of looking sharp in the latest clothes. If you have a car, then you have to keep it maintained and pay for that $3.50-$4.00-per-gallon gas. The list goes on …
So what's a concerned college student to do? How can you save money on having fun and still have a good time?
My friends at Money Crashers have some thoughts on that. Take a look.
David Bakke is a financial columnist for MoneyCrashers.com. He managed to get himself out of over $30k in credit card debt that he racked up during his college years. He now advises young people everywhere to make smart financial decisions early on.
If you're funding your education mostly with student loans, it can be very easy to lose track of your finances with all that “free money" at your disposal. Once you hurl that graduation cap into the air, however, the hard reality comes crashing down. That money is now your debt, and you are on the hook to the government to pay it back. Once you accept that reality, you can alleviate some of your future burden by saving as much as possible while you're still in school. One great way to save is by spending less on various forms of entertainment.
You can save a ton of money by simply not going out. Rent a few DVDs (Redbox is your best bet) or get a subscription to a streaming movie and television service like Netflix or Hulu. You could even host a low-cost, themed gathering like trivia night or classic board game night with games like Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary.
Stay in shape and save money at the same time by joining an intramural sports league or by getting a group together from your dorm and posting an informal challenge to another floor. I did this regularly in college and it led to some great competition, bonding, and fun – we even had trophies made up for the victors. For something simpler, though, you can always just get together with friends or classmates to shoot baskets, throw the football around, or play a little Frisbee on the campus greens.
Your school issued you an ID card for a reason – so use it. It can get you into every sporting event for free, and you can use it to attend speaking engagements and free concerts as well. There may even be discount movie night at an on-campus cinema. Your student ID card can also save you money on other entertainment expenses around town such as museums, zoos, and historical sites. Wherever you go to visit, be sure and ask for a student discount.
It's always nice to kick back and enjoy a few cold ones after a long week of class, but that doesn't mean you have to cripple your bank account in the process. Check out your local bars and find out when their happy hours are. You may even be able to find ways to eat for free. Choose the best ones and time your evenings out to coincide with the best deals. Just make sure you designate a driver in your group; and if that's not an option, take a cab home if you've had a little too much. A DUI can destroy you financially, and it certainly won't look good on a background check during your job hunt.
To save on a wide variety of entertainment options, sign up for deal of the day websites like Groupon and LivingSocial. They offer extreme discounts of 50% off or more to local restaurants, bars, and other social activities. Most restaurant deals involve lesser-known eateries, but chances are it's better than your on-campus dining hall, so if you can find a good meal at half-price and are in need of a night out, go for it.
Performing well in class is important, but so is being financially prudent. You can bust your tail for a 4.0 GPA and land a high-salary job right out of school, but if you're carrying $50,000 in student loan debt, that money is going to be eaten up in a hurry. Do your best in school, but always keep finances on your radar, get a good job after graduating, and pay your student loans quickly and comfortably.
What other ways can you think of to save on entertainment while in school? Let us know in the Comments box below. Happy saving!
Don't forget to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.
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