Okay everyone, this is a post where we get we dig deep and get back to our frugal roots. Lets talk about some ways to save money for college that may be a little beyond (or beneath) what we typically think of when we think about college planning. Whether you’re a student who is working to simply make ends meet and pay for your books each semester or a hard working parent willing to stick your neck out for your child’s education, there are some things you can do that will both line the savings account and pare your expenses. But you may have to exercise a little humility or make some sacrifices that could feel a little uncomfortable at first. That’s what makes us frugal. Moreover, the relief you’ll feel in a few years when your student loan bills are a fraction of what they could have been will make it all worthwhile.
Grow Some Income
Obviously, you can get a part-time job. If you already have one, you can always offer to work extra hours, try to pick up a shift here and there or impress your boss and shoot for a promotion. If nothing else, your willingness to work and your diligence should net you a raise (one would hope!). If you’re pretty sharp, and let’s make that assumption based on the fact that you’re in college, you can put up flyers offering to tutor K-12 students and help them out with whatever your best at, whether it’s math, science, English or Spanish. An hourly rate of up to $20 is certainly not unheard of, and you should be able to work a tutoring gig around your existing class schedule pretty easily.
Holiday or seasonal jobs over your break or January term are also good ways to make some extra money without cramping your studying style too much. For the first couple weeks after Thanksgiving, you may find yourself in a little bit of an exam crunch, but after your tests you won’t have to keep your mind on anything but the money you’re making. If parents have time to do a part-time seasonal job as well, you could easily put $2,000 to $3,000 toward the college kitty in a little over a month.
Another way to get some extra cash is to have a garage sale. Face it, much of the stuff you’re leaving behind is stuff you most likely will not use again. Or if you’re more motivated, start an eBay business and clean the clutter out of your (or your parents’ house). Let someone else enjoy the old lava lamp from your room while you earn your degree. With that fancy education, you’ll be able to get a job that will pay you enough to buy two lava lamps. New ones.
Dig a Little Deeper
Apart from the traditional part-time jobs and other methods of earning money that are out there, you can also try a few avenues that are not only more flexible time-wise but also tend to be less tapped out than the job market. One avenue you could explore that could actually be fun is to be a secret, or “mystery” shopper. Many legitimate companies, like National Shopping Service, will actually pay you to eat out at restaurants or buy groceries that you get to keep. You definitely won’t get rich doing it, but it’s fun and the combination of money earned from the work and the dollars you could save on food and entertainment expenses could go some way in padding your bottom line.
In a similar vein, if you enjoy television and radio, you and your family could apply to become Nielsen households. You don’t really have to do anything differently except wear or carry a small device that monitors what you watch on TV and listen to on the radio. They are somewhat selective, but if you are accepted, each member of the household who agrees to wear the device receives a small monthly stipend that, if pooled together, could amount to an additional $1,000 or more per year that can be funneled toward college expenses.
Bottom line, if you think about it, is that every $20 extra dollars you put aside per week amounts to an additional $1,000 per year in savings. Think about how you can make an extra $20 or even $40 per week. Collect cans and bottles and redeem them. Donate bodily fluids (certain fluids can actually be quite lucrative), if you’re old enough to do so. In four years, you won’t miss the plasma and you’ll love not having the extra principal on your student loan bill. I know it sounds (and is) a little outside the norm, but hey, college is supposed to be an experience right? Think about the stories you could tell your grand kids about walking to class uphill both ways in 40 feet of snow with an IV drip attached to your arm, draining you of precious bodily fluids. That alone is worth the light-headedness.