Can I Really Live Within My Means While in College?

Whitney Sparks "A Fearless Heart"

Yes, yes you can.  Here’s a list of things you HAVE TO DO if you want to live within your means.


1.  Learn to say no.  It is okay to tell your friends that you can’t go out tonight because you simply don’t have the money.  If they’re good friends they will completely understand and might even learn something from your fearless heart.


2.  Don’t eat out.   If you do, choose wisely.  When my husband and I became debt free we decided to go out to eat at a high-priced restaurant (something we do maybe once a year).  As we sat down to supper I couldn’t believe how many college students were eating in this restaurant.  They acted like it’s something they do every weekend.  STUPID!  STUPID!  STUPID!  Don’t waste or hard-earned money (or you parent’s money) on something like food.


3.  Have a plan.  Create a budget.  Don’t go to college without one.  You may not regret it while you’re young, but you will look back at some point and wonder where all that money was spent.


4.  Don’t go out and buy a brand-new car.  This is the biggest mistake you’ll ever make.  I see so many kids in our town with the big heavy duty pick-up trucks and wonder how they can afford the gas.  My guess is, they can’t.  Go buy a good car that will get you back and forth but is still economical.  I paid $5,000 for my first car (in cash) and I drove everywhere with that little car.


5.  Live off what you make.  If you don’t make much money then don’t spend a lot of money.  It’s really just that simple.  Today while reading “Wisdom Meets Passion” Dan Miller talks in the book about how he and his wife lived off $200/month that he made working as a teacher assistant.  How did they live off that much?  They lived within their means.  He also paid for his college career with cash and now has millions of dollars.  Hmmm..I wonder why!?


6.  Get a job!  I don’t mean to harp on this, but I have worked since I was 15.  I really don’t understand kids that don’t work.  I see so many kids in high school just loafing around town when they could be spending their time and energy working and saving for their future.


7.  Keep yourself out of debt.  The only debt that really makes sense to me while in college is student loan debt.  I really don’t like this kind of debt, but have stated that I had to take out a $10K loan.  I had it paid off in 5 years and could have paid it off much faster if I hadn’t accrued more debt.


8.  Also, consider your job.  Are you going to make enough money to really justify taking out a lot of money in student loans?  So, here’s what I’m saying:


I graduated in 2003.  I also had a job about 3 months later.  My job started off making around $30K per year.  If I just had student loan debt with nothing else I could have easily paid off that loan in 1 year.  My husband also had a full-time job.  We could have lived off 1 1/2 incomes while we paid down that debt.


You have to think this way when it comes to college.  I don’t understand taking out $130K in student loan debt and then being a stay-at-home mom.  Or taking out $100,000 in debt to work a job making $28K/year.  This is really happening, people.  I hear it on Dave Ramsey’s radio show all the time!!!


Please consider these tips to avoid making a lot of the same mistakes I did.


Share with us what you are doing or have done to save money while in college?  How were you able to live within your means?



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