Are you a penny pincher? Do you find the best deals and pay the least amount possible for anything you buy? Are you connected to where your money is going every month and taking steps to hold on to as much as you can? If you answered 'Yes' to any, or all, of those questions, you are living a 'frugal' life. The problem is, some of the 'experts' are saying being frugal isn't enough to really change your financial situation. They tell you to focus instead on maximizing your income, getting better jobs which pay more, investing your money where it's going to give you a better return. (I always find that last one funny - considering most people reading personal finance advice blogs probably don't have the extra money available to actually invest in anything) I agree with the idea that you should work on those areas, when it's appropriate and feasible to do so in your life. But for college students, being 'frugal' and money smart is pretty much the only way to control your financial situation.
Let's take a look at the numbers, shall we? I've given almost 100 useful tips and tricks in my book (which I promise not to plug - again - because you can click on the links on the side if you would like more information) (Wait - was that non-plug actually a plug in disguise?) which can save students money while they are away at school. Buying no-name groceries, partying at home, mass transit, etc. etc. - they all add up. Let's use a very, very conservative number and say that using a few of the tips together will save a student around $200 a month compared to what they would have spent otherwise. Students typically spend 8 months of the year away at school (Sept. through April). So a student could very easily save (8 months x $200/month) or $1600 over the course of one school year. Multiply that by a four year programme and that totals $6,400 in savings.
I don't know about you - but over $6,000 in my pocket, or not borrowed, in a four year period is a pretty significant chunk of change. It's enough to potentially make a difference in how much a student needs to borrow,or even if they have to take out a loan at all. Since the average student winds up with @$25,000 in student loan debt - knocking that down to under $19,000 is a good start.
Do the small things matter when it comes to being money smart? Absolutely!! When the only thing you can control is how much you pay out - being frugal and controlling your spending will go a long way to putting more money in your pocket - or less money in the hands of your lenders when you are done school and heading out into the real world. Stay smart - increase your PF IQ - the little things add up! Cheers!