4 Ways Incoming College Freshman Can Save Money

5041385173_d73e36b3fa_z

Are you getting ready to go away to college for the first time? Going to college is usually the first time you’ll live on your own and be responsible for the majority of your own decisions. I remember the feeling and one of the things I was most excited about was getting to buy whatever I wanted at the grocery store. I’m pretty sure my first grocery store trip took 3 times longer than it needed to because I wanted to go up and down every aisle to pick out all of my favorite foods.

Alas, a lot of that food actually went to waste because I wasn’t used to shopping for one person. I was used to seeing the quantity my mom would buy for the 4 of us. Another factor that contributed to my food going to waste was that I lived in the dorm and ate 80% of my meals in the cafeteria. The other 20% of the time was split between eating my groceries and going out to eat with friends or my boyfriend.

I made a lot of financial mistakes my first year of college and I know I would be a lot better off today (financially) if I hadn’t started digging myself a hole from day 1 of living on my own up until I graduated from college 3 years later.

Here are 4 ways that incoming college freshman can save money and avoid the money mistakes I made.

Compare Housing Options and Costs

I lived in a suite-style dorm my freshman year of college. We had our own bathroom and it cost about $600 extra/semester (I think) vs. traditional dorm living. Another down-side of suite-style living is that you have to clean your own bathroom. If you live in a traditional style dorm there is usually a paid cleaning person that takes care of the common room, bathrooms, and hallways.

Living in a suite-style dorm room cost about $700/month during the school year with a full meal plan. That’s quite a bit considering you are basically sharing a 1 bedroom apartment with 2-3 other students.

Off-campus living can be quite a bit cheaper if you go about it in the right way, but the dorm is often a good starting point if you’ve never lived on your own before.

Avoid the Campus Book Store

Nearly everyone knows that you should buy your textbooks used whenever possible, but did you know you should also avoid the campus book store at all costs? After enrolling for each semester I sent an email to my teachers to find out if there would be a required text and what it was so I could order it from Amazon and give it plenty of time to arrive before the class started. This saved me a TON of money over the course of my college education. I also made sure to re-sell my books on Amazon at the end of the semester too.

Live Like a “Broke College Kid”

It’s okay to be a “broke college kid”. In fact, nearly all college kids are broke. It’s not smart to try and live like anything other than a broke college kid when that’s what you are. You don’t need a flashy car, fancy clothes, or a designer handbag. You need a decent and safe place to live, and good food to eat. Make sure you prioritize properly and don’t be afraid to embrace the “broke college kid” stereo-type.

Go to Lots of Campus Events

On that note, you should attend as many campus events as you can while you are a student. Campus events provide free (or super cheap) entertainment and usually some free food too. Again, take advantage of the broke college kid stereo-type and you might actually save some money.

College is one the most exciting times in your life and you should definitely enjoy it while you are there, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money to do so.

How did you save money during college, or were you spendy?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, A Disease Called Debt and Shoeaholic No More*

Photo courtesy of: Drew Coffman

How to Save for Retirement if You’re Self Employed

8555470404_b4e9095a34_z

The following is a guest post from my new blogger friend, Jessica. Take it away Jessica!

More and more Americans are finding themselves in the unique category of being self employed. Whether you’re a freelance writer, small business owner, stay at home mom that does a little work on the side, or simply just your own boss, you’re one of 10 million people in this country that pays yourself. With this comes a lot of benefits such as flexibility, certain tax write-offs and getting to work from home. But navigating one’s finances when you’re an entrepreneur just got a little trickier. You may have to budget better due to unpredictable income streams, and you’re tax payments to the IRS and State are now up to you to estimate. But one thing that many people who are self-employed neglect is their retirement account. It’s no longer as straight forward as the employee sponsored account that automatically came out of your paycheck. The good news is that there are some really fantastic retirement savings options especially for you – so read on.

SEP IRA

If you’re self employed with no employees, this may be a good retirement fund option. You can contribute up to 25% of your self-employment net income, or $53,000 in 2015. What I like most about this account is you can set it up anytime during the year and make contributions any time during the year, up to your tax filing deadline when you’re figuring out your taxes and want to reduce your tax burden. This is great if you’re not sure how much extra cash you’ll have to set aside for retirement during the year.   That way if you’ve had a bad year, you can scale back how much you were planning to contribute. Or go big if you’ve had a good year.

One Participant 401(k)

This is a good plan if you have a lot of excess cash to contribute to retirement. Unlike the SEP IRA above, you can contribute 20% of your self-employment net income with no cap, plus an additional $17,500 in contributions and a catch-up contribution of $5,500 if you’re 50+. If you’re older and self-employed and trying to play catch-up on your retirement, or had a lot of excess income during the year, this could be a good plan for you. This is also an option for anyone working for an employer that doesn’t offer a 401(k).

Simple IRA

This is the best option if you’re a small business owner with less than 100 employees. You can contribute up to 3% of your self-employment net income, and must also contribute to your employee’s retirement accounts after the first year. The rule is you can match dollar for dollar up to the first 3% of their contributions, or a flat 2% of what they earn regardless of their contributions. The benefit to this plan is that it is easier to set up and less costly than a traditional employer sponsored defined contribution plan. An employee cannot contribute more than $12,500 in 2015 to these types of plans.

Are you self employed? How do you save for retirement?

Jessica is the owner of High Heels High Yields, a blog that provides investment and savings advice for women that’s witty and fun – think Bloomberg meets Bossypants! You can read more at High Heels High Yields or follow her on Facebook.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, A Disease Called Debt and One More Broke Twenty-Something*

Photo courtesy of: eltpics