In all honestly, when I began writing this post, I felt a bit emotional! Thinking back about being in college is really bittersweet for me. So, I took a step away and came back with the intention of taking a more practical approach. Funny enough, I use the same concept when contemplating most financial decisions...
To my college-aged self,
My biggest tip for saving money both in and after college is to think hard about your purchases. Learn the difference not only between want and need but also between want now and will want later. Before making 95% of my purchases, I take a step back and walk away from the situation, coming back later when I have fewer emotions tied to the decision.
Luckily, your pragmatic Dutch ancestry set you up to be a natural when it comes to efficiency and your course of study only added to your ability to make the most economical decisions. Let's discuss some things you did right:
- Living on campus through senior year. Knowing how smart this decision was will cause your post-graduation self to cringe when you hear about incoming freshmen trying to live off campus. Unless someone is going to cover your rent, your utilities, your transportation, and the upkeep of your apartment----stay on campus, trust me. Doing these things is enough of a pain when you have a full-time, salaried position so don't put yourself through the stress when you should be focusing on your school work, your internships, and your social life.
- Not spending all of your extra money on drinks. This decision not only saved you money and from physical ailment, but it also likely accounts for the fact that you had a decent attendance record and were equipped for achievement. By all means, go out and have fun but for God's sake, don't be like the baseball team.
- Taking advantage of campus resources. The fact that you had access to free on-campus healthcare, prescriptions, and counseling services was a total financial blessing, so good job not letting that go to waste.
- Taking the internships, paid and unpaid. Because you lived on campus, you were able to take two unpaid internships during the school year which greatly benefited your resume and created a lot of fun memories. Be grateful that your hard work and generous connections allowed you to experience the most incredible, paid summer internship in New York---which you will soon realize is a gift that keeps giving.
- Using student travel sites for savings. Using services like Student Universe will allow you to book a non-stop flight to Paris for $250 to celebrate your graduation. Need I say more?
- Buying the expensive champagne. Because what seemed like a bit of a splurge in the moment actually led to great, beautiful, and irreplaceable things.
- Not blowing your student loan money on unnecessary things. You will hear cringe-worthy stories of people who take out the maximum student loan in order to spend the money on vacations, clothes, and other unnecessary things only to end up way further in debt than they needed to be. So, only take out the bare minimum. You will appreciate it when your monthly repayment isn't five hundred plus dollars. But also know that there are resources available to keep your monthly payments down by refinancing your student loans through services such as Earnest.
Of course, there are things that you could have done better.
- Start eating in the dining hall more often. It took you way too long to do this. If I remember correctly, you only ate in the dining hall one time your entire first year. This resulted in too many pricey grocery trips and dinners at restaurants (although St. Augustine does have some of the best, so who can blame you?) because we all know you're not stocking your dorm with ramen. So, go to the dining hall with your friends, enjoy the Louis Comfort Tiffany windows and antique chairs, and take advantage of the salad bar. Bring extra toppings to make Instagram worthy grain bowls. Use your electric kettle to make cous-cous in the dorm when you're too tired to go out.
- Don't ever buy a textbook from the campus bookstore. Even if you think this is going to be the most convenient option, don't do it. Rent the books online and if you must purchase, do so on Amazon. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it will be cheaper.
- Enjoy every moment. For the most part, you did your best to take advantage of every opportunity and adventure that came your way. You savored the picture perfect collegiate moments---the historic buildings, cozy nights in the library, all of it. But there were times when things were difficult to the point that you had a hard time enjoying the moment. Don't let that happen. Even if it hurts, commit every little detail to memory.
That's the gist. Keep doing what you're doing but also try a little harder. Something extra to know are that you will come out of school with an abundance of great stories. You will truly, seriously hate graduation day---it won't be very fun, so brace yourself.
Afterwards, you'll wish you could relive it all so, again, commit every detail to memory and you won't regret it.