Summer is coming. What are your plans for the next few months until you head back to school? While you certainly want to relax and forget about the stresses of college studies, you may also want to devote some time to financial management and saving money. Tuition isn’t cheap and the money decisions you make during your undergraduate years can shape your post-college financial future (just ask anyone with student loans or someone who was convinced that a free t-shirt was a good reason to take on a high-interest credit card). Take a few minutes and check out our tips for saving and generating some cash this summer.
- Invest in a Short-Term CD: If you have any sort of a nest egg that you won’t need over the summer months, consider investing it in a short-term CD. The interest rate you receive won’t make you rich but it will be more than what you’d get leaving your money in a checking account account and you won’t be tempted to withdraw it for debit-card purchases. Starter CDs require just a small amount of money for a small amount of time so if you have a few hundred dollars or more and you won’t need it for six months or so, bank it in a CD for more interest. Remember that the more you invest at first and for the longer the duration, the more interest you’ll earn, but the penalties for early withdrawal can be substantial so don’t over-commit. Check rates online at NerdWallet or Bankrate.
- Relax in General and Relax on Entertainment Expenses: College can be stressful so it’s expected that you unwind and let off steam. But given that this is college we’re talking about, nothing is done on a small scale. Big exams and big papers tend to mean big parties immediately following. Take time this summer to enjoy things being a little less intense all around. Without the stress of hardcore studies and exams and deadlines, you can chill on smaller, cheaper scale. Instead of hosting that costly mega-bash or bar-hopping, get together with friends and family for things like game night, day hiking, walking dogs, catching up while doing some deck sitting, and movie marathons when summer storms hit.
- Work: Take a part-time summer job or an internship. In addition to earning some money, you’ll meet new people, make valuable connections, gain experience, figure out what you like doing and are good at, and come to appreciate your free time a lot more. If you’re serious about your direction already, get the scoop on summer internships (it’s not too late!) If you’re still finding yourself, enjoy working without the pressure of making it into a career and be open to doing stuff like waiting tables (you’ll make amazing friends and eat cheap) or do landscaping (you’ll get a tan and be ripped). If you’re on the less-active side of things, turn Web time into paid time and do surveys for a company like Pinecone Research.
- Pay Off Credit Card Debt: Every dollar you pay down on your balances is one less dollar you have to pay interest charges on moving forward. Take a look at your balances and use any money you earn over the summer to bring down your debts. Credit-card debt is a killer whether you’re in school or not, and the sooner you get it paid off, the more money you can save. Remember that you don’t have to pay it all at once, just chip away at it by every month paying off more than you spend.
- Take Advantage of the Time at Home: If you’re currently living off-campus, do not make the mistake of remaining in that housing over summer break if you’re paying monthly rent. Move out or sublet the place and go home for the summer where the cost of living is much less. Even though living back under your parents’ roof can be a pain, you can save big time on expenses. If mom and dad are the generous type, you’re likely to enjoy free food and laundry services while you save on several months’ rent. Just be cool about it and show your appreciation. Help out around the house, hug your folks, and give thanks for how good it is to come home and find support and love.
If you hadn’t already noticed, the cost of college is astounding. Even if you’ve never been a planner, it’s important to understand that the average college student now graduates with a stunning $27,000 in student loan debt. Kick back all you want over the summer, just keep costs in mind. For every dollar you don’t spend this summer, that’s one more dollar you can put toward your loan balances.
Guest post courtesy of MoneyCrashers.com‘s Josh Hall, a personal-finance writer who discusses college costs, money management, and smart budgeting tips.