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10 Money-Saving Tips I Learned In College By Nnenna Umelloh

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Nnenna Umelloh was such a great discovery for us: this girl definitely knows how to have it all! We’re delighted to grant her the 12M Loans Scholarship $50 prize for her contributions of making other students’ lives better. Check her video and inforgraphic below.

10 Money-Saving Tips I Learned in College

My college experience at the University of Houston was delightful. I enjoyed all the ups and downs of participating in the competitive, academically driven environment of the Honors College. In May 2018, I graduated with Bachelors Business Administration in Marketing and a Bachelors of Arts in Liberal Studies. Fortunately, I was taught the skills I needed to managed my limited finances well while I was on campus.

In November 2018, I was accepted into grad school at Hult International School of Business. I am thrilled to embark on this new journey however my graduate education will present itself with unique financial challenges. Due to the nature of my program, I will be studying at three international campuses: London, Dubai, and Shanghai. My last rotation will be at a domestic campus in San Francisco.

This program is designed to teach students how to thrive in constantly changing environments and learn how to adapt to different cultural expectations. By December 2020, I will graduate with a Masters in International Business and a Masters of Science in Business Analytics. Even with its international scope, Hult is recognized and accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) and Association of MBAs (AMBA).

As an incoming international grad school student, these are some money-saving tips that I learned in undergrad that will serve me well at Hult.

#1. Don’t Pay For College!

I worked around the clock applying for scholarships to attend the University of Houston. Over four years, I applied to about 4,000 scholarships and earned $80,000. Scholarships completely paid for my undergraduate experience. With the average student graduating with about $37,000 in student loans for undergrad and $57,000 for grad school, it is in the student’s best interest to apply for as many scholarships as possible.

Since November 2018, I have applied to about 140 scholarships to help me fund my graduate school program. My goal is to earn $107,300 in scholarships before September 2019.

#2. Don’t Pay Full Price For Anything!

As a college student, there is no reason to pay full price for anything. Online resources like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace offer gently used appliances, furniture, home goods, vehicles, clothing, entertainment, and anything else you could possibly need. When it comes to dorm room decorations, a bike, new-to-you clothes, school supplies, or anything else that would make your college experience easier, Craigslist or the Facebook Marketplace can help you find what you need.

If you are apprehensive about buying clothes online, then always shop at a thrift store first. Thrift stores are a godsend to college students. You can buy a whole closet worth of cute clothes and accessories for less than $30. To get the best deals, try shopping at thrift stores in high-income areas. Those thrift stores tend to have nicer selections.

Personally, I used Facebook to sell my old furniture when I moved out of my college apartment. It’s easy and safe. As long as you exercise sound judgment, you can find excellent deals.

#3. You Are Not Poor if You Can Afford Alcohol, Cigarettes, Energy Drinks, Starbucks or Fast Food

It’s no secret that college students are broke, but most college students are more broke than they should be because they lack the discipline to track and curb their spending habits. For example, an average drink at Starbucks costs $3-$4. One Starbucks cup twice a day for a week can cost around $42 – $56.

By simply drinking water or making your own coffee in the morning, you can save around $168 – $224 per month. Often students are spending money they don’t have on luxuries they don’t need.

Other good examples are alcohol and energy drinks. An average bottle of red wine costs $15.66, and an average 12-pack of beer costs $10.50. Monster, a popular energy drink costs $1.99 per bottle. All these minor expenses can create a major deficit in a cost sensitive, college student budget.

The worst part is they are not worth the cost. Students who sleep and exercise regularly have more energy than students who do not engage in these healthy, lifestyle habits.

Fortunately, sleep and exercise are free. Even if a student can’t manage 8 hours of sleep a night, natural foods like bananas, brown rice, water, apples and peanut butter, quinoa, oatmeal, and lentils are an excellent, natural source of energy.

Substituting these minor luxuries for natural products can prevent students from spending money they do not have.

#4. Create a Passive Revenue Stream (and an Active One if Possible)

I strongly encourage students to land an internship or work a part-time job even if they go to school full-time. The skills and experience you gain while working can improve your career outcomes post-graduation. Even though I paid for all of my education with scholarships, I still worked part-time jobs and internships while I was a student.

During my junior year of college, I started small educational consulting practice to help people go to college, grad school or trade school with scholarships. The experience I gained running my own small business help put the education I earned in the business school into practice early. It also helped me stand out as I applied to grad school and gave me more perspective into the type of work I enjoy.

However, starting a business, landing a paid internship or working a part-time job are all examples of active revenue streams. A passive revenue stream can allow students to pull in some cash with less work in the long run. Writing a book is a good example of a passive revenue stream.

In August 2018, I published a book documenting my experiences earning scholarships to go to college. I only had to write the book once, but I’m able to earn money from every book purchased.

#5. Establish an Emergency Fund

As a college student, putting money away for a rainy day is difficult but not impossible. Skipping minor luxuries like coffee and alcohol can free up some resources. Creating a passive revenue stream can also help build up an emergency fund.

One thing I learned when I was at the University of Houston is that surprises can be very expensive. It’s easy to plan for things you want or need because those costs can be estimated and they are expected. However, most of the time a surprise that requires additional funding is almost always a burden and can never be predicted.

For example, there was a time that my car broke down at my apartment. If I did not have my emergency fund, there would have been no way for me to repair it in time to go back to school. Near the end of my time at the University of Houston, I had to apply for graduation. To my surprise, applying for graduation cost around $60. It wasn’t particularly expensive, but I just got done paying off my bills for the month, and I didn’t have the money.

Furthermore, there was a deadline I had to adhere to, or I wouldn’t be able to graduate. My emergency fund came in handy at that time as well.

When I applied to grad school (and got in), I had to pay a deposit to hold my seat. The deposit was due right after Thanksgiving. I was able to cover that cost with the money I saved up.

It takes extreme discipline to build up an emergency fund. Some students who are weak-willed may be tempted to use that fund for other non-essential purchases. To avoid that temptation, I encourage students to create an emergency fund in an account separate from their normal checking and savings account.

My emergency fund is in a credit union. This makes it difficult to access the emergency fund on a whim. Also, make sure that the emergency fund is only a savings account – not a checking account. Checking accounts come with a debit card which can also be a source of temptation.

Even if you do have an emergency fund with a debit card, cut up the debit card. The money will still be there, but you’ll be less inclined to spend it on frivolous purchases if you don’t have the card on hand.

#6. Make a List of Things You Need

The nice thing about needs is that they’re less likely to change from month to month. You can predict those expenses. For example, you need money for transportation. You need to pay your rent. You need to buy food to eat.

Identify exactly what you need to get by. An easy to identify ‘a need’ vs. ‘a want’ is to ask yourself if you can get by a month without it. For example, a lot of students think they “need” cable and internet, but do you though?

Of course, the internet is a valuable resource and can make your life a lot easier but do you need to pay for internet when there are plenty of spaces on campus that provides internet to students for free? In addition, do you really need cable? How often do you watch TV and even if you watch TV every day is it necessary to watch
TV every day to survive? Of course not.

Making a list of needs and identifying the costs of those needs ahead of time can help you save a lot of money in the long run.

#7. Just Because It’s on Sale, Doesn’t Mean You Need It

Sometimes the allure of saving money on a sale will trick students into thinking that they need the item. They think just because they’re not paying full price for it; they’re saving money. In reality, they are spending more money than they would have if they did not buy the item in the first place. Don’t fall for it!

#8. Wait 72 Hours

If there is something that you really want to buy and it’s not on sale and you can’t find it on the Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, then wait 72 hours before you make a purchase.

It’s important to curb impulse purchases at every turn. Buying items impulsively will eat through your budget and leave you more broke than you already are, but there will be times when you find an item that you think you want. If you are disciplined in how you handle your cash then chances are you have some disposable income.

Before you make that purchase though, wait 72 hours. If you still want the item in 72 hours and you still think the item will be worth it, then go ahead and buy it. Sometimes, after 72 hours, the urge to buy passes and then you saved yourself some money.

#9. Make Your Own Food

Eating out will cost you a fortune. Before you know it, all the money you thought you had coming in will disappear (and chances are you’ll still be hungry). If you live in a college apartment and don’t have access to a dining hall, then take the time to plan out your meals and cook for yourself. You’ll save hundreds of dollars in the
long run.

The average American spends about $100 on fast food a month. That breaks down to $12.50 per meal. If you cooked for yourself, $12.50 could feed you for at least a week. There are plenty of easy, 15-minute recipes online that don’t take a lot of time or ingredients. There are also online resources that will teach you how to go grocery shopping and find the best deals for free.

Making the investment to feed yourself is an excellent skill to learn as an adult and will help you put more money toward an emergency fund.

#10. Build Your Skill Set

As a college student, you have access to a ton of resources designed to help you be successful. Be proactive and take classes that will help you be more competitive in the job market. These classes don’t necessarily have to be related to your major either.

The point is to build your skills in your desired industry so you can increase your earning potential.

For example, when I started my own business, I had to learn how to create my own website. Over time, I have honed my skills in using WordPress to build websites and creating original content to promote my services. I understand the role of Google and SEO on my site and my business. Now I have the opportunity to share my insight and experience in building websites for other people (for a price of course).

This skill and experience also helped me stand apart as I was searching for internships. I was able to land a Marketing and Sales internship at a startup in Dallas because of the work I did in the past growing my own business and promoting it online via my blog and social media marketing.

Building your skill set will make you more attractive to employers and will give you leverage when it’s time to ask for a raise. It’ll also keep you relevant and up-to-date in your desired industry.

I have been very fortunate to learn the skills I need to save money before I go to grad school. The best part about these tips is that they’re easy to implement. Yes, they take some time to get used to, but once you’re in the groove, it becomes a part of your lifestyle.

Saving money will become second nature and provide you the financial freedom you need to lead an independent, stress-free life.

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Infographic 10 Smart Tips to Save Money While in College

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Nenna Umelloh - 12M Loans Scholarship Second Prize

Name: Nnenna Umelloh

Institution: Hult International School of Business

Degree: Master

Subject: International Business

Other: Higher Education Consultant at

One thought on “10 Money-Saving Tips I Learned In College By Nnenna Umelloh

  1. There’s no great secret to how college kids save money – it just takes a little common sense and discipline. Remember that you’re in college to learn and earn your degree. Meeting your academic and budgetary goals will not only help you make the most of your college experience – it will help you start your financial future off right.

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