Back when I was living the student life, I wondered if having no cars, eating the cheapest meal, or occasionally refraining from the nightlife would ever pay off. Long story short, it did. I’m so glad that I went through it all because it’s set me up to not live like a student currently. Building a good enough nest egg during college took money stress out of my life. I don’t have to worry about repaying student loans, car loans, or credit card loans. If someone hasn’t gone through living like a true student yet, I highly recommend it, because it just might set you up for life, financially.
4 Years of Pain for a Lifetime of Security
Living like a student is like putting in your dues. At work, you put in the work for 2-3 years for managers to say “ok, he (or she) isn’t completely clueless”. Then 4-5 years for them to say “maybe they know the basics of what they’re talking about”. So on and so on. I lived a true student life for a full 4 years while in college.
I’m proud to say that living frugally and working multiple jobs while in college took away financial worries that a typical fresh graduate has. Not only has it given me a financial cushion, it’s given me the tools I need to weather the storm in the future if I had to.
I say I lived like a “true” student because I saw my student friends spending money that they didn’t have. They also took out 0% financing from the good ol’ bank of Mom and Dad (or MAD for short, as in, how maddening it is that parents gave away so much of their hard earned cash). They were a student but they sure wasn’t living like one, they were living it up!
Put in Your Dues to Reach Financial Security
Financial security is the ultimate promotion you can ever have. It’s also the hardest promotion. A typical employee at a full time job could get promoted anywhere between 6 months to 5 years, depending on work ethic / productivity.
Financial security is reached anywhere between 7 – 25 years. The upside is that there’s no office politics involved with reaching financial security. There’s external forces at play (like how well the economy is doing) but the majority of the result is based on your effort. You’re in charge!
Financial security is a magical land. No stress. No need to work. More time to spend with family. More time pursuing your true passion outside of your work. All of it topped with an increased ability to give back. The dream promotion.
Living the Student Life
This is why I advocate you to live a student life for at least a couple of years. If the frugal life and the dues aren’t put in, then the promotion to financial security isn’t given. When I was going through college, I came out with the knowledge of how to live a frugal life. It gave me the tools to realize which stuff added value. Here are some ways that I lived like a student.
I Didn’t Have a Car
According to Nerdwallet, owning a large sedan can cost $11,000 over five years. There’s insurance, tires, maintenance, depreciation, AAA (if you have it), and repairs. It was so inconvenient to wait for the bus to get to my location but I think it was worth saving at least $8,800 over 4 years.
I got all the free bus rides I wanted with my student ID. I used the bus to go to my internship, get groceries (this was especially inconvenient because I buy a lot per trip), go to the dentist, and more. It was quite an experience to have.
I Learned How to Cookish
I usually bought 2 – 3 weeks of groceries in advance (some do spoil but I try not to let it get there). To save money, I bought groceries and cooked instead of eating out. I say I learned how to “cook – ish” because I didn’t make anything fancy. I made spaghetti and heated up some chicken and ate that consistently for years.
When averaged it out, it cost close to $3 a meal, much better than the $7 – $10 a meal that I was spending eating out / eating the school cafeteria. No one would be impressed at my plain old marinara spaghetti but it was certainly a start.
Nightlife Was Out of the Question… Almost
I refrained from going downtown and drinking at overpriced bars. However, that didn’t stop me. My buddies and I would pitch in for a bottle and drink before going out. It’s become the trend, calling it “pre-gaming” and stopping bars from overcharging drunk students.
I actually had a bartender tack on an additional $5 on my bill as a “tip” when I wasn’t looking. Thank you Discover credit card for accepting my dispute and getting back that money. Also, I looked for free activities or low priced activities such as parties with a low cover charge or get together parties with my friends pitching in a few dollars here and there. It was 50% cheaper than the average but just as fun as spending more money.
I recommend everyone to live a student life for at least a couple of years. After which, it could become a habit to where you won’t even think about it, but that’ll be the icing on the cake to reaching that financial independence status. It’s 2-3 years of spending smartly that could very well erase your money worries. Maybe not completely but at least to the point where money doesn’t become stressful.
It was inconvenient at times to live a student life, sure. But do I regret going through with the experience? Absolutely not. If I can live like a student when I was making less than the poverty income, imagine how farther I can get when making above the median household income as a single guy.
Readers, have you ever lived a student life? Do you regret doing so or not doing so? What has your experience been like? Let me know in the comments below!
My goal is to enable your success in personal finance so that you can realize the American dream. The first step is starting today!
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