Frugal Living Tips for Professionals from College Students

by Guest Contributor · 12 comments

Out of necessity, we are just smarter about some things when we are college students than we are as we age. One of those things is personal finance. Sure, we made some really dumb mistakes with our money but we also tend to have a much better grasp on frugal living than most of us in the grown-up working world do.

Here are some of the top frugal living tips that you probably knew when you were in college but have forgotten as you’ve gotten older:

  • There can never be too many roommates in a house. When we’re in college, we turn every room in the house into a bedroom to reduce our individual rent. As we get older, we move into bigger homes with our small families and pay a lot more money for that housing. During this recession, it might make sense to start re-living your college days by renting out some of your extra rooms to boarders. You should be careful about who you let live with you of course; college kids aren’t always so discerning and we all have horrific roommate stories because of that but a smart choice about renters could gain you a steady income that would offset the cost of your rent or mortgage.
  • Ramen goes with everything. We all laugh about how college kids eat Ramen and microwave burritos for every meal but there’s something to be learned from that. As professional adults we’re interested in eating healthy which is important but we also spend a lot of money on our groceries. By replacing some of our grown-up meals with the rice-and-beans diet that college kids sometimes go on, we can cut back on our spending without sacrificing our health. Other options include potlucks and dollar days; remember Taco Tuesdays?.
  • You should always pre-drink before going to the bar. College students load up on alcohol before they go out so that they don’t have to pay for a lot of expensive drinks when they get to the bars. Professionals who go to happy hours and social dinners could benefit from remembering this. Fill up with a decent meal and a drink at home so that you can order less at any restaurants or bars that you go to.
  • Making out in front of the TV is an ideal date. Do you and your significant other still go on dates? If you do then you probably spend more money on them than you should. A grown-up date night usually includes a pricey dinner with wine, a movie or theater performance and sometimes drinks afterward. Remember back in your college days when a pizza and a DVD were enough to keep you entertained long enough to release your inhibitions and allow you to enjoy each other? There’s nothing wrong with going on adult dates but you might want to plan some at-home college kid nights with your sweetheart as well. It’s romantic and it’s fun and it’s cheap.
  • Road trips are the only way to travel. As a grown adult your travels probably consist of lengthy planning to work out all of the details which include hotel stays, tickets for entertainment and flights or cruises to get there. College kids don’t have those luxuries. What they do have is the luxury of the open road. They pile into their cars and find a destination where everything is an adventure. Backpacking, train rides and stays in youth hostels are alternatives to the road trip. In all of these instances, the point is the chance to get away not the indulgence of luxury destinations and spas. Replace some of your grown-up vacations with good old fashioned road trips and you may find yourself as excited as a teenager on a first trip away from home.

It might be a good idea to think about how you used to live frugally when you were a broke college student. You could probably learn a lot from your younger self.

This is a guest post by Kathryn Vercillo.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Nice post, it’s often hard to look back at college years when you’ve finally made it out. My favorite meals consisted of easy mac and chicken wings. It was an easy meal in 20 minutes and I loved it. I can also thank my metabolism for keeping the pounds down. And it’s true about dates; once you’re comfortable with someone, the hard (and expensive part) is over.

  • Cleo says:

    I am not interested in owning a car or making a road trip, even less so after viewing films such as “Wrong Turn.” Ramen is terribly unhealthy so I never ate any in college or much of anything else because the food was so bad everywhere. I could go an entire day drinking water. And roommates increase the likelihood of a fire caused by an incense stick or cigarette left burning.

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  • Debt Consolidation Toronto says:

    Great post. Provided comic relief and at the same time, some really valuable tips for college students to start developing frugal habits at an early stage in life.

  • The Debt Side says:

    I agree with Peak Personal Finance when it comes to college sports, especially if you have a small college near you. My nephew played division II baseball and in his four years there, all his home games were free to watch. I went to several away games too and only found two opponents that charged to watch baseball. You’ll probably have to spend a little bit to watch football or basketball, but no where what you would for a professional team or a division I school.

  • TStrump says:

    I read these tips and immediately felt a sense of nostalgia as I used to do many of them. I lived in a Frat house with 40 other people. Nowadays, I can barely stand having one roommate.
    I’ve eaten enough Ramen to last a lifetime.
    I still drink before I go out, though, and I’m 38.
    I live downtown and can easily stumble from bar to bar if I need to.

  • Peak Personal Finance says:

    Colleges students can actually offer some great entertainment values to “grown ups” too. A night listening to your local college orchestra is usually much cheaper than a large city orchestra, and attending college (or high school, or minor league) sporting events can be just as much fun to watch as costly professional sports teams.

  • Craig says:

    I was a big easy-mac fan myself over ramen until I gained 5 pounds then stopped completely. Either way I really like the twist because it is so true, and graduating from college not too long ago am now mixed in a cross between the two worlds. College kids and post grad for that matter do what they have to to get by and optimize fun levels. Some of my favorite times involved spending little money, living in crappy places, having crappy food.

  • MLR says:

    I like the premise of the article but realized it was a “joke” when it used the stereotypical college food: Ramen.

    College kids buy Ramen not because it is cheap, but because it is easy. And the perception that it is cheap.

    Getting a box/bag of pasta is cheaper per pound of food and healthier because you won’t be adding that sodium flavor pouch.

    Getting a bag of rice and beans as you mentioned is also a lot cheaper than Ramen.

    I never understood college kids who ate Ramen all the time. (Actually, I did… they liked throwing in water, throwing it in the microwave, and voila.).

    Add in the health costs of a Ramen diet and what a poor choice.

    • MoneyNing says:

      I happen to love ramen when I was in college (I still do). You are totally correct. I love ramen for the taste and the convenience much more than the actual cost (although at less than $1 per meal, it’s still relatively cheap).

      • MLR says:

        Yeah, it may be less than $1 meal.. but it’s not as “cheap” as people think. For the quantity you get, and the health factors, I would rather cook spaghetti and sauce, instead.

        Convenience is hard to turn down, though 🙁

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