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A Financial Bucket List to Help Pay for College: 5 Things to Consider

Do you want to go to college but aren’t sure how to pay for it? Why not create a “financial bucket list” to help you save up the funds you’ll need?

Not sure what this means or how to go about it? Essentially, a bucket list is a collection of all the things you want to experience or accomplish before you “kick the bucket.” While many people make these lists for experiences, this concept can be applied to money matters, too. Use it to create a checklist of ways to begin your college fund.

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Big and small changes add up

Some of the money-savers you come up with might seem too insignificant to matter. But if you follow the old adage, “A penny saved is a penny earned" and stick to your plan, you’ll be surprised how quickly your money adds up. Here are ways to boost your income, build your tuition fund, and, ultimately, position yourself for a less stressful financial future.

1. Shop at thrift stores

If you want to save money, start by cutting your spending. For instance, you can locate many great finds at a thrift store, so see what treasures you can dig up at bargain prices. Look for goods such as:

  • Wardrobe items for all seasons
    Kitchen equipment: pots, pans, dishes, utensils, and more
    Linens: pillowcases, tablecloths, and other items
    Decorative items
    Furniture for your dorm room, house, or apartment

Chances are, you’ll be surprised at the fun and practical things you can find at thrift stores. You might even find brand-name items that would cost you a pretty penny if you had purchased them brand new.

Speaking of new, it's also not uncommon to find unused items with the tags still left on them. Thrifting is a great way to save money you'd spend elsewhere for the same or similar items.

2. Find a more affordable area to live

Do you live in a city where prices just keep going up, up, up? If so, consider moving to a different city with a lower cost of living and cheaper rents, like Kansas City or Tampa, for example. This is a win-win proposition because you’ll give yourself an opportunity to stash away some cash while gaining new experiences along the way — not to mention, you might find your dream college in your new hometown. (Be sure to look into the state’s criteria to meet in-state tuition rates!)

If you have some money saved already, you might consider finding an affordable area and investing in a vacation home. While it might seem more to the point to use your savings for tuition directly, a vacation rental can provide you a source of revenue well beyond your college years. Rent it out and have a steady income stream while you simultaneously build your financial future. Again, win-win.

3. Don’t let yourself spiral into credit card debt

One of the biggest problems millennials face is high debt. According to statistics reported by CNBC, consumers between the ages of 25 and 34 carry an average of $42,000 in debt, not including student loans. Their primary source of debt? You got it: credit cards. As a Gen Z, you can be a trend-breaker. Here's how:

  • Spend smart. If an item exceeds your budget, don’t charge it.
  • Pay off your balance each month. Avoid interest fees.
  • Make payments on time. Habitual late fees can get expensive.
  • Avoid unnecessary balance transfers from card to card. This attempt to avoid due dates usually backfires — and then snowballs your debt.
  • Don’t borrow cash from credit accounts. If it’s not in your regular bank account, it’s money you don’t have.

Additionally, look for rewards or cash-back credit cards where you can get something in return for your charges. As long as you pay your bill in full each month, you’ll gain the rewards with no interest penalty.

4. Start a business

Thanks to the power of connectivity, it’s easier than ever to launch a business. You can do it full-time while saving for school or as a side hustle in your spare time between classes. Before you start, understand what you’re getting yourself into so you can make the best decisions to get your business up and keep it running. Follow these steps:

  • Think about your knowledge, skills, hobbies, and passions. What do you envision yourself doing each day?
  • Determine whether your business idea is viable and if there is a market for it.
  • Invest in marketing. Establish a strong social media following, grow an e-list to send out newsletters, and promote yourself at trade shows to get better brand exposure.

Remember, you’ll also need to pay Uncle Sam, so be sure to carefully keep track of your business records, learn what your deductions are, and take advantage of tools to make the right tax calculations. Once you get all your ducks in a row, you’ll bring yourself that much closer to your college dreams.

5. Go without for a few months

Sit down and scrutinize your monthly expenses. Are there things you can do without? Try omitting items from your regular spending and see how much cash you can save. Once you get going, try challenging yourself to see how many non-essentials you waste money on that could be routed to your bank account instead. (Find yourself accomplishing your goals and growing your bank account? Go ahead – give yourself a small reward every few months and buy something you’ve really missed.)

Saving money can be tough because doing so usually means a serious change in habits and attitude. However, once you establish your financial bucket list and get used to your new spendthrift mind-set, before you know it, you’ll have a good chunk of money saved to put toward your college education.
Molly Barnes is a full-time digital nomad, exploring and working remotely in different cities in the US, along with her boyfriend Jacob. Molly and Jacob created the website Digital Nomad Life to share their journey and help others to pursue a nomadic lifestyle. 

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