Personal Finance Interview on Saving for College with Mark Frost



One of the most common stereotypes about college students (aside from the beer swilling and the avoidance of 8am classes) is that they aren't the most financially sound bunch.

But you don't have to be broke those four (or five, or six) years of college, as long as you mind your dollars and cents.

For advice on how to be a financially savvy college student, we turned to Mark Frost of HackCollege, a site founded in 2006 by Kelly Sutton while he was a student at Loyola Marymount University. Sutton was an avid reader of Lifehacker and various college blogs, but wanted to provide consistent college-specific lifehacks, which are techniques used to simplify one's life and solve everyday problems, as well as other advice to help students succeed in school.

Here's what Frost had to say:

Who should be reading HackCollege? What will they find?

Every college student should be reading HackCollege. They'll find great pieces of advice on every aspect of college life, starting from freshman class registration all the way to saving on graduation. Our most popular topics include productivity, personal finance and job hunting.

What's something you think every college student should know about paying for his or her education?

The interest you'll pay on student loans will eat away at a lot of your early post-college income if you don't have a plan. Make every penny count by getting grants and scholarships wherever you can and begin making loan payments a part of your budget while still in school.

What are some little known or overlooked sources for finances?

The internet might not necessarily be an overlooked source for those with technical skills, but anyone can make extra money online with sites like Fiverr and Etsy. Fiverr allows anyone with a skill or talent to sell their services, while Etsy is a marketplace for anything and everything homemade. Nowadays, students have a lot more options for making money on the side; it's just a matter of going out and finding the source.

What tips do you have for finding part-time work as a college student?

A job on campus is a great start if you're looking for a mix of low commitment and convenience. Working seasonal positions while on breaks is a great way to bring in extra money in order to cut down on hours during school.

What are some unconventional ways students can make some extra money?

There's always selling your blood, plasma, sperm, or eggs, but creative students can make use of other things are them to make extra money. You could rent your car out to others using a service like RelayRides or run errands for others in your spare time with TaskRabbit. One student at The College of New Jersey even created his own condom delivery business on campus, so find a demand and fill it.

What advice do you have for creating a budget as a college student? What are some common/easy ways students can save money?

HackCollege writers are constantly advising students to use Mint in order to keep up with spending habits and form realistic budgets. The easiest way to save money is to cut down on your small purchases. If you spend $5 each weekday on drinks and snacks outside your regular meals while running around campus, you're taking a $100 chunk out of your bank account each month. Look for these sort of habits in your own budget and you'll have a lot more cash to save for a rainy day or have fun with come this time next month.

What are the biggest mistakes you think college students make with their money?

The biggest mistakes would have to be eating out too often and making frivolous purchases. You can't avoid eating out all the time, but if you're serious about saving money, it's time to go grocery shopping. And if you can barely pay your cell phone bill each month, it's probably not a good idea to use your credit card to buy a new $60 video game.

Advice for saving money on books?

Renting is the easiest solution for those looking to save money on textbooks. One way to really save, however, is to wait until you know that the book will actually be used to make the purchase. For instance, you might only need one book for a few weeks of class, so you can save a lot by renting it for 30 days instead of 90 or more.

Where are the best places for students to score free stuff?

Your own campus is likely the best place to find all of those things for free. Beyond dorm parties, you can always find campus events and club functions that offer free food and entertainment. If you're in need of a new textbook, check to see if your school runs a book exchange.

Okay, enough about money. What's your best advice for making the most of your total college experience?

Having an open mind about everything will allow you to take in the most college has to offer. In this case, getting out of your comfort zone doesn't mean bar hopping, it means challenging yourself to grow.