By Brad Beckstrom
Photo credit: morguefile.com
My nephew wants to live lean. He’s twenty-something and still in college. He’s moving to a new town and asked me for advice. First, I’ll tell him be careful what you ask for, you’ll often get it.
So, here goes. My advice, not in any particular order.
Get some roommates.
New in town? Get a roommate. If you’re in college, I recommend you avoid expensive campus housing and meal plans and opt for a near campus rental. When I was in college and working my first job, I opted for two roommates. While this is often not ideal, it allows you to rent a small townhouse or slightly larger apartment and save money at the same time.
With three people chipping in for the bills, everything becomes a bit more affordable. If you’re lucky, you may meet some friends for life, as I did on several occasions. Good roommates are sometimes hard to find but it’s easier now to explore options with Craigslist and social media. I found the best roommates are often someone I’ve already met, possibly someone I worked with at a restaurant, or met at school.
At first, avoid year long leases, if you can. Try to find an existing two roommate set up that’s looking for a third. This way if things don’t work out on your first try you’re not locked into any long-term situation.
I stuck with the roommate set up for years, even after I started my own company and had purchased other homes. I kept the first home as a rental, replacing myself with another roommate when I moved on. I had a roommate until I got married.
Roommates can be a pain, so you have to really work at it until you find a great setup. Once you find it, volunteer to help out with the bills and track things using Mint.com or apps like Splitwise. A simple shared Google docs spreadsheet is great if you have multiple folks adding items to the document.
Work in High School and College.
My grades were just below a 3.0 at a midsize state college, but I was offered the first three corporate jobs I interviewed for. I was hired and put to work for a boss who was Princeton grad, and coworkers who went to Dartmouth, Duke, and Notre Dame. My point of difference was not the name of my university or my GPA, it was my work experience in college and high school. Interviewers were impressed with my proven work ethic. Very few of those Ivy League types had worked two jobs in college and started a travel business. [Read more…] about Your Money or Your Life. The Frug’s Advice for College Students and Recent Grads.