As a first generation college student, I often felt lost and confused throughout the college application process. Researching and understanding financial aid packages was quite a process and I quickly learned that if I wanted to attend a university that guaranteed I graduated in four years, I had to make some sacrifices.
The first sacrifice- continue to live at home and commute to school everyday. Of course, this was not the ideal plan for an 18 year old that just graduated high school, but it was the only way that I could afford to go to a private university. It was difficult to see all my friends move away for school and be on their own, but while they were complaining about the food included in their meal plan I was enjoying a home cooked meal after a long day of work and school. However, living at home also meant that I had a curfew and rules to follow, so I ended up sacrificing a lot of the "college experience" that everyone talks about.
Being a full time student and working almost full time was also not ideal or the easiest. But it allowed me to pay for school and not have to take any loans during my entire college career. I would work anywhere between 20-30 hours and make monthly payments towards my tuition. Then with the money that I had left over I would pay for gas since I was commuting a distance of about 60 miles everyday.
Then, to help make sure that I didn’t spend on things that I didn’t need, I would carry cash instead of using debit/credit cards. One card is good to have in case of an emergency but not for daily purchases. You may think that $5-$10 here and there does not add up, but they do, and quickly. By the end of the month you will notice that you spent your money on miscellaneous things you probably didn’t need. Something I recommend is to separate your money after you are paid- for example, calculate how much your monthly tuition payment is and put that money in the bank, then keep the amount of gas money in a separate compartment in your wallet/purse that way you don’t spend it on other things. Then whatever is left over, you have as spending money for that week/month.
If you have the opportunity to take on more hours at your job during the busy times or during the summer take that extra money earned and put it away in a savings account and save up for a vacation or something else you may want but cant afford. It may take some time but it will all be worth it in the end