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Saving Money For College Does More Than Pay Tuition #FinHealthMatters

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

By Lily from The Frugal Gene

The Teen Years

Saving your own money for college does a lot more than just paying the tuition. Spending your own money teaches you about the value of money, provides a safety net, and gives you a preview of the working world. I’ll tell you my experience of going to college as a low-income student and how I navigated my way through. You might think this story starts at age 18 but my college prep started long before 18, and I didn’t even know it.

I held two multimedia based internships from the time I was 16 to until I went off to college:

*During my first internship, my class was paid to learn how to make our own video game in Maya 3D. I designed a 3D island and animated my own space station on giant Mac OS X Leopards. I also came up with the phrase ‘pinwheel of death‘ long before it became popular. It was an amazing opportunity. We were allowed to enter the UbiSoft office in San Francisco and poke around after school. We were given free video games! I was paid very well for that 8-week internship.

*My second internship was at an independent advertising design studio. Our medium was Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. A year later, when I was officially in college, my late mentor told me that my (and other students) design was being hung in the streets of New York City for the Urban Forestry project. The project was successful funded and I was paid $600 for completion.

The College Years

As an 18-year-old college freshman, I had around $5,000 in my saving account that was 100% my own money and no one had a clue I had any.

Even more importantly, that money in my bank account gave me the seed money that I needed for school books and dorm room furniture -without having to touch the credit card my mom opened for me.

It would have been really hard to ask my parents for money. At the time (around 2009), my mom was let go from her nursing care agency due to a workplace injury she sustained at a client’s house. Money for everybody was only getting tighter during the Great Recession.

Thanks to the $5,000 in seed money, I never had to touch that credit card very much. Because a lot of transactions were never as easy as swiping a card. I saw the money leave my checking account almost immediately; it did not take long for me to realize I hated the feeling of my cash leaving. I was naturally frugal during school, I never felt tempted by cars, and I did not have to pester my parents for money.

By junior year, I was able to score another temp media gig in the university computer lab. That stint replenished my diminished savings which were down to a little over $3,000 back up to $5,000 and beyond. I sustained that amount until the end of my university career.

The Adult Years

I met my school credit requirements and chose to graduate early in 2012 in an effort to curb my college costs. The end was in sight. I decided to skip the formalities of graduating with my peers. I gave myself a head start job hunting before every new graduate hit the job market.

When my first loan repayment arrived, I was able to create a soft landing with that $5,000 in between my first real-world paycheck and my first student loan payment.

It’s hard to imagine how ugly things could have turned out if I was not so fortunate to have learned the value of money early on.

*Did you know that the average household with revolving credit card debt pays $904 in interest only per year? 1

*Dropout rates of 16 to 24-years-olds who come from low income families are seven times more likely to drop out than those from higher incomes families. 2

*50% of students who drop out of college have income under $35,000/yr. 3

Being in control of finances, making and saving your own money should start long before students enter college. Unfortunately, this is lesser known advice compare to the general pressures of going to college felt by teenagers everywhere. A good college education serves enormous purpose in educating the young but I do wish financial education was taught beforehand.

I was told over and over that without a college education, I would have no future. But I was never told that without a financial education, I would never know the beauty of a sound night sleep or the comfort of monetary stability without a life of servitude to creditors.


  1. https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/
  2. https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-education-and-poverty-america
  3. https://blog.classesandcareers.com/advisor/statistics-of-the-college-drop-out/

This blog post originally appeared April 25, 2018 on The Frugal Gene as a part of Financial Health Network’s #FinHealthMatters Day. To learn more about FinHealthMatters from Financial Health Network, sign up here.


*All views and endorsements expressed in this blog entry are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsements of Financial Health Network.

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