So you’ve shown up at college for your first semester, armed with textbooks, mountains of stationary and a stomach full of nerves- it’s probably fair to say that money isn’t the first thing on your mind. And that’s fair enough. College is a time to learn, meet a ton of new friends and hopefully learn a thing or two in the process.
The sad truth is, money does matter. Your parents have spent the summer nagging you about making budget spreadsheets for a reason- much as we hate to admit it. It’s scary to suddenly be faced with the seemingly gargantuan task of managing your own finances, but it’s not an impossible feat.
The expenses of having a killer time at college can add up- from the nights out with your new best friends to the countless cups of coffee trying to wake yourself up in class the next day, it all adds up to something.
There are plenty of ways to cut down on the amount of money that you spend day to day while away at college, helping you save for the future and maintain your sanity, but this section is all about making a little more. Saving money is great, but earning it is even better. If you can stretch your budget far while earning some extra cash here and there, you’ll be all set for a comfortable four years.
At the end of the day, college is all about making memories and gaining new experiences, and there’s no reason to miss out on that just because you’re trying to keep your finances under control.
While it may seem like college drains your money away at record speeds, your university is actually full of opportunities for lining your pockets, from the obvious things like on-campus jobs to the more obscure ideas. Luckily, if you keep your eyes open and your imagination switched on, you’ll never be short of ways to bring extra money in at college.
If you’ve arrived at college with no previous experience of having to make your own money- let’s face it, that’s true for many of us, then these opportunities might not seem so clear. It’s easy to feel like you’re doomed to years of poverty and ramen noodles, when in reality you’re sitting on a potential goldmine.
Don’t worry; you don’t have to go out hunting for these earning opportunities anymore- we’ve collected some of the best college earning ideas for you here, so you can pick and choose what might suit you best.
Be warned- none of these ideas are as boring as “get a job.” We’ll have a section for you specifically on finding jobs while at college, as that can certainly help, but these tips are aimed at helping you find quick cash solutions without any major time commitment.
What Are You Good At?
If you’re looking to find a little extra income to get you through this semester, why not earn money using your own personal talents?
- Are you smart? Of course you are! You’re going to college, right? Are you particularly smart when it comes to a certain subject? Probably, many people have an area of expertise. Why not put your knowledge to good use by offering tutoring services at a local high school near your campus? SAT coaching can be a particularly lucrative field, but it can be as simple as assisting a local elementary school kid with their homework for a few dollars here or there. Every little helps.
- Can you play an instrument? Let those hours of middle school band practice pay off and offer your services to children learning a musical instrument- this sort of activity may even help you improve your talents while getting those warm fuzzy feelings from helping kids learn.
- Are you great with kids? You don’t have to be a super-genius or musical prodigy to help out some kids in return for a little extra income. You’d be amazed how many professors there are on your campus that have families. You’d also be amazed by how busy and stressed out professors can be, and how desperately they need your help from time to time to put their little tykes to bed while they mark your written-at-the-last-minute research paper.
Put signs up around campus advertising your amazing babysitting skills, stick an ad up on craigslist, do whatever you can to get the word out that you’re ready and available whenever they need you, and the responses should come flooding in. You can also ask any new friends you’ve made at college who are local to the area if they know of any families that might need some after school help.
This can be a great way to earn some extra cash while earning experience for your resume, which is especially useful if you’re hoping to get into some kind of caring profession, teaching or any field that works with children. It’s all money, and experience, in the bank.
Sell Your Stuff
We hear your cries of shock. This is one for desperate times, or for the moments when there’s a pair of shoes or new phone that you’ve just spotted that you have to have, but definitely cannot afford.
Rather than taking out a tempting but seriously dangerous credit card, or scraping the bottom of your student loans, why not get rid of the stuff you don’t really need anymore and get money in the process to buy shiny new things?
This is also a great opportunity for a de-cluttering session. You probably lugged all your worldly possessions with you to college, only to find that you don’t have nearly enough room for it all and frankly, you haven’t worn those jeans since sophomore year of high school.
Clear out the things you no longer wear, the DVDs you’ve seen ten times and the iPod you replaced long ago with a newer model by selling it all on. This might sound like a scary process, but don’t freak out:
- Do an honest, soul-searching and brutal appraisal of your current wardrobe. Haven’t worn it in the last six months? It may be time to go. Make a “keep” pile and a “sell” pile, and don’t look back.
- Got gadgets? Don’t use them? Sell them.
- Take pictures. Try and get a good level of light and make them as accurate as you can- it’s a lot easier to sell things if people can see what they look like.
- Find a Facebook page. Many colleges have pages ready and waiting for you to advertise things for sale. Get posting, and you’ll be surprised how many people show interest in the sweater your mom got you for Christmas that you never really liked.
- Be prepared to haggle. Don’t go too low, but don’t get fixated on getting huge sums for particular items- it’ll all add up in the end.
- Get on eBay. If you haven’t had much look shifting your stuff amongst your own friends and around campus then consider broadening your horizons. eBay is a great site for selling anything you can possibly think of, even your most obscure old CDs and movies, so if all else fails, get online.
- Try consignment stores. These are like high-end thrift stores where you can sell on clothes that are in relatively good condition. If you’re lucky enough to own some expensive garments that you no longer wear, you could get a decent amount back for them.
Become A Human Guinea Pig
Don’t worry- it’s not as bad as it sounds. There are quite a few ways to make money off of science that you may never have heard of.
- Donate plasma. The US is full of plasma donation centers– all you have to do is make an appointment, go in and make your donation and you could come out with somewhere between $20-$30. Not bad considering you don’t really have to do anything at all- but maybe not a great choice for the more squeamish student or those with any major health problems.
- Take part in research studies. There are tons of interesting psychological and medical studies going on all the time at universities, and all of them are looking for healthy, willing participants. Sometimes these can be a little intense, but if you don’t feel comfortable trying out new drugs or vaccines then that’s not a problem, there are always trials that require far less commitment and risk. Just keep your eyes open and you could get some cash in hand or a gift card to a local store just for showing up and filling a couple forms out.
- Share the love. This isn’t one for the faint-hearted but some people make plenty of money over the years donating their eggs or sperm to those who are struggling to conceive. If you have no particular moral or ethical objection then this might be worth doing. Expect some background checks, some medical intrusion (if you’re a woman) and a fair amount of paperwork. You should definitely think this one through carefully before taking part, but if it suits you then you could stand to make a fair amount with minimal effort.
Get Cash For Trash
Everyone knows that recycling is good way to boost your green credentials. What you might not be aware of is that by recycling, you could be doing your bank balance a favor too.
- Whatever waste you have leftover in your doorm room- old pizza boxes, soda cans, anything you can think of- you can find a solution for getting rid of it in an eco-friendly way. Try out the website Earth911 for a comprehensive list of what you can do with all of your waste. Eliminating waste is a good enough reason to get involved in recycling, but you’ll also be able to get a little cash in return. Search on the site for your local recycling centers and find ones that will give you money for any aluminum-based waste that you can collect and bring in. There are also centers that will give you cash for bottles and other scraps, so get gathering and help clean up while earning extra. Aside from getting spare cash and helping out the planet, you’ll also have an easy way to get rid of all that mess from last night’s party.
- Recycle your cell phone. If you’ve recently upgraded to a newer model and have a cell phone that you’re not using anymore, don’t just throw it away. Many companies will give you cash for your old cell phones, even ones that don’t work anymore, as they can refurbish and re-sell your whole handset. If you have an iPhone, give Sell iPhone for Cash a look. This site will take all your details, give you a quote and even pay for your shipping and packaging. Don’t let your valuables go to waste.
- Recycle your electronics. Cell phones aside, all of your old electronics can be cashed in for free money. Check out Electronics for Cash, where you can get rid of all of your old digital cameras, monitor screens, Mp3 players and video game consoles.
Do you have a knack for creating things from scratch? If you love to sew, make your own jewellery or create crafts, why not capitalise on your hobby? Put pictures of your creations up on Facebook for everyone to see and set prices, then offer to make custom designs for friends for a small fee.
If you find that people really like the crafts you make, check out Etsy. This site lets you set up your own little online store, where you can sell your products to anyone all over the world. You may as well make a little money doing the things you enjoy!
Sell Your Hair!
Planning a fresh start haircut in your first year of college? Sick of the same style you’ve been rocking since you were 15? You won’t be the only person to decide to try a totally different look once you arrive at college.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of people out there who are interested in buying human hair. There’s a market for hair to be made into wigs, hair extensions and other products. This could be an easy way of getting a bit of extra cash in your pocket without getting a job or sacrificing your latte habit.
Site like The Hair Trader, Hair Work and Buy And Sell Hair all offer hair buying and selling services. You can get anywhere from a few hundred to well over a thousand dollars for your hair, depending on its length and condition, just as long as its in its natural state and not bleached.
Textbooks are seriously expensive, but you can get some of your money back at the end of semester if you sell your textbooks on second-hand. It might be tempting to hold on to them just in case you ever need them, but as long as you’ve taken notes properly over the semester you probably will never touch them again.
Become A Designated Driver
Are you the type who tends to stay away from the booze at parties? Do you have a car? You may be able to make some money from your good behavior- advertise yourself as a designated driver and you’ll find plenty of less angelic students who are eager to get to and from parties without paying a fortune. Offer your services for a little less than the usual cab rates, but be prepared for some potential late nights and messy customers.
Aside from helping cut the drunk driving rates, you could also offer your driving services for other events. Students without cars often need some help getting to the airport at the end of the semester, or to get home from supermarkets with a big load of groceries.
Become The Local Handyman
Are you good with your hands? Have a knack for DIY? Things are always falling apart in dorms and most students are pretty useless when it comes to fixing their stuff or putting together their impulse buys from IKEA. Advertise yourself as a jack-of-all-trades who can help with any task for a small fee and you could become well known around campus as the go-to handyman. Along with all of our tips on earning extra cash on campus, this also is a great way to meet new people and hopefully make some new friends.
Need a bit of extra motivation to stay up and finish that paper? How about this: if you keep your grades high and consistently perform well in classes, you could find yourself on the Dean’s Honor Roll, where cash rewards are often available for all of your hard work.
High-achieving students also can qualify for grants and scholarships to help them out with their studies, along with potential grants for future graduate study. If you play your cards right, all of those extra hours you put in might just pay off.