If you’ve read my post last week, then you know that I got into some credit card debt while in college. While I talked about working a summer job, I didn’t go into detail about the other ways I earned income throughout college. I thought that writing this might give some others that are in college (or even recent grads looking to earn a few extra dollars) a couple of ideas or at least start the creative thinking process begin.
Freshman and Sophomore Years
When I first began college, I held a work-study job. I worked in the library for 10 hours each week. Back then, minimum wage, which is what I was paid, was $5.15. Every two weeks, I would get a paycheck for roughly $100. During my freshman year, this was fine. I didn’t have a car and ate all of my meals in the cafeteria, so I really didn’t have any outside expenses.
But during my sophomore year, things began to change. I did have a car and while I did live on campus, I didn’t eat every meal in the cafeteria. With the addition of my girlfriend, my $100 bi-weekly income wasn’t lasting me.
Junior and Senior Years
During the summer of my junior year, I decided to forego the work study job and try to find a job outside of the college that paid more and allowed me to work more hours. This was great in theory, but didn’t work out because I was lazy and didn’t look that hard. I did however discover eBay (which was in its infancy) and was able to earn some money that way.
During my senior year however is when things really began to change. I again chose not to do the work study job but this time landed a job at Enterprise Rent-A-Car washing cars. It paid $6.00 per hour, but they were extremely flexible with my working hours. I was bringing home close to $100 each week.
I also began to use eBay as a source of income. For a little reference, back in the late 1990’s eBay was all of the rage. People didn’t use sniping tools and wait to bid at the last minute. They would bid early and often. Many times after including shipping, I would sell items for more than the item was worth. In fact, I sold a $5.00 bill that was in perfect condition, for $6.00. There was nothing special about this bill, other than it was in excellent condition.
Some of the ways my roommate and I made money were to attend estate and yard sales, join CD clubs (like BMG and Colombia House), and win prizes online and then resell them on eBay. I was able to make about $100 per month doing this as well. I’m certain I could have made more, but I had to balance being a student along with making money.
All told, once I started to find other ways to earn income my senior year, my finances slowly began to improve. While I don’t think you can use eBay like I did because of the novelty being worn off and “professionals” working that field, there are certainly other ways for you to make extra money in college. You just have to think a little bit out of the box. For example, if you are able to produce short videos (and if you have a Mac, this is relatively easy), you can get paid to help small businesses create videos.
Also look at the needs of the area you are in. When I was in college, I attempted to start my own business. I ended up not following through with it but it would have been web based and had very low startup costs.
Someone always needs something, you just have to figure out what that thing is, whether you can make it and whether or not they would be willing to pay for it.
Lastly, be certain to work a summer job. Going into my freshman year of college, my Dad helped me to land a job at the local factory. It paid well, but was a horrible job. He helped me get the job so it would serve as a wake up call to me: if you don’t go to college, this is what you are doing for 40 years. By working every summer, it helped me to survive college financially. Had I not been foolish with my credit card, I am certain I would have come out of college ahead of the game.