15 Ways to Save Money in College
Have you ever heard anyone say “I’m as broke as a college student”? There’s a good reason for that saying. Most college students aren’t earning enough money to make ends meet, or they spend what money they do have rather poorly because they weren’t taught money management skills in high school. We’re going to show you 15 different ways to save money in college.
1. Create a budget and stick to it:
This first rule goes for ANYONE trying to save money, not just college students. If you don’t know where your money is going every month then, you’ll never know the true potential of your saving power! You need to budget to find out where you can make some cut-backs and save money. Use this free online budgeting tool: http://www.onlinebudgetadvisor.com/. You can also track your purchases through free Apps like Mint.com or Level Money.
2. Purchase Textbooks that are slightly used or online versions:
Save money by purchasing your textbooks from former students or try renting the textbooks that you need online. There are many practical ways to save money on this necessary expense. If you’re looking to save the maximum amount of money possible, consider trying a variety of different methods until you find the solution that works best for you. Check out this great article from The Simple Dollar about saving money on textbooks: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/how-to-save-money-on-college-textbooks/
3. Live in the dorms:
I know it doesn’t sound the greatest thing in the world, but you can save a ton of money by living in the dorms instead of renting an apartment off campus. Unless you can find a really cheap place to rent and some friends who can live with you and help with the rent, it’s probably a good idea just to stick with the dorms.
4. Skip the expensive meal plans and cook your own food:
It doesn’t have to be all Ramen noodles or PB&Js for you. School meal plans can be really expensive though and if you’re NOT eating 3 or more meals a day in the cafeteria you could be wasting money. Try cooking some of your own meals a few times a week. Look for cheaper alternatives or shop in bulk stores and use a microwave, hot plates, or a griddle to make some great meals and save money.
5. Use your Student Discount whenever possible:
Your student ID grants you discounts on items such as food, movie tickets, computers, and books to name just a few. Student discounts can also be beneficial when it comes to traveling because many companies like Amtrak or Greyhound offer discounts for student travelers. Don’t be afraid to ask everyone if they provide student discounts because it could save you a lot of money in the long run.
6. If you must drink alcohol, buy the cheapest kind:
Now, this goes without saying, but we’re talking about anyone who’s 21 and over here. Buy the really cheap beer like Keystone, Schlitz, Pabst Blue Ribbon, etc. and buy it in bulk if you can. If you are not a fan of beer then maybe try cheap wines or cheap liquor. If you mix it with enough juice or pop you usually can’t even tell that it’s the cheap stuff, but your wallet will thank you!
7. Entertainment can take up a huge chunk of your budget:
Concerts, movies, art crawls, culture exhibits, restaurants, late night parties, cab fair, new outfits, and more can really add up and take a big chunk out of your overall budget. While these things are fun and make lasting memories, try to limit how many you do per month, or find a cheaper way of doing things. Check out free local events in your area and carpool with someone that owns a car. You can still have fun without spending a ton of money.
8. Look for the cheapest transportation method and take it:
Instead of driving everywhere and spending your money on fuel, parking passes and possible parking violation tickets, look into the local bus schedule or the subway system. If there is a transportation service that is run by the college, take advantage of that because you’ll probably be able to ride for free with a Student ID. If a transportation system doesn’t exist try to work out class schedules with friends that own a vehicle and carpool. If you’re close enough then just walk or bike to class and get some exercise while saving money.
9. Find ways to make more money:
A part-time job is a great way to bring in extra income, and it will give you more flexibility with your money. Working in a restaurant or delivering pizza can bring in some awesome tips. You can also tutor students in a subject that you excel in and make some money on the side. Only do this if working will not interfere with your studies. You and/or your parents are putting in a lot of money for your college education, so you shouldn’t let your grades suffer because you need more party money.
10. Use credit cards wisely and avoid fees:
College students will receive many credit card offers, and while it’s a good idea to open credit so you can build credit history, it’s more important to use that credit wisely. Be super smart with your first credit card and don’t abuse it. Make sure that you open a card with a low APR (Annual Percentage Rate) if you can, and look for other perks like NO annual fees, 0% APR for 18 months or 5% cash back rewards.
11. Become a Resident Advisor:
Aside from tuition, room and board are going to be your next biggest expense. At some schools, room and board costs even more than tuition. Hey, they’ve got to pay for those ungodly expensive dorms somehow. Students who work as Resident Advisors frequently get free or significantly reduced room and board in exchange for their work. Considering that the average full-time student attending an in-state public school pays $8,535 per year in room and board according to The College Board, working as an RA can be one of the most lucrative gigs on campus.
12. Understand your class fees:
It’s important to know the fees for each class that you are taking. Some classes might have higher fees because of the special equipment needed or for other reasons. If it isn’t a required class then you might want to consider taking a more affordable class instead. Look closely at your schedule and the associated class fees; ask an advisor if there is a more affordable option that will still give you the credit you need.
13. Get good grades:
Certain courses may require a specific grade to count toward your degree, and you might need to meet a grade point average requirement to enroll in a certain course or even graduate. Retaking classes you failed the first time means you’re ripping up money.
14. Have pantry type foods on-hand for those late nights:
If you’re in the dorms and don’t have access to a stove, stock up on foods that don’t require one: oatmeal, granola bars, trail mix, cereal, sandwiches, salads, and microwavable pastas, pizzas, rice, and dinners. This way if your meal plan is used up or the cafeteria is closed, you can still eat without ordering out or picking up fast food.
15. Social Media is your best friend in college:
Your college might post important information on free events or deadlines for scholarship applications on their Twitter feed or Facebook page. The city or town you’re living in might post information on free things to do in the area so be sure to follow them as well. It’s also a good idea to follow local businesses, like restaurants or grocery stores, for coupons and deals.
We know that college can be very expensive, and every little bit you can save helps. There are a million more ways to save money while you’re in college. You might have to get creative and start to live more frugally, but it will all be worth it went you graduate with little to no credit card debt. It’s going to be hard enough juggling those student loans; you don’t want to add high-interest rate credit card debt into the mix.