30 Easy Ways to Save Money This Semester
There are easy ways to scrimp and save on just about everything.
January 14, 2014
A new semester is a fresh start, which means it’s a perfect time to refocus on your academics and, of course, your budget.
Here are thirty easy ways you can begin to save within your daily life, from the way you approaching food to the way you dining to driving, there are easy ways to scrimp and save on just about everything under the sun.
Get on track by utilizing the following easy ways to save money throughout the semester.
1. Dine in.
Eating out, no matter how much you think you’re keeping the cost down, is always more expensive than cooking at home.
Remember, you’re being charged for literally every single ingredient you consume, not to mention the service and accommodations – even if they aren’t great and are merely a drive-through!
If you have a meal plan, be sure to utilize it as much as you can. You’re essentially paying to eat there every day anyway, so why not use it?
If you have the urge to switch it up, why not organize a potluck with friends instead? It will save funds and likely be much more fun and budget-friendly for everyone involved.
2. Break the bottled water habit.
Water is the simplest commodity to save money on because, really, you’re paying for convenience.
If you think bottled water tastes that differently, purchase a water filter and a reusable water bottle that you can refill daily.
It’s better for the earth, anyway.
3. Brew your own coffee.
While the savory scents at coffee shops are enticing, you can recreate that aroma in your own kitchen for a fraction of the cost!
Skip the super expensive brews (remember, you are trying to save) and opt for the more cost-effective caffeine options.
At a minimum of nearly two dollars a cup, brewing your own cup of joe will add up in no time!
4. Explore the fine art of couponing.
There are coupons for pretty much everything nowadays and there’s absolutely no shame in using them, especially when you’re a tragically impoverished college student (or about to become one).
Utilize coupons when going out to eat (though you should limit doing that, see number one), grocery shopping and any other goods or services (like haircuts).
5. Buy in bulk, when possible.
You can’t buy everything in bulk (who needs a thousand plastic forks, anyway?) but, for some things, it’s the smarter option. Purchase items in bulk that you know you’ll use eventually that don’t spoil, like toilet paper or paper towel.
Or, if you go in on bulk items with roommates or friends, it can be the cost-savvy way to go because you can divvy up the price and the goods.
6. Skip the midnight snack runs.
College students operate on cartoon-character like schedules (no judgment) because of crazy study schedules, work schedules and party hours.
This can become costly if you start a routine of picking up that 4th meal during the wee hours, when your only option is fast food.
If you know you’re going to be hungry at the eleventh hour, ensure you have other options by packing your fridge – it’s healthier for you and your wallet.
7. Don’t drink alcohol.
If you’re of age, you know that alcohol is a major budget-buster. It’s expensive and can eat through your funds faster than you’d ever anticipate.
If you simply must drink alcohol, drink on the cheap – budget beers or inexpensive wines are the way to go. Most college students are accustomed to drinking on the cheap, because drinking habits are far too costly for student budgets.
Do yourself a favor and ditch the booze altogether!
8. Become an event promoter for free tickets to events.
Nobody wants to miss out on fun events because of financial hardship. Luckily, there’s a solution.
Contact your favorite venue and volunteer to become an event promoter or work events so that you can also attend them free of charge or get tickets to other shows.
It may not be your ideal way of getting access, but in an ideal world, most of us would have unlimited funds.
9. Live in threes.
Studies show that those who live in threes with roommates and share the bills as a result are better off financially.
That means that, when looking for living accommodations, consider shacking up with your friends so that you can start savings rather than living solo and taking on all of the bills and responsibilities that come with it on your own.
Remember, you have your whole life to live alone – why not live worry-free for now?
10. Lower your thermostat in the winter or turn off the A/C in the summer.
It’s unnecessary to be wearing a tank inside in the winter because your place is so warm or a sweater in the summer because the air conditioning is turned up to the max.
Consider when to utilize these devices and when they are unnecessary because turning them off will save you money each month.
Also, turning them down will save you money as well, so you don’t need to turn them on to maximum power!
11. Turn off the lights.
People can be so careless about their electricity but, when you’re the one paying for it; it’s just money down the drain. When you leave a room, turn off the lights – it’s that simple.
Otherwise, you’re just wasting your money paying for electricity you’re not even using!
Managing Your Money
12. Save your spare change.
How often do you neglect all of that change that jingles in your pockets or at the bottom of your purse or backpacks?
It’s time to start collecting and saving for a rainy day!
Believe it or not, that money can really add up to big bucks, depending on how often you use cash.
Collect it all in an empty jar and count it once the jar becomes full. It’s just weighing you down, anyway!
13. Exchange your coins.
Accompanied with number twelve, do not use coin counting machines! You will lose money because they take a percentage of the total amount.
When you’re at the point of counting coins for money, its money you can’t afford to lose. If you want to keep track of your coin collection, they sell coin-counting jars that you can purchase to collect your coins. Or, many banks have coin-counting machines that they will happily use for their members to exchange their change for the paper equivalent.
If you have to use machines that take quarters to do laundry in a dorm, apartment or laundromat, it may be a smart idea to exchange the coins you’ve rolls for quarters. Keep the quarters you find aside in a jar or change purse for laundry day. That way, you’re never short on laundry change and, since it’s always coming out of your pocket change, you won’t feel the burden of laundry day costs!
14. Never pay for checking or savings accounts when you can get them for free.
This goes along the lines of not paying for anything when you can get it for free. Students qualify for all sorts of free banking offers so, as long as you do your research, you shouldn’t have to pay any fees to open accounts.
It’s especially easy when opening accounts on or near college campuses, where students frequently bank, because they’ll be prepared to offer student packages.
15. Use the maximum amount of the bank’s free checks instead of purchasing the unnecessary novelty checkbooks.
We understand that you feel you simply must have Looney Tunes or kitten cuddling on your checks. Unfortunately, we must be the bearers of bad news when we say: it simply isn’t necessary and you can’t afford it.
Sorry, but you can download a free screensaver and look at your fluffy images of whatever-it-is there. Get the free, boring bank-offered checks because they’re free.
Remember, free is good. Say it with us: free is good.
16. Keep track of your checking account to avoid unnecessary overdraft charges.
17. Ensure to negotiate for the lowest interest rate possible, no annual fees and the lowest credit limit necessary for an emergency when signing up for a credit card.
It is good to have one (read: ONE) credit card to establish good credit.
However, the stipulations should be that you negotiate your interest rate so that it’s the lowest possible, ensure you don’t have annual fees and decide the lowest possible credit limit amount necessary for emergencies and stick with that.
It’s important to have a low credit limit just in case you end up overspending – you won’t be able to overspend past that limit.
18. Keep your receipts.
It’s a crazy notion, but have you ever actually kept all of your receipts for an entire month? Not just for large purchases, but – literally – all of your receipts?
Try it for one month so that, at the end, you can look over and review what you purchased. It may shock you where your money actually went and how much of it was actually on impulse.
This is particularly useful and effective for those looking to begin budgeting because it shocks you into learning that you often don’t even know how you’re spending your own money!
19. Always pay bills on time to avoid unnecessary late fees.
Give yourself due dates – almost as if your bills were homework assignments – so that no bill is ever late. That way, you will avoid ever having to pay a late fee which is, ultimately, just an unnecessary charge.
20. Locate and utilize the ATM’s for your bank.
When you need cash and you need it fast, it can be tempting to stop in any old ATM. But those fees can add up quickly.
Combat ATM fees by mapping out where your nearest bank is or by locating the nearest ATM’s affiliated with your bank.
21. Utilize the rewards programs at your favorite stores.
Many of your favorite stores give benefits to those who frequently shop there with rewards points, coupons, membership giveaways, etc.
Make sure you take advantage of any programs your favorite stores offer – as long as it’s not a credit card disguised as a rewards program!
22. Swap with friends instead of shopping.
They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and the same rule applies here. Even though you feel like you’ve worn everything in your closet a million times over, chances are, you haven’t.
What’s old news to you will be new to a friend and the inverse is true. Instead of purchasing new items, organize a swap with a friend your size.
Each of you can exchange items you no longer want or need for each other’s and voila! You can leave the swap feeling like you’ve just gone on a shopping spree without spending a dime.
23. Buy or rent used textbooks.
Skip your school bookstore and look online for the most competitive prices to buy or rent used textbooks.
If you buy, don’t forget to sell them back when you’re finished at the end of the semester!
24. Thrift or vintage shop.
Not only is it good for your budget, but its hip, too. Create a one-of-a-kind look, unique to yourself, that’s also wallet-friendly by scouring local thrift stores and vintage shops for the latest trends brought back from days’ past.
25. Utilize student discounts.
The movies, retail stores, restaurants and computer/electronic companies (and many other places) offer students a discount on goods and services.
You’d be surprised how many places offer students a break on the bill, so be sure that you ask (after all, it never hurts to ask) if a student discount is available!
26. Rent, don’t buy!
There are things you need while you’re in college that you may not necessarily need long-term in life.
For example, a loft in your dorm room or a mini-fridge will likely not be necessary for your post-college lifestyle.
Luckily, there are plenty of companies that are willing to rent out such amenities and even deliver them right to your door!
As a good rule to follow in general, before you invest in anything think about its long term use!
27. Sell unwanted and duplicate gifts.
It’s not that you don’t appreciate any and all gifts you receive but, if it’s a gift you won’t use or already have, it’s better to resell or return it than allow it to collect dust on your shelf.
After all, you wouldn’t want anyone’s thoughtful gift to go to waste, now would you?
28. Utilize your laptop’s technology instead of purchasing cable, a stereo, speakers and other electronic equipment.
Modern day laptops have capabilities to play music, stream television and a variety of other capabilities.
Instead of purchasing separate equipment for each purpose that will likely be costly, take up safe and is inefficient, why not look into a laptop or computer system that can do it all?
Cars, and the fuel they guzzle, are expensive.
Combat these costs by carpooling with classmates and friends to your classes and sharing the cost of gas for rides home. It makes a huge difference in overall cost for everyone involved!
30. Walk, bike or skateboard.
It’s not only better for your budget (because it’s free) but better for your body as well.
Look into walking, biking, skateboarding or any other alternative means to get to class or other local destinations than driving a car.
It’s free, fast and you’ll likely enjoy the fresh air on the way, too.