Saving money as a college student is critical. The more you save, the better off you'll be. And, while plenty of expenses arise, there are also plenty of overlooked opportunities for students to save. Don't allow yourself to overlook these opportunities!
If there's ever a time to live frugally, college is it. You're currently in a very unique situation where frugality is the ubiquitous norm. It's highly unlikely that you will ever find yourself in this same scenario - so take advantage of the situation while you're in it. That way, you'll be able to enjoy the finer things in life once you graduate!
The following money saving tips are opportunities to save that students often ignore or overlook. Start taking advantage of these chances to save:
• Know your “wants” from your “needs”.
Everyone has both “wants” and “needs” in life and they are often easy to tell apart. But, sometimes, our wants become so overwhelming that we trick ourselves into feeling that it’s a need.
Start asking yourself whether items are necessary before making a purchase. You’ll likely surprise yourself at how little you actually need.
• Create a budget for yourself.
Work on creating a realistic budget that you can stick to, incorporating any regular bills or payments. A budget isn't set in stone and often takes several attempts to get right – so keep working on it until you find the right balance!
• Try different savings and budgeting methods to see what works for you.
There are many savings and budgeting methods out there. Much like finding the right match, you need to find the right systems that work for your lifestyle. Don’t give up on the first, second or, even, fifth try – keep going until you find the method that works best for you.
• Try to create a “rainy day fund,” just in case of emergencies.
You never want to find yourself in a sticky financial situation with no way out. That’s why it’s always important to put extra money aside whenever possible as a “just in case” fund.
• Buy textbooks after you’ve attended classes.
It’s important to go to class to make sure you’re not planning to drop the course before you buy the textbook. This is key because you will not get the same value when you sell the book.
Additionally, professors will often let you know which books are absolutely necessary and which books aren't. From there, you can make educated decisions on which texts to purchase.
• Only purchase used textbooks.
What’s the difference? It’s a book. Oh yes, the difference is it’s CHEAPER!
• Shop around for textbooks to find the best prices.
Don’t purchase books at your university bookstore because it’s convenient. Shop around for prices – at local bookstores and online for competitive pricing to ensure savings.
• Check to see if alternative textbook forms are an option.
E-books, sharing, rented, free PDF forms or an earlier editions of the texts are often significantly lower in price. Before you decide to go that route, however, make sure they will work for your course.
• Use city transportation instead of having a car.
Along with the price of a car comes the prices of maintenance, gas, insurance, parking passes, and, perhaps, tickets. Or, you could pay a small fee for a bus pass. Your pick.
• Get a bike.
Easy, accessible and comes with all the free oxygen you can breathe.
• Walk to class!
Exercise is good for you.
• If you do drive, carpool with friends so that you can all pitch in for the cost of gas.
You can listen to sweet jams and have sing-a-longs. You’re welcome.
• Purchase the light meal plan option.
You only eat one or two meals per day anyway, and you can grab snacks while you’re there for those meals to get you by for the rest of the day.
• Limit the amount you spend going out to eat or ordering take-out.
As you know, this can really add up so, if you are paying for a meal plan – use it! Otherwise, go grocery shopping and eat at home. It’s much more cost effective.
• Shop smarter for groceries.
There are grocery stores and then there are grocery stores. What’s the difference? Fancy-schmancy grocery stores charge a premium price for the shopping experience whereas discount grocery stores have edible food (the goal) for better prices.
Do yourself a favor and get more for your money without the pomp and circumstance. Though it is a nice experience, remember the goal at hand: groceries.
• Attend campus meetings for organizations you may want to join.
Not only will you learn about cool clubs you may want to join and make new friends, but they also often provide free food for the first meeting of the year (some even offer free food at each meeting – score!).
• Brew your own coffee.
The up-charge on coffee is ridiculous. Instead, brew your own and utilize a reusable travel coffee mug. It’s better for your wallet and better for the earth, too!
• Don’t sign up for credit cards you don’t need.
When you do sign up for credit cards, keep your limit low to prevent yourself from overspending. Also, ensure your interest rate is low.
• If you already have a credit card, call your credit card company and ask them to lower the interest rate.
If you inquire about lowering your interest rate and they deny you, ask to speak to a manager and, when the manager is on the phone ask if he or she will lower your rate.
If the manager says no, repeat the process the next day (you’ll likely get a different manager. Unbelievably, this often works!
• Utilize a checking account.
Checking accounts are an easy way to keep track of your funds, your budget and your spending. It also makes it easy to access cash, too.
Ensure your account is with a bank that has ATM's in locations that are convenient for you to access so you will avoid unnecessary ATM transaction fees.
• Never take out more loans than necessary.
It can be tempting to take out additional loans to pay for living expenses so you don’t have to scrape by – don’t do it! Remember – it’s better to scrape by in college than when you graduate from college.
Once you graduate, you will be expected to pay back all of those loans and, even though you will have a job, your money will be going towards payments. Wouldn't you rather have some of your hard-earned money than all of it going towards what you spent during college?
• Always know your debt amount.
The amount of debt you will have at graduation – so there are never any surprises. It’s not a number you should ignore because you’re afraid or don’t want to know.
• Purchase used or refurbished items (make sure they work).
Check online, at local resale shops and through local retailers programs for items that are lower in price. You can often save a bundle by going this route.
• Rent larger items you need now that you won’t need in the future.
There are a lot of items you need in college that aren't good investment items. Try to identify what you won’t be using in the long-term (for example: lofts, mini-refrigerators, etc.) and try to find companies to rent from. Sometimes, universities even rent to students. Check to ensure that you can’t buy them used for a cheaper price first!
• Find out which stores and brands offer student discounts.
There are so many places that offer discounts to students with student identification. All it takes is a little research – or one question – to find out. Make sure to ask and frequent those who offer, you can save a lot by doing so.
• Utilize coupons, coupon codes (online) and sales as often as possible.
Who doesn't love a good sale? Make it a goal to never pay full price – it’s easier than you think!
• Shop in bulk for items you can share with roommates.
This is especially helpful for household items like toilet paper and paper towel, shared kitchen items like condiments and cleaning supplies. You can take one trip and split the cost. Also, no need to buy a membership – lots of parents have them so chances are one of yours does!
• Always pay your bills on time to avoid unnecessary late fees.
Paying a late fee is so pointless. Don’t complain about not having money if you’re doing things like that – you’re just throwing money away. Come on, get it together.
• Spend less on cable.
You don’t need every channel out there. You’re in college to study anyway.