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How to Save Money in College

Your spending nature and saving plans are crucial to setting a foundation for future financial stability. Since good habits should start early, it’s important to master the art of saving money as a college student. After high school, the education system is a financial escalator—the more you proceed, the heavier the investment is that you will need to contribute. Saving money in college is especially crucial because it allows you to continue to fund your education.

How to save money as a college student? Saving doesn’t necessarily mean pinching every penny and only eating ramen noodles. It simply means that you keep a watchful eye over how you are spending your resources. In this guide we’ll explore 12 different ideas for how college students can save money and gain financial liberty during their academic years and beyond.


1. Share Accommodations 

Renting a house can be an expensive option, but it becomes much more affordable when the rent is split between a handful of roommates. And if the rent for a house still strikes you as too high for your budget, try to seek campus accommodations. Generally, they are not only cheaper, but will also save you a costly commute to class.

In case of unavailability, look outside the box when it comes to accommodations. Be on the lookout for roommate wanted ads and furnished rooms that can save you having to spend money on home essentials. Or, consider subletting for the semester until spots open up on campus.

Keep in mind that it can be rather expensive living close to your college. You might better serve your budget by searching for apartments in a cheaper neighborhood and committing to taking public transit to class.


2. Use Public Transportation

Speaking of public transit, buying a car while in college is not recommended if saving money is your goal. Owning a vehicle is a consistent drain of financial resources. Parking, gas, and insurance—not to mention unexpected car repairs—add up to a substantial amount. When it comes to transportation and budgeting, the best option for college students is to use public transport or ride-sharing facilities. You may also choose to purchase a bicycle to commute, as it will cost you a lot less and keep you in excellent shape to boot. 


3. Save on Food

Grocery shopping is an excellent learning opportunity when it comes to managing finances. Groceries are bound to be a regular expense that you cannot cut, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save money while shopping. Depending on how strategic you can be in dealing with your meal planning, grocery bills can be intensely reduced.

Food is a necessity, but can sometimes be treated more like a luxury. If you are someone who is looking for ways to save money in college, you should consider doing a bit of extra legwork where your meals are involved. 

A little research and comparison will let you know which grocery stores are cheaper or have better value, what coupons are available, and what deals are to be found in sales. Another option is to rely on student meal plans and avoid the grocery store altogether. With a prudent investment in food, you can save hundreds (and maybe even thousands) per year.


4. Borrow Books 

You can make your academic journey cost-effective by spending minimal amounts on the prerequisites. Textbooks are infamously expensive to buy and are often unnecessary to invest in long-term. When you have the opportunity to either borrow books from the library or from a fellow student, it’s better for your wallet to opt for it. If borrowing isn’t an option, consider buying a used copy of the textbook, or do a bit of digging to see if a digital version is available—these are generally far less expensive.

At the very least, it’s helpful to find out whether your campus bookstore has a buy-back policy. If you keep your text in excellent condition during the semester, you may be able to get some of your money back at the end of the term by selling it back to the bookstore.


5. Apply for Scholarships

One of the most productive tips to save money in college is applying for a grant, bursary, or scholarship. As a student, your prime focus should be on your studies. Strive for good grades and the best results you can achieve, and you’ll likely find yourself eligible for a scholarship. You can apply for scholarships and grants every year throughout college. 

Given that many scholarships go unclaimed (or have very few entries), if you dedicate some time to applying, you could find yourself getting a lot of money to pay for school.


6. Be a Tutor

Wondering how to save and make money in college? Rather than spending your study-time searching for a part-time job to juggle throughout the semester, it can be more straightforward and efficient to give lessons to your peers and juniors at your college. Tutoring sessions can easily be arranged on campus around your course schedule, allowing you flexible hours and availability. What’s more, by teaching what you’ve been studying, you’re dedicating time spent with the subject of your choice: explaining a topic to someone is an excellent way to process the information yourself, deepening your comprehension.

Aside from tutoring, there are numerous other services to look into at your college that you may be able to make money from. Often, Colleges and Universities will have jobs to fill that students are given first priority on. With a little research and some asking around your department, you might be able to turn your studies into a side-hustle.


7. Be Mindful of Loans & Payments

For many college students, taking out a loan to fund their degree is a necessary financial sacrifice. If you do have to take out student loans, you’ll need to be very mindful of how much you borrow and how you plan to repay the debt. Like all other aspects of spending, student loan payments must be included in your monthly budget. It’s a good idea to plan to pay off all of your debts as soon as possible.

To help balance the monthly payments of a student loan, use a debit card to avoid collecting high-interest credit card debt. This way, you only spend what you can afford. If having a credit card as a payment method is non-negotiable, choose a plan with a low interest rate, and aim to make full payments every month. To ensure you stay on top of your debt, avoid extra expenditures, go lower than your set budget, and try to keep track of your financial status overall. 


8. Take Advantage of Campus Utilities

Most campuses provide discounts or free offers on amenities like health care, gyms, and cleaning services. Similarly, many companies give student discounts on utilities like food, clothing, and other accessories. Take advantage of any such benefits as they’ll allow you to keep saving every semester.

Also remember to use coupons for discounts whenever possible. Every cent is worth saving as it can add up to your annual reserves.


9. Attain A Minimalist Lifestyle

To save money as a college student, your top priority should be to cut out loans, debt, and big expenses. To achieve this purpose, you need to get a handle on your lifestyle and buying preferences by tracking expenses.

Put your time and money into aspects of life that are necessities and not luxuries. For example, transition to a capsule wardrobe rather than shopping every season. Instead of satiating your caffeine craving from the campus café every morning, invest a little money to make your coffee or tea at home.

Similarly, new and high-end gadgets, trinkets, accessories, and home decor should not be a priority for a minimalistic college student. Rather than seeking out costly material goods, aim to be content with what you have and surround yourself only with what you need.


10. Opt for Affordable Phone and Internet Packages

Try to find cheaper data packages that allow for unlimited texting and calling. Keep a regular check on your data consumption and call history. Try services that can help you limit your monthly consumption. 

Also, you’ll want to make sure you always pay your bills on time. Overdue charges can cause you to go off-budget which will dramatically impact your savings. Late fees cost you money and contribute to a swelling underlying balance. If you want to save money, never miss a payment. It’s as simple as that.


11. Buy Things on Sale

Once you know when sale season is coming, it only makes sense to plan your buying around that time of year. You can buy pretty much anything at an affordable price if you know when and where to look for sales.

For example, instead of buying something at full price, consider waiting and saving for what you need, then buying it at a discount during a sale season like Black Friday. This is one of the finest money-saving tips for college students as it can produce a huge cost difference in your annual budget.


12. Alter Your Spending Habits

The best way to budget money in college is to cut extra costs and spend diligently on what resources are most economical. At times, this goes beyond simply exercising self control while shopping, and demands a more in-depth shift in habit and perspective.

For example, it is more cost efficient to do things on your own and avoid hiring professional services. This may mean you need to teach yourself to cook, learn some repair skills to keep your home in good shape, and change any routines that involve additional spending. For example, making breakfast instead of buying it on your way to class is a routine that involves waking up earlier, planning groceries for an extra meal at home, and learning how to cook if you don’t already. This may sound intimidating, but building a cost effective habit is a money-saver that will last you well past your college years.

It’s also a good idea to limit your habitual activities to what is productive for physical and mental health, as well as for your budget. For example, rather than taking a yoga class at a studio or paying for a monthly gym membership, try a free yoga tutorial video at home, or go for a run outside.


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