College can be costly, especially when you factor in textbooks, room and board, and other living expenses. It’s no wonder that most students find themselves struggling to make ends meet each month. We get it! Cashlessness and campus go hand-in-hand.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are plenty of ways to save money as a college student. This idea might sound impossible, but it’s totally doable with some effort (and self-control). Whether you have a side hustle on college, a student loan or you fully rely on your parents we’ve rounded up some of the best savings tips for college students to help you make ends meet without breaking your parent’s bank.
Best Saving Ideas for College Students
Having a clear grasp of your financial situation is crucial, even though saving may seem like it would take the fun out of your life. Without further ado, here are our top savings tips for college students:
Create a Monthly Budget
One of the best ways to save money as a college student is to create a monthly budget. This will help you track your expenses and determine where to cut back. Understanding your monthly spending capacity is necessary before you can begin budgeting efficiently. Your daily expenses might not be that high while you’re a college student. However, once you factor in costs associated with your studies, your budget for a college student needs to cover a lot more. So, as you plan your expenditures, be mindful of the following costs:
- School supplies
- Transportation costs
- Housing expenses
- Recreation and entertainment
- Emergency fund
- Entertainment money
It’s time to track your spending once you have a handle on the different expenses your college budget will include. Modifying your budget as you begin this process to reflect your spending requirements better is acceptable. You can keep track of your purchases on a straightforward spreadsheet or in a spending journal. However, you can use digital tools to monitor your spending with ease. A monthly budget will help you curb your spending and save money as a college student.
Be Strategic About Food Spending
Food is one of the most significant expenses for college students. Although most college students are required to purchase a meal plan at least for the first few years of school, the good news is that food is an item you can creatively budget.
Students spend money on groceries, eating out off campus, and their college meal plans. To save money on food as a student, you’ll need to be strategic about your eating habits.
- Meal prepping can help you save both time and money.
- Eating at the campus cafeteria or dining hall is often cheaper than going off campus for a meal.
- You can also save money by taking advantage of free food on-campus events.
- Coupons, discounts, and deals can also save you a lot of money on food as a college student.
- Check to see if your campus has any deals with local restaurants.
- Look for coupons in the student newspaper or online.
Making a plan in advance can help you make the most of your money and negotiate the occasionally challenging world of required meal plans or the sentence of eating ramen noodles for every meal. There are a few ways to minimize costs if your weekly grocery trip is “eating” into your student budget (haha). The best advice is to switch from “branded” goods to those under the supermarket’s brand. Typically, you won’t be able to taste the difference, but you will see the change on your receipt.
Choose Cheaper Textbooks
Textbooks are a necessary evil regarding college costs. One way to save money is to find cheaper textbooks.
- Look for used books instead of purchasing new ones.
- You can also check if your campus bookstore is renting out textbooks.
- There are also several websites where you can buy, sell, or rent textbooks. They include; eCampus, AbeBooks, eBay, and Chegg.
- Another option is to see if your professor has any old textbooks you can borrow for the semester.
Beyond affordable textbooks, take a look at your college library. Frequently, you can get a free copy to check out. Consider saving the money and spending a few hours at the library if you will only use the textbook for a few assignments.
Take Advantage of Student Discounts
Your college ID can be a valuable money-saving tool for stretching your budget. As a college student, you are eligible for discounts from both regional and big-city merchants. Student discounts can be used to save money on food, vacation, and even school supplies. So before you whip out your student’s ID card, check to see if the store offers any student discounts.
A few retailers that offer college student discounts are:
- Amazon– Mom won’t keep sending you to care packages indefinitely, and opening an Amazon account is a significant step toward being an independent adult. Amazon Prime may appear to be very pricey for someone on a college budget. However, the first six months are on the house with Prime Student. After that, the monthly fee is only $7.49.
- Spotify, Hulu & SHOWTIME– You can access SHOWTIME, Hulu, and Spotify Premium for only $4.99/month. Additionally, all these businesses offer a free trial period of one month before you pay a cent.
- Apple Music– You may not care about Hulu but must listen to Taylor Swift and Jay-Z. Completely understandable. If so, you can subscribe to Apple Music for just $4.99/month instead of the standard $9.99.
- Apple– Although there isn’t a specific discount offered here, Apple provides students with several discounts all year long, particularly around the start of the school year.
- J. Crew– Get a 15% discount on your total purchase when you show a valid student ID at J. Crew.
- Public Transport– Students often qualify for discounts on public transportation services. This won’t apply if you attend school in a remote location as I did. However, if you attend a campus in a city, it would be worthwhile to look into. You can check out your local public transportation provider’s website to see how to receive the discount. You might need to provide proof that you are a student, such as a scanned copy of your student ID.
- Sporting events– In some places, the NHL and the MLB also provide student discounts. Furthermore, if you’re a student, you may get in for free to your college’s sports events (or at least heavily discounted).
Utilize student discounts to avoid paying more than necessary and to save money while you’re a student.
Many college students hesitate to shop at secondhand stores because they think it’s unhip or uncool. I’m here to change your mind and tell you that shopping secondhand is hip and frugal.
Here are some items you can find at a secondhand store:
- Furniture– If you are moving into an apartment or dorm, secondhand stores are a great place to find furniture. You can find everything from couches and coffee tables to end tables and lamps.
- Clothing– You can find both casual and professional attire at a fraction of the cost of retail prices.
- Shoes– Secondhand stores are a great place to find shoes, especially if you are looking for a specific style or brand.
- Books– If you are looking for textbooks, novels, or nonfiction books, a secondhand store is a great place to start your search.
Avoid Impulse-based Shopping
You know how sometimes we go shopping because we’re bored? Try to resist the need to act on it, whether it concerns food or clothing. It’s hard but necessary to save money. Impulse-based shopping often leads to buyer’s remorse, which no one wants.
And if you’re going to shop, go to a store that gives discounts to students. That way, you’ll save even more money.
Try to Reduce your Drinking and Smoking
Unhealthy habits do persist. And once you get into college life, it can be challenging to cut back on drinking. But if you get your priorities straight (when sober), you’ll see how much money you can save by cutting back on drinking, smoking, or both. It takes work, but you could use all that money on a weekend getaway or anything more substantial.
Avoid Using Your Car
Owning a car and being able to travel wherever you want may sound lifesaving. However, fuel, upkeep, and all other costs associated with owning a car are far more expensive. Instead, you can decide to walk, use a bike ride, or take public transportation. However, if you must go for the option of using a car, try carpooling with friends. You can also rent a car for a weekend getaway instead of owning one. It’ll be cheaper and more fun that way.
You Can Share Rent
If you have a close friend or family member attending the same school as you, see if they want to share an apartment or dorm room with you. You can split the rent and other bills down the middle and save a lot of money. Just make sure you trust this person and are compatible with living together. Otherwise, it could end up being a disaster.
Saving money in college can be difficult, but it is possible. Definitely, the best years of your life are in college! Enjoy it while it lasts, but try to come out with as little debt as possible. By following these tips, you can save money and still have a great time in college.