How To Save Money in College

Updated: Nov 1, 2016

The college – or university – years can be considered a cruel time in one’s life: it’s when most students are on the cusp of adulthood, enjoying many of its perks and only some of its responsibilities; yet they’re also not quite adults, a majority of which are more like overgrown teenagers still dependent on their parents for financial stability, among other things.

But, see, college tuition is quite expensive. It sets up many middle- and lower-class students for a lifetime of debt. This means these students generally want to graduate with a degree as quickly as possible, which implies they don’t have a great deal of time for making money – but rather a time for classes, homework, studying, taking exams, etc.

So what little money students generally have (whether they’re given an allowance or have to work to support themselves), there are trying to hold on to it. The problem is this: ironically, due to the nature of the fundamental conflict most college students face – the aforementioned paradox – college can be a very thrilling, exciting time: being young, broke, healthy but feeling good about getting an education, as well as enjoying the many freedoms of adulthood.

But, generally, being financially independent is not one of those freedoms college students get to enjoy. This reality means being smart with money is even more crucial for the everyday student.

9 Proven Ways to Save Money in College:

• Set Up a Bank Account

Quite a few banks offer college students free checking and saving accounts. This translates to avoiding fees on withdrawals as well as fund transfers; plus, with free checking, students aren’t penalized for having a certain amount, which is often the case with many banks. The student also benefits from having a bank account because they can monitor their own activity, especially with online banking. It helps them keep track of their money, when and where and how they’re spending it, and can help them save and plan as they move forward as adults.

Save Receipts; Get Organized

When one saves their receipts, they are essentially doing bookkeeping very much like a business would operate to keep tabs on their expenses, which is crucial for a business to grow and thrive. In order for a business to make money, it has to document and monitor spending so that it is not blindly losing money on things unnecessary. The same goes for any person. Perhaps it would be best if students were to record in a journal of all of their expenses, writing down information from their receipts to better budget and understand their spending habits. After a person begins seeing spending patterns, bad spending habits can be eliminated.

Set a Budget – and Stick to it No Matter What

Setting a budget is basically creating financial goals for certain periods of time. But what matters is adhering to these goals – all with the aim of ultimately saving money. Going back to keeping receipts: a student has to be cognizant of not only their financial obligations, such as paying bills and other required expenditures on time; they also have to be aware of their spending habits, such as going out to restaurants, spending money on retail, expensive outings, etc., so they can make sure they’re not being too frivolous with their spending. Most times, a student should set aside a certain amount of money each week for bills and necessary expenditures. But they should also cap a limit on the amount of money they can spend each week on other non-essential expenditures, like restaurant meals, drinks, and late-night food. Most importantly, to save money, students should put aside money each month that they will not spend – unless it’s an absolute emergency.

Buy a Simple Phone Plan

There are tons of affordable plans out there. But many plans are without Internet access, high-quality cameras, and voice-activated texting. And on a campus, that’s not a bad thing. The Internet can be accessed on almost every inch of a modern-day college campus. So, for those students trying to save money, who have to pay their own bills, it is most certainly a wise choice to buy a simple, cheap phone plan that has the most basic of functions. Buy that nice phone with the extensive plan after landing that first job out of college. Be patient – nicer things will come.

Get a Job – It Helps Prioritize Time

Again, it’s hard finding time to make money in college. But there are plenty of those who DO find the time. Some have no choice. They have to work to survive. It is very interesting to observe how the more things one has to accomplish in a day, the more they find they can get done. It’s all about time management. It’s about prioritizing what little time there is left in the day aside from classes and homework and studying. Remember: the more people work, the more they earn and save … because they are not spending money while they earn it.

Be Creative with (Legally) Obtaining Books for Courses

There are numerous ways to obtain course textbooks in college without spending the required exorbitant amounts on brand-new ones. (Legal ways, of course; as in not stealing them.) For one, many books required for college courses – especially literature courses – can be rented from almost any library. On top of that, there are numerous resources that offer students the choice of renting most brand-new and mostly new textbooks for a very cheap price. In this case, the student only has to pay the semester-long rent fee and return the books in excellent condition at the close of the semester. Also, there is the option that students can form a sort of buddy system; they can find someone in their class with which they can share the price of the book needed for the course. Or they can just borrow a classmate’s book.

Embrace Free Leisure Activities – Especially Those on Campus (The Ones That Are Deceptively Built into the Price of Tuition)

Whether it’s using the campus-provided shuttle that takes students to nearby locations, spending time outside reading or engaging in other fun, free activities, or taking advantage of free on-campus events, such as concerts, talks and seminars and conferences, there’s no shortage of ways students can save money in college and still enjoy themselves. There are times for going out to restaurants; and there are times to stay at home and find creative ways to enjoy one’s time – activities that cost nothing. In other words, fun outings don’t have to cost a thing.

Student Loans Can Help Save Money Short-Term

The majority of students from lower- and middle-class families have to take out loans to afford college. Some academic institutions cost $30- $40,000 for two semesters; others – probably the majority – are about $15- $20,000 for two semesters. By taking out loans with banks, students can pay for their education years down the road, after they graduate, often in monthly payments, until they pay off their debt. So this way they DO save money while still in college, only they will owe more money over time to the bank because their loans will have accrued interest. (By the way, many students – through getting student loans to fund college – get to live on campus during these years without having to pay a cent. Most times this includes a meal plan, too. It makes sense. But it depends on the student’s financial needs and/or limitations.)

Or, Live off Campus and Get Roomies

Then, there’s the option of living off campus, in cheap housing, sharing the rent with roommates. It’s a wise choice for those who can afford to pay the rent, either on their own or with the help of their parents.

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