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Dollars & Sense: 12 Tips to Help College Students Save

12 Tips to Help College Students Save

You’ve filled out countless admissions forms, submitted numerous letters to your top choices of schools, and now it is the moment of truth: you open the letter from your top choice of school. Congratulations! You’re on your way to a successful, financially fruitful future. You’re going to college! But then the inevitable panic sinks in – just how are you going to be able to handle all of the extra expenses that go along with this amazing opportunity and keep your finances in check while balancing the rigorous demands of student life that go along with pursuing a higher education? Thankfully, there are many very simple ways to help you cut down on your spending and save money on everyday purchases which will help to ensure that your wallet and bank account are always in good standing. You don’t have to have a degree in finances to make smart money moves and help college students save money. 

1. Don’t Go Buy the Book

Rule number one of buying textbooks for school- never pay full price. Do your due diligence and scour the internet, used bookstores, and even student forums to find used textbooks. Buying textbooks in new, unused condition can easily drain your bank account, but knowing where to look for a used version can save you a pretty penny. Alternatively, if you know in advance that you will only need a textbook for a limited amount of time, then you may be able to  check it out from the school library.

2. Don’t Skip School

This should be common sense, but every time you miss a class, it’s like throwing your precious dollars out of the window. Do yourself (and your wallet) a favor, and try to keep your attendance up. After all, it is your future that hangs in the balance.

3. Be Your Own Barista

Although it may be tempting to stop by the local cafe and grab a cup to go, but this paper coffee cup culture is bad for your budget. Invest in a proper coffee machine or stovetop espresso maker, and brew your own caffeinated beverages in the comfort of your own home. Not only will you save money, but you’ll be doing your part to contribute to a healthier environment by choosing to forego the paper cups and other single-use receptacles.

In addition to being cost effective, brewing your own coffee at home can be therapeutic. Start your own morning routine, and add in a little meditation or reading while your coffee is brewing. After all, the way we start the day has a huge impact on how the rest of the day plays out.

Fun fact: traditional European cafes never offers coffee to go – in the “Old World,” coffee is meant to be savored while sitting down, and running around with a paper cup in hand is highly irregular and even frowned upon.

4. Be Your Own Top Chef

Avoid the dreaded “Freshman Fifteen”, and put that sad box of macaroni and cheese down right now. Making your meals at home doesn’t have to be a drag for you or your tastebuds, and it can potentially save you hundreds of dollars per year. By cooking your own food at home, you not only save on the costly expense of eating out (not to mention tipping the waitstaff!), but you also take control of your own health and nutrition.

Balancing healthy eating and a rigorous school schedule can be difficult if you don’t know how to prioritize properly.

  • Study up on the latest meal prep strategies, and plan your weekly meals out in advance to avoid last minute fast food runs and junk food binges. Oftentimes, you can get all of your cooking out of the way on a lazy Sunday, leaving you free to focus on your studies during the week.
  • Leave the preservatives and artificial nonsense on the store shelf, and start to use natural, whole foods to create gourmet meals that taste like a million bucks, but cost way less.
  • Never shop on an empty stomach. Making a grocery store run when you’re hungry is one of the easiest ways to derail your budget and rack up a high food bill.
    itch the name brands on the shelf and go generic!, It is an easy way to cut your bill in half.

5. Use It or Lose It!

Don’t be afraid to take advantage of your student discount privileges. Flash that baby as often as you can – from food to fashion, you would be surprised at just how many of your favorite places to shop and dine offer student discounts. Some of these include Apple, AT&T, SubWay, Chipotle, J.Crew, Banana Republic, The Gap, FedEx, and even Amazon.

6. Let’s Get Fit

If you live within a reasonable distance to your campus, or on campus, then you can save major dollars just by using your own two legs instead of taking other forms of transportation. Walking around town not only saves valuable dollars, but also helps you get that much needed daily cardio in for free. This is a great way to skip paying for a gym membership which you may or may not use. If you aren’t within walking distance of the places that you frequent, then investing in a used bicycle is also a smart financial move that will get your blood pumping for free. No gym memberships required!

7. Explore On-Campus Entertainment

A night out is always fun, but if you indulge too frequently, it can be tough on your wallet. Skip the overpriced soda and $10 buckets of popcorn, and organize an on-campus dinner and a movie with your friends. Splitting the cost of snacks and entertainment will help you save your hard-earned cash for more important things. Alternatively, you can also look for events that have been organized by other students. Meeting new people and making friends is a great way to start the semester.

8. Look For Free Off-Campus Events

If going off-campus is your thing, then keep an eye out for locally organized activities that are events happening near you. Typically, you can find a lot of free events to attend, including, but not limited to festivals and street fairs, local art shows, poetry readings at the bookstore or cafe, and more. Cultural centers, such as museums, often have free days as well.

9. Hit Up Your Local Thrift Shop

Do you have only $20 in your pocket? Make like Macklemore and start shopping at the thrift store instead of paying a premium for department store merchandise. Shopping second-hand doesn’t mean that you need to ditch the designer duds. Many thrift shops have last season’s styles for a fraction of the price, and the thrill of the hunt is half the fun. Not only does shopping second-hand give your wallet a break, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how it helps you develop your personal style. Get creative, pop some tags, and express yourself!

10. Consider Becoming a Resident Advisor

In addition to getting free room and board, the experience will shine on your resume and give you a leg up on your competition when you get out into the “real” world to apply for jobs. Never underestimate the value of real world experience.

11. Upgrade Your Piggy Bank

Visit your local bank and look into opening a savings account to help you stay on track. Consultations are usually free, and you can gain a lot of invaluable advice on how to control your spending and keep your future looking bright, financially.

12. Paying Late Fees Is Never Cool

It may sound like common sense, but we’ll say it anyways. Pay your bills on time! Nothing can throw your bank account off balance like a plethora of late fees and credit card interest. If you have trouble remembering dates and deadlines, check to see if your bank offers an automatic payment option. This will allow you to easily schedule and monitor your bills through their app on your cell phone. Scheduling automatic payments for your cell phone bill, energy bill (if you’re living off campus), internet bill, and any other things that you use regularly is a smart way to stay on top of your payments.

There you have it! Use these tips to help you get into the habit of planning ahead and looking for ways to stretch your dollar. The older you get, the more you will appreciate the little things that you can do to make your money go farther.
Saving money doesn’t have to mean cutting out the fun while you’re away at college. With just a little bit of strategic planning, you will be surprised at just how easy it is to save money and reduce your stress levels – all while making smart investments in your future.