College students have a reputation for being “poor,” which is not surprising considering the high costs of tuition coupled with the fact that a busy college schedule complicates finding time for a job. But, by making several wise choices and a few tweaks to your routine, you can actually save money during college and keep financial struggle at bay. Following these few tips will not only benefit your finances during college, but it will also set you up for a sound financial future. Mix and match to find the methods that fit into your lifestyle.
1. Ask for a student discount.
Many places near local colleges offer student discounts of up to 20 percent, even if they don’t advertise the discount. Students at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, for example, receive a 20 percent discount from Pizza Hut if they mention they’re from Capital.
2. Check out scholarship websites.
Some online scholarship organizations may seem like scams, but websites like Fasweb.com can connect students with hundreds of scholarship opportunities. By signing up for free and filling out a short profile survey, students will be linked to scholarships that match their needs and qualifications, and they can earn up to $2,000 simply for submitting a photo. Scholarship websites such as Fastweb.com simplify the process of finding extra money for college, and can help you to save thousands of dollars on your education.
3. Save spare change.
A few pennies here and there may not seem like much, but saving all of your spare change over the course of the year can add up. By setting aside just 50 cents of change a day, you’ll save over $180 a year.
4. Look for an on-campus job.
Finding an off-campus job at a store or restaurant may be hard considering your busy schedule, but on-campus jobs offer the flexibility that college students need. Even if you only have two spare hours a day between classes, most of the people in charge of hiring students for on-campus jobs will work around your class schedule. Working two hours a day during the week in the campus mailroom or cafeteria will result in earning about $75 a week, which is plenty of money to set aside for savings.
5. Buy your own food instead of relying on campus food.
Buying a meal plan in the cafeteria is a costly option. Many campus meal plans cost thousands of dollars a year, whether you actually use all of the money on your meal plan or not. You’ll save hundreds of dollars a semester by buying your own groceries and cooking your own meals.
6. Keep track of your spending for a month.
Writing down everything you buy will show you where your money really goes. By seeing what you’re actually spending, you may be able to find areas where you can cut back and save money. If you’re spending $5 a day on Starbucks Coffee, for instance, you can stop going to Starbucks and make your own coffee in your dorm, and enjoy a savings of $35 a week.
7. Opt for walking instead of driving.
Most college campuses are in the center of town near restaurants and other attractions. Instead of driving to Can out-of-town restaurant or hang out, walk to a nearby place and save money on gas.
8. If you must go out to eat, go for lunch instead of dinner.
Going out to eat can be pricey, but it’s understandable that college students enjoy going out once in a while. So, if you’re going out, plan to go out for lunch instead of dinner. Lunch prices are typically about half the price of a meal during dinner.
9. Be a smart shopper.
Instead of paying full-price for something at the mall or a specialty store, hunt for bargains at places like Value City or TJ Maxx. You can save hundreds of dollars on dorm furniture by getting it on sale and one of these places, and most of the things sold at discount places are pieces that have been in the mall or stores within the past few months. You can get the same item for about fifty percent less and save a significant amount of money.
10. Sell some of your gently-used electronics on EBay.
Don’t use your old IPod anymore? Sell it on EBay. You can get up to $100 for a used IPod Nano if it’s in good condition.
11. Buy gently-used electronics on EBay.
Instead of shelling out nearly $1,000 for a brand new lap top straight from Dell or Apple, buy the same lap top gently-used on EBay and save a few hundred dollars.
12. Sign up for free checking and savings.
You should never have to pay for having a bank account. If your current bank charges you a monthly fee for your checking or savings account, switch now. You’ll save $120 a year if you’re currently being charged a monthly fee of $10.
13. Be sure you’ll actually need your textbooks before you buy them.
Before you pay hundreds of dollars for all your textbooks, ask your professors if you’ll actually use them. Sometimes the books listed for certain courses are simply “recommended”, meaning you’ll likely never even need them.
14. Always buy used textbooks.
You’ll only have your textbooks for a quarter or a semester, so there is never any need to buy them brand new. You’ll likely save over $100 a quarter/semester if you buy your textbooks used, and most campus bookstores have a section featuring their supply of used books.
15. Sell your old textbooks.
As previously mentioned, you’ll only need your textbooks for the quarter or semester, so sell them back to the bookstore to get some of your money back, or sell them to a friend who may need them.
16. Stray away from other banks’ ATM machines.
If you use the ATM machine at a bank other than your own, not only will you likely be charged by that bank, but you’ll also probably have to pay a free to your own bank. Cutting out a weekly trip to another bank’s ATM can save you around $260 over the course of a year.
17. Take advantage of campus transportation.
Many campuses offer free bus rides to students who present their campus ID. Instead of driving off campus, opt to ride the bus and save money on gas.
18. Don’t be afraid to take out loans.
If you’re hesitant to borrow money for college but still have trouble paying out-of-pocket, reconsider taking out a student loan. If a parent will cosign for you, you can qualify for a lower interest rate, plus you won’t have the added stress of having to worry about coming up with the money to pay for tuition each semester. College loans may seem intimidating when you first take them out, but once you graduate and begin working you’ll earn back all of the loan money and then some. Student loans are comparable to a small car payment each month, and it’s nice to not have to worry about potentially being kicked out of school because you can’t afford to pay tuition at the beginning of each semester.
19. Be careful with credit cards.
One of the easiest ways to live above your means is to charge everything you buy. It’s a wise idea to have one credit card to begin building credit history so you can rent an apartment or qualify for a car loan in the future, but credit cards should be used with caution. Make sure that you can pay the bill at the end of the month, and if you’re buying a small item, such as a drink in the cafeteria, use cash. A few low-priced items over the course of the month can add up. You’d be better off to put one large purchase on the card per month, and be sure to set aside the money to pay for it when the bill comes.
20. Have a plan.
You’d be wise to have a set budget so you know what you can spend. Make room in your budget for the things you need, but also be sure to allow some room for entertainment. If you deprive yourself of spending, you’ll only end up splurging later, so you should allow yourself to have some fun with your money.