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Ways to Save Money in College
Saving Money In College
College students are known for living on a short amount of cash. Many students live on fixed budgets which can be very limited due to a lack of real income. And while college related expenses continue to rise, there are some things students can do to make sure they stretch their budgets and make every dollar count. These tips are designed to be straight forward and while they will help save money, they do not necessarily have to negatively affect a students standard of living.
Construct a Budget
The first, and possibly most important step to saving money in college is to plan out your college semester, or year, and design a strict budget that you can realistically stick to. Budgeting is so important because the average college student does not have a steady income which means they are living on a fixed amount of money over a given time. A great budgeting tool is Microsoft Excel. Even if you have no idea how to use Excel, the basics are very easy and there are a ton of good how-to videos out there. There are also other office spreadsheet programs out there that will work just as well, Excel is just the most popular.
Easy Ways to Save Money
- Books - When I started college I was blown away by the high price of textbooks. Not being much of a reader, I can honestly say I was mildly depressed for about a week after spending a months worth of rent on my first semester books alone. But don't be afraid, there are ways to get around this. First, you should consider college bookstores on campus to be a last resort. They have horrible markups and are usually very strict about returns (if it is removed from the plastic you can't return it!). I would suggest buying or renting textbooks online at sites like Amazon, Ebay, or Textbooks.com. Another option that has worked well for me is using Craigslist to buy used books from other students.
- Food - Now before you assume that I am going to suggest you only buy generic brands and outdated produce, understand that I am all about eating healthy and would not compromise nutrition to save a buck. Our bodies are like fine tuned machines (some more finely tuned than others...I am in the middle) and they require good nutrients to operate at a high level. On that note, one easy way to save on food in college is to stop eating out and prepare your own meals. Going grocery shopping and buying food in bulk will save you a lot of money in the long run. Not to mention it is slightly more healthy than McDonald's...
- Coupons / Student Discounts - I know that the thought of saving money with a $0.20 off coupon at the grocery seems like a far-fetched idea to many college students. You may think that such activity is reserved for your mother or grandmother to do in their free time. This is not the case, or at least it shouldn't be. Coupons offer instant savings that seems small, but when used over time can add up in a big way. Many colleges also have student coupon books that offer great deals for local goods and services. These coupon books are they key at getting a leg up on mom and grandma. When considering the use of students discounts or coupons, think about the possible effect of compounded savings over a long time period. The savings could be huge, its really up to you.
- Driving - The majority of college campuses are not very spread out. That is, you don't necessarily need a car to get around. Taking the bus to class, or a cab to a party can save you money over the course of a semester. The costs of gas and auto repairs seems to have been rising lately so not driving is a great way to save a little cash. Anything to reduce the amount of driving you will be doing in school will help. And if you live on or near campus you could even park your car or leave it at home for the semester. Do this if at all possible because parking your car means that you can take it off of insurance. And who really couldn't do without one more monthly bill...
- Banking - When you are on a tight budget the worst thing you can do is spend money on absolutely nothing aka bank fees. There are plenty of banks that offer free checking accounts and you should take advantages of this. Also, look for banks that have limited fees, fees are basically just the bank stealing your money, avoid them at all cost. Another useful tool is online banking. Having access to your checking and savings accounts online will let you see your balance, pay bills electronically, and even transfer funds between accounts. If you already have a bank but don't participate in online banking, you should check it out. Banking online can save time and money which are both scarce enough in college.
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Hang In There, It Gets Better...
Although saving money for college might seem like a drag, the long-term benefits are well worth the temporary cutbacks. College is a very rewarding experience. You will grow in ways you never thought you would as you are immersed into college life. Before you know it you will be well on your to a rewarding career that may or may not be in the field of your degree (for many people it is the later). Enjoy this experience and all that comes with it. Just remember that saving money and planning for the future can pay off huge dividends once you do start to receive a steady income. You will be more prepared for financial success which could mean many things; paying-off student loans, buying a house or car, or even owning your own business. The point is, not matter your goal, you will be more likely to succeed if you can start planning for your financial future while you are still in college.