by: Anna Compagine Cohen
College students are notoriously cash-strapped. Balancing classes with labs and homework leaves little time for a job. And then there are the expenses - especially if you’re living on your own for the first time.
But don’t let those money woes stress you out! We’ve got the top tips for saving money in college to help you balance your finances.
Skip the New Textbooks
Textbooks are one of the biggest college expenses! Most college bookstores sell used books. Or ask around - someone who took that same class last semester might have a book to sell, or better yet, lend. Another option: renting books. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Chegg all rent books for a fraction of the price of a new textbook. Prefer the digital version? Check out iFlipd.
Make Use of Free Amenities
Colleges don’t offer many freebies, so make sure you use the ones they do. Most campuses have at least one gym, so you can cancel your paid gym membership. Other amenities that colleges might offer include free tutoring, workshops, career services, and health services.
Choose the Best Meal Plan
Some colleges require meal plans, so if you have one, make sure you actually use it! Most schools have several meal plan options, so choose the one that fits best with your lifestyle and eating habits. If your meal plan isn’t mandatory, do some comparison shopping at the local grocery store. It will probably be less expensive to cook your own meals than to eat on campus.
Snag Student Discounts
Your student ID doesn’t just get you into class, it can also give you steep discounts. Tech giants such as Apple and Best Buy offer discounts for college students. So do retailers like Forever 21, Banana Republic, and H & M. And don’t forget Amazon”s program: Amazon Prime Students.
Shop Around for Housing
On campus or off? Comparing your options can help you save hundreds on housing each year. And don’t try to pay for it all on your own. Sharing your apartment or dorm room will help you save money not just on housing, but also on utilities if you live off-campus.
Park the Car
Don’t drive unless you have to. Walk, use public transportation, or bike around town. Not only is it better for the environment, but it’s also much better for your wallet. If you absolutely have to take a car somewhere, use an app like Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas prices for your fill-up.
Cut the Cord
Follow the 30-Day Rule
Impulse shopping can sink your budget. Unless you truly need something, adopt the 30-day rule. Set a reasonable price limit for spending, and give yourself a 30-day cooling off period for anything above that limit. If, after 30 days, you still feel you need it, then shop guilt-free. Chances are, though, that 30-day wait will make you realize you’d rather have the money in your account.
Compare Phone Packages
Do you really need all that data? Compare all the different packages your phone carrier offers, and make sure you’re not overpaying for features you don’t need or use. Better yet, if your contract is up, consider switching to another carrier altogether - with low intro rates, it’s a sure-fire way to find savings.
Keep Tabs on Your Weekends
Stop sabotaging your budget on the weekends. Sure, it’s tempting to eat out or meet up for drinks. But it’s easy to lose track of your spending, until Monday rolls around and your bank account is perilously low - again. Try a free budgeting app such as Wally to keep those weekend expenses in check.
Be Picky About Your Credit Cards
Yes, you will need credit cards sometimes. As long as you don’t spend more than you can pay off, credit cards are useful for building credit and can be a lifesaver in an emergency. Just make sure that your card has a low interest rate and no yearly fees. Or, opt for a rewards card that gives you mileage or cash back - but think of it as an ATM card. Don’t spend money you don’t have.
Choose Student Banking
Visit bank branches near campus and find out about student accounts. One or more of them may offer student bank accounts with low (or even no!) monthly fees, free checks, or cash-back rewards cards.
Buy in Bulk
Bulk shopping can result in big savings. Go in with your roommate or friends and split the costs of that huge multi-pack of toothpaste or soap. Costco offers college students a free $20 gift card when you use your campus email address to sign up for a new membership.
Bonus Tip: Stay Away from Late Fees
This is probably your first time managing your finances on your own. Stay on top of your finances and make all of your payments on time. The last thing you want to do is waste money on late fees.
You really don’t have to fall into the trap of being a broke college student. A little discipline and some money smarts will keep you in cash all semester long!