It can be a struggle to save money in college. The college #brokelife is a very real thing.
Luckily, we've been through it. Don't repeat the same mistakes we did. Here are our top five ways to save money in college!
Find A Part-Time Job
Yes, you’ve heard this before, and it is a bit of a bummer. But a great way to save money is to increase the amount of money coming in. There are plenty of great part-time jobs for students – server, valet, teacher’s assistant, note taker (yes, that’s real), brand ambassador, blogger, dog walker, and babysitter.
Look at all of your options and find one that will a) give you flexibility when it comes to classes and studying, and b) offer the most money for your effort.
Check out our blog post on the best college jobs for every personality type.
Does that word scare you? It’s okay. When you start to investigate where your money is going, it can be an eye-opening experience. Check your bank statement. Your goal is to calculate all incoming cash (parents, job, students loans) and put it up against your debts. What are you spending your money on? And what might you be able to live without?
For example, you look at a 7-day span of your statement and see that you spent $50 on Starbucks last week. Each purchase ranged from $4 to $10. From that you can see you’re buying at least two caffeinated drinks a day, which might not be the most economical way to spend your money.
If instead, you bought a coffee maker for your dorm ($13) and a bag of your favorite roast ($10), you’d be saving $27! Oh wait; you drink the fancy stuff, don’t you? The drinks with caramel syrup and whipped cream on top. Well, buy a 16oz squeeze bottle of Caramel syrup for under $5. Whipped cream: less than $3 at your grocery store. Multiply that by 4 to get your monthly total. Now, instead of spending around $200 a month on coffee-related beverages, you just worked your way down to, at most, $50 a month. That’s what you used to spend in just one week! This equates to $150 of total savings. Thank me by taking me out to coffee next time you see me.
You can apply this same thinking to your money spent dining out, transportation costs (buy a bike), and more. Once you have tallied the two columns – money in & money out – highlight the regularly occurring items. Add in a category called “reckless spending.” You can easily spot opportunities for cutting back on your spending in order to save. Things do come up, and it’s best we anticipate those now instead of the end of the month when we’re scrambling for cash.
This should be a no-brainer. Fill out your FAFSA form in January. It’s a known fact that if you get your form in early, you’re first in line for all those juicy scholarships. The more scholarship money you earn, the less student loans you’ll have to take out
If perhaps you weren’t the best student before college, don’t worry! Take a look at some unconventional scholarship options. Check out local businesses that are involved with your school. An example would be your local community bank or credit union.
Every day we see credit unions and community banks serving thousands of dollars worth of scholarships to students, not just to incoming freshman. There are funds available for anyone.
Check out our list of best scholarship websites to use when getting ready for college.
Start Paying Down Debt Early
This applies to all debt, including student loans. I know you’re thinking, “I’m still in school, dude. I don’t have to worry about those yet.” WRONG!
If you were to take $30 a month and start putting it towards the principle on your student loans, you could end up saving yourself hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in interest payments.
Seriously, just do the math. Compound interest is a beautiful, or horrible, thing depending which side of it you’re on.
Never Shop At The Bookstore
If you don’t know this by now, then I might as well just retire. Campus bookstores typically mark up prices. When we say mark up the price, we mean big time! Usually 30-50% higher.
So, what are your other options?
Look for used or international editions. They won’t be right in front of your eyes like they are in the bookstore, BUT you’re going to save 50-75%. Let’s say your typical book costs around $100. Getting that same book for 60% off would give $60 extra dollars for that coffee habit of yours.
Check out these websites to begin your hunt:
Option 2: Wait and see if you don’t need the textbook. Hold off 1 week from the start of your class, check the syllabus, and see if there is a lot of required reading. If not, fuhgeddaboudit.
If it turns out you do need it, then consider renting or buying online (hello, Amazon) and consider splitting the price with a classmate. It saves money and gives you a built-in study buddy.
– BONUS –
This is the bonus round. Here is what you will need if you’re living in the dorms: Waffle iron, microwave, toaster. Yup, that’s it. Don’t believe me? Check out our blog on dorm room cooking hacks.
Show your parents that you've got this whole college thing in the bag. Use these tips to save money in college and you'll be sitting pretty come graduation day!