When it comes to being a college student, there are two certainties in life – stress around midterms and lots of expenses.
Sound familiar? As a college student, you should be worrying about your biology midterm, not whether there’s still a comma in your savings account. The good news is that there are tons of low-investment-but-high-impact ways for you to keep track of your expenses and start saving money even while you’re still in school. Check out our top tips below for saving money as a college student.
Budgeting – There’s an App for That
Is half of your monthly budget going to the campus coffee shop? Do you consider microwaveable ramen a major food group?
If so, creating a budget is the best place to start if you want to cut down on expenses and save money. There are a ton of apps out there such as Mint or You Need a Budget to help you create a realistic budget for all your expenses. Many apps can sync directly to your bank account so that your expenses are automatically categorized, can set up alerts to let you know if your balance gets too low, or will notify you if you’ve gone over budget.
Be Book Smart – Literally
Let’s face it – textbooks are expensive! Before you rush to the library to secure the last copy of the Origin of Species, email your professor before the beginning of the semester and ask for a copy of the syllabus. If you know which textbooks you’ll need ahead of time, you’ll have more time to shop around for the best-priced books.
To save money on used textbooks, check out campus listservs, the department Facebook page of your major, or reach out to older students who might be willing to sell you their old books. Funnily enough, campus bathroom stalls are also tried-and-true places where students will post flyers selling their old books. Finally, be sure to check out textbook price comparison websites like BookFinder.Com or SlugBooks, which compare prices on used or rental textbooks across a variety of sites.
Use All the Resources at Your Fingertips
According to the College Board, the average undergraduate student at a four-year private university will have spent $1,650 on personal expenses in the 2016-17 school year. Yikes! While personal expenses can include things like a gym membership or laundry fees, entertainment-related expenditures like tickets for the upcoming Beyonce concert will probably be the “big ticket” expenses that cut most into your budget.
The good news? Colleges offer tons of free entertainment options – you just need to know where to look. For example, the Student Life office at your school might offer free entertainment giveaways, like a weekly lottery to win free movie tickets or a gift card to the new restaurant in town.
Think of Your Student ID as the Ultimate Coupon
When it comes to student discounts, follow this golden rule of thumb: always ask for a student discount! From coffee shop reward clubs to frequent shopper discounts, student loyalty programs and discounts are a powerful way to save money on products or services that you use often as a student. For example, Amtrak offers a 15% discount for student travelers and Amazon Prime offers a free student trial – perfect for making the occasional trip home or ordering used textbooks. Many companies require that you show a copy of a non-expired student ID or that you register with a valid student email address, so be sure to have both on hand.
Learn to Love Move-Out Day
At the end of the school year, environmental groups on campus will often ask volunteers at different dorms around campus to help students recycle the piles of unwanted stuff that students can’t take home with them – anything from mini fridges to clothing to used textbooks.
As long as your campus doesn’t have a donation-only policy, volunteers often receive “first dibs” to take home what they want. Translation: You’ll be able to furnish your dorm room next year with tons of recycled freebies! Better yet, a lot of students get rid of expensive textbooks on move-out day, which you can easily collect and resell on textbook buyback websites such as AbeBooks or TextbookRush to earn a bit of extra cash.
Get Creative with Your Meal Plan
If you’re on a pay-per-meal food plan, get the most bang for your buck! Use one of your meals to bring food-safe containers or plastic baggies to load up on grab-and-go snacks that you can eat later on (fruit, pre-cut veggies and hummus, hard boiled eggs, or pre-made PB&J sandwiches tend to work well). You’ll save an additional meal swipe and cut down on the number of expensive study snacks that you buy from the campus cafe.
Better yet, use what you bring home to supplement meals that you eat outside of the dining hall, like adding in veggies to that cup of microwavable ramen.
Get Paid to Do Your Homework
Yup, you read that correctly. Many colleges offer funding for students working on research projects over the summer. Ask your advisor or your professors, or check your major’s department website to learn more about research grant opportunities. Some colleges will provide full research funding, will award travel money to study abroad and conduct international research, or will reimburse you for project-related supplies that you’ve purchased.
Make an Appointment with a Career Counselor
A career counselor at your college’s Career Services office will be able to help you to find an on-campus job, introduce you to networking opportunities, or help you prepare for an interview at your dream internship. Think of the meeting as an opportunity to improve your prospects on the job or internship market. Trust us, your future self will thank you for making the investment!
Believe it or not, going to college doesn’t have to leave your savings account in the red. With a few of these tips under your belt, you’ll be well on your way toward saving a bit more and more importantly, finding greater financial peace of mind!
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