When you’re in college, all you probably want to focus on is your studies and having a good time. But your finances also need some attention. After all, you’re probably not rolling in the dough just yet, but likely pinching your pennies instead. College tuition and books are extremely expensive these days, so you probably don’t have a ton of money to throw around as a result.
Given your minimal bank account situation, anything you can do to save a few dollars here and there can go a long way. So we’ve compiled a list of money saving tips for college students. These strategies can help you save money while you’re in college, but they can also help you develop frugal habits that you will benefit from long after you graduate.
1. Buy Used
Although saving money as a college student often involves minimizing your expenditures, there will always be things that you will have to buy at some point. That said, you don’t necessarily have to buy new all the time. In fact, there are plenty of things that can be bought used and still work out just the way you need them too.
Take technology, for example. Unless you plan on living under a rock for the rest of your existence, you will absolutely need to have some amount of technology in your arsenal of goods. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or some other gadget, technology is a must in today’s modern times.
Unfortunately, technology is expensive. REALLY expensive. You can easily drop a thousand bucks on a new phone, but most college kids don’t have that kind of liquid cash lying around. Luckily, you can buy used technological gadgets and even trade in your used electronics without having to spend the big bucks. There are plenty of apps out there that can make this easy, like Swappa.
This handy little app allows you to buy and sell your used technology so you can trade in whatever you no longer use for something else, at a fraction of the price that you’d pay for brand new items.
Buying used doesn’t just end at technology. Even your clothing, furniture, bicycle, or car can be bought used. And don’t forget about your textbooks, which can be a huge expense in college. If you can buy your textbooks used, you can save a ton of cash.
There’s a reason why people buy used goods – to save money. It’s obviously a lot cheaper to buy something that’s already been around the block a few times as opposed to something that’s right off the rack. But if you can get your hands on something that’s only gently used and in decent condition, you can have your cake and eat it too.
2. Buy Generic Brands
One of the basic tips to save money in college is based on your shopping habits. In addition to buying used in an effort to save money, you might also want to buy generic brands over the popular brand name products. Many generic products are equal in quality to name brand items. Give the generic brands a chance. You will probably find that they are just as good as similar, more expensive products.
3. Automate Your Savings
A great way to save money is to simply put a percentage of your paychecks away each time you’re paid. It could be 5%, 10%, or whatever you’re comfortable with after working out a budget. Even the smallest amount can make a difference in the long run. After months and years of saving, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much money you can accumulate with a little dedication and sacrifice.
But as effective as this method is, it is often easier said than done. It can be really tempting to take that extra $10 that you were planning to tuck away into your savings account to put towards a new expenditure.
The good news is, there are tools available that can help you stick to your plan to save. By automating your savings, you won’t have to even think about garnishing your paycheck to put some money away. Your funds will be automatically put away for you without having to remember to do it yourself or being tempted to pocket that money instead.
You can set up automated savings by having a certain amount or percentage of your income automatically deposited into a savings account. Arrange for recurring transfers to take place right after payday so that you have enough money to pay your bills and avoid overdrafts.
4. Trim Your Bills
You might have certain bills that you are responsible for paying every month, including a cell phone or credit card payment. While these can definitely eat into your bank account, there may be ways to shave them down a little.
Trim is a great tool that you might want to consider using for this specific purpose. This service can negotiate with your bill creditors to lower your monthly payment obligations. In fact, Trim has already managed to save consumers millions of dollars just by automating their everyday finances.
Trim takes even things further by helping consumers save enough money for retirement, decide on the right credit card to apply for, and choose which auto insurance plan to take. All of this can help you save a bundle of money when all is said and done. You can sign up for free today.
5. Use Prepaid Credit Cards
Credit cards can be really handy, but it can be pretty easy to rack up a hefty bill if you’re not careful with your expenditures or don’t have a lot of money to cover your mounting credit card balance.
Rather than using a traditional credit card, consider using a prepaid card or secured credit card instead. These cards require that you deposit a certain amount of money before you can use them, which ends up being your credit limit.
Basically, you’re only spending what you already paid into the card, which is the reverse of a conventional credit card. In this way, not only can you save some money, you can also put a cap on any debts that you might accumulate from overspending. Even better, you can build good credit over time by using your secured credit card responsibly.
6. Choose a Cell Phone Provider That Offers Unlimited Add-Ons
Every cell phone provider has its own unique packages and features. While they may lure you in with a basic rate, you can easily rack up that final bill with all the add-ons and features that can be tacked on to your phone plan. If possible, try to find a cell phone provider that offers unlimited add-ons for certain features that you use quite often, such as long-distance and text. You can save a bundle by avoiding all those extras that can blow up your cell phone bill.
7. Go Out For Lunch Instead of Dinner
If you’re trying to save money, then you might want to consider putting a limit on the number of times you eat out. If you do have to dine out, then consider going out for lunch instead of dinner. Lunch menus tend to have more affordable options compared to dinner menus. Other ways to save money when dining out is to have an appetizer instead of a full meal option and to opt for water instead of a typical beverage.
8. Participate in Campus Activities
Everyone knows how expensive entertainment can be. And when you’re in college, you certainly want to enjoy a vibrant social life while you have the chance. But that doesn’t mean you have to blow the budget just to have a little fun. Instead, look into the activities and events going on in and around campus. Most colleges put on all sorts of events throughout the year, many of which are either free or cost a minimal amount in comparison to traditional entertainment venues. Take advantage of them to have fun and save money at the same time.
9. Become a Resident Advisor
If you are a responsible individual, you may want to consider becoming a resident advisor. Most colleges offer RAs free room and board, which can save you a ton of money. Just make sure to thoroughly scope out the exact responsibilities of an RA on your campus and what perks can be expected before applying.
10. Carry a Water Bottle With You
Drinks can be pretty costly when you buy them from a vending machine or at a convenience store. Instead, carry a water bottle around with you that you can fill up at water fountains. Doing so will both help you save money and the environment.
As a college student, you probably have a lot of debt on your plate considering the magnitude of the cost of post-secondary education. That said, there are still plenty of ways for you to stretch your dollar and minimize your debt load. To do that, consider adopting any one of the above-mentioned money saving tips for college students. These tips can help ensure you will enjoy affordable habits during your college years and you might even have less debt when you graduate.