College doesn’t have to leave you broke. These financial tips will show you how to save money as a student. We even have some tips on how to make extra cash!
College students are a diverse crowd. But if there’s one thing that most of them have in common, it’s this:
They’re almost all broke.
Books cost hundreds of dollars. Meals aren’t cheap. And paying rent can wipe out your entire budget for the month.
Add in student loans, and it’s easy to see why most college students (and recent grads) are stressed out about their finances.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are things you can do to make (and save) money in college.
Follow these financial strategies when you’re in school, and you may just graduate with some cash in your pocket.
#1 Keep Housing Costs to a Minimum
Sometimes, living in a dorm is the most cost-effective option. But other times, renting an apartment is cheaper. It all depends on your school and city.
Research your area so you know which one is a better option–and go with that.
If you live off-campus, find a roommate or two (or three). The more people you can share the rent and utilities with, the more money you’ll save on housing.
Keep in mind:
The closer you live to campus, the less you’ll spend on transportation. If you live on campus or close to it, you might not even need a car.
And when it comes time to decorate your apartment, stick to a strict budget. Ask family and friends if they have furniture you can borrow, or buy used items so you don’t have to pay full price for new things.
#2 Cancel Your Meal Plan
College meal plans are convenient, but cooking meals at home is always cheaper (not to mention healthier!).
When grocery shopping, buy things in bulk as much as possible. This can save you hundreds of dollars per year.
Cooking meals with friends and dining in your apartment can be just as fun as going out to eat. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a meal out once in a while. Just make sure to limit yourself when it comes to going out.
When you do go out, try to do so for breakfast or lunch, which are always less expensive than dinner.
It’s also wise to invest in a coffee maker. That way, you’ll avoid spending all your money on overpriced coffee.
If you live in a dorm, make sure that you’re allowed to have one, as some dorms prohibit students from keeping appliances in their rooms.
#3 Take Advantage of Student Discounts and Campus Amenities
You cannot work and study all the time. You have to balance your school and work responsibilities with some social activities to stay sane.
So, look for fun things to do on campus that don’t cost anything. Your college may have free movie nights, concerts, plays, or sporting events.
You know that student ID you carry around in your pocket? Put it to good use! Use your ID to access the gym, pool, or rec center on campus. Then, you don’t have to buy a gym membership elsewhere.
When you do go off-campus, ask businesses and restaurants if they offer student discounts. You might be able to save money on movie tickets, meals, or school supplies just by showing your ID.
#4 Look for Grants, Scholarships, and Financial Aid
Private universities cost a small fortune, but even public colleges cost a pretty penny these days. Luckily, both private and public schools offer financial aid programs.
Fill out the FAFSA form every year so you know if you’re eligible for financial aid. Apply for grants and scholarships that you qualify for and take advantage of any money you can get. Even if you get a small grant for $1,000, that’s $1,000 less you’ll have to pay out of pocket.
If you have student loans like most people, try paying them down as much as possible before graduation. Even if you can throw $10 or $20 a month toward your loan balance, it’ll add up to big savings by the time you graduate.
#5 Get a Part-Time Job or Start a Side Hustle
The best thing you can do for your finances is to get a part-time job while you pursue your education. Not only will it put more money in your pocket, but you’ll have less time to go out, party, and spend money.
If you want to feel like your own boss, start a side hustle. You can drive for Uber, deliver for Postmates, or freelance on Upwork. These types of gigs let you create your own schedule, which makes it easier to balance college with your part-time job.
#6 Buy Used Textbooks
There’s no need to buy brand new textbooks. You can save hundreds of dollars by purchasing used ones instead.
Even if you can’t find a used copy and are forced to buy new, sell the books you don’t need at the end of the semester. Most campus bookstores will buy them back, and there are lots of online sites that buy textbooks, too!
#7 Avoid Using Credit Cards
As a struggling college student, it’s tempting to want to buy things and go places on your credit card. After all, you can just pay it back after you graduation when you get a job, right?
Don’t use credit cards unless it’s an emergency. No matter how much or how little debt you rack up, you’ll always have to pay it back with interest.
And those bills are due every month. Unlike student loan lenders, credit card companies don’t let you wait until graduation to start paying them back.
If you can’t pay for it in cash (or with a debit card), skip it. Unfortunately, that means you might not be able to take that trip to Cancun for spring break.
If the only way to get something is to have to charge it, skip it. Yes, this means that you might have to skip the Cancun trip. Get over your FOMO and focus on what’s really important – getting good grades and graduating with the least amount of debt possible.
College is expensive! And it’s easy to feel overwhelmed – especially when you’re struggling to feed yourself, pay the rent, and enjoy yourself every once in a while.
Cut back wherever you can. Get roommates to share the cost of housing and cook at home. Take advantage of free on-campus activities, use your ID for student discounts whenever possible, and avoid credit cards.
Also, don’t forget to scoop up that grant money if you’re eligible. Why would you want to leave money on the table?
With these tips and tricks in mind, you might not have to move back in with your parents when you graduate!
Working with Jefferson Rise, Caitlin Sinclair has more than 5 years of experience in the multifamily industry. In her free time, you will find her enjoying life on the Lake and spending time with friends.