Figuring out how to save money in college is a CHALLENGE. Tuition, rent, food, school supplies, and other expenses can take a huge chunk of change to cover. Most of us don’t have $100,000 just laying around to cover the costs of college outright. Most college students have less than $500 in their savings. Excuse me, what!? Yeah, less than $500.
Why is saving money in college important? Well, it’s important to first and foremost have an emergency fund set up. It would be best if you were prepared for an unexpected expense at any given time. Having that backup fund is one way to eliminate the pounds of stress college can put on a person. It’s also vital to be saving early on. This could be saving for a reliable car, a house, even retirement. There is no minimum age to begin setting yourself up for the future.
So, how in the world is someone with barely any money supposed to save in college. While difficult, it’s possible to do. Here are some ways you can save money in college.
How to Save Money in College:
1. Take on a Part-Time Job
The easiest way to save extra money is to take on a part-time job. 81% of college students already have a part-time job while in school. If you aren’t a part of that 81% and are tight on cash, then maybe it’s time to start looking for a part-time job. What kind of jobs should you be looking for? Look for customer service jobs such as restaurant server, golf caddy, bartender, etc. Working in these types of service jobs will allow you to take home tips, increasing your income!
When taking on a part-time job in college, make sure you have a balance. Don’t let your education suffer as a result of working.
2. Start a Side Hustle
If you’re unsatisfied with the income you do have or have no income at all, try a side hustle. Sell crafts, pet sit, babysit, etc. Find things you enjoy doing that you can also make profitable. Even if you’re only able to make a small amount of money, some is better than none.
3. Work on Campus
College campuses are always hiring their students for part-time work. The best thing about working on campus is having job flexibility so you can attend your classes when you need to. By working on campus, you could also receive employee discounts at places such as the campus coffee shop or bookstore.
4. Work as an RA
After your first year living in the dorms, you will be eligible for becoming a Resident Assistant (aka RA). By being an RA, you help the new freshman in the dorms and keep things safe for the new students. In return, you get a free room in the dorms, so you won’t have to spend any money on rent!
5. Try Delivery Apps
You can also try making extra cash through DoorDash, Uber Eats, Instacart, or even Wag. These apps allow you great flexibility to work around classes. You can take on as much or as little work as you need to save up some cash without being too stressed out. Remember, the point of learning to save more money is to take away stress, not add it!
6. Get Strict With Your Budget
The best way to save money in college is to start yourself on a strict budget. Learning budgeting is super important, especially when you start living independently. The easiest way to begin budgeting is to look for areas of improvement. Are you buying coffee three times a week? Try only getting coffee once. It may not seem like a lot of money, but it does add up over time.
When you can replicate that habit in other areas of your spending, then you will end up saving yourself a significant amount of money.
7. Download a Budgeting App
The best way to keep track of your finances when trying to save money in college is to get a budgeting app. With a budgeting app, you can set goals for yourself and track your bank accounts in one area. Some of the best apps for budgeting are:
If you aren’t keeping track of your finances or budgeting, you most likely aren’t saving. Budgeting will help you pinpoint where you need to refine your spending.
8. Tuck Away Money Each Week
A great way to build that emergency fund is to tuck away a small amount of money each week. Whether it’s $10 or $50, put away whatever amount you can manage. Within time, you will be able to build yourself a nice chunk of change that can be used for your emergency fund. Aim for about $500 as your emergency fund goal.
9. Start a Change Jar
You wouldn’t think you could save much money with change alone, but any money is money! Get yourself a cute little jar to toss your leftover coins in. Ask your roommates to contribute, too. With multiple people contributing, you can build yourself a nice fund to split up. You don’t have to limit the change jar to just coins, either. Throw some dollar bills in there from time to time when you can. Within a year, you could be over $1000. That’s a good emergency fund for you and your roommates!
10. Open a Rewards Credit Card
There are really great credit card options available for earning rewards on your spending. Find a college card with no annual fee to start earning cash back on things like gas and groceries. Here are the 5 best student credit cards available for first-time users. If you don’t have a credit card yet, college is a good time to start building credit. Remember, you need to be someone with good self-control to build credit reliably.
11. Take Advantage of What Your School Offers
Most schools offer things like free movie nights, concerts, drag shows; you name it. Take advantage of these! It’s free entertainment, and they’re usually pretty fun. Keep in the loop of your school’s social media pages so you know when these events are happening.
12. Find Textbook PDFs Online
Never buy a new textbook. Just don’t. There is no reason to spend hundreds on a textbook when you might not even use the book for class. You can often find PDF versions of academic textbooks online for free, so start there. Z-Library is a wonderful website with tons of books available. If you really need the book, Amazon offers cheap rentals, and they even provide a shipping label to send the book back free of charge.
13. Utilize Student Discounts
Most businesses accept student ID cards for student discounts. Restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters, museums are all good places to ask about a student discount. Even if they don’t advertise that they do student discounts, by asking, you might find out that they do!
Almost all public transportation accepts student IDs for free rides! Take public transport for free and save money on gas.
14. Use the Library
Libraries are often underutilized. Don’t have a computer, and don’t want to buy one? Use the library. Want to read a book for fun? Get it for free at the library. They might even have that movie you were going to rent. Need to print for cheap? Go to the library!
15. Use the Student Healthcare Services
We all are familiar with the expenses that come with the United States healthcare system. Is it broken? Yes. However, as a college student, you most likely have a student health center. Use it when you need it. This can save you a $50 trip to urgent care or even more at the emergency room.
You can get prescriptions such as birth control from the student health center for really cheap, or even free. You are paying for these services in your tuition, so take advantage of them when you need them!
16. Use the School Gym
Another part of your tuition pays for your school gym, so you should definitely use it! Save on the costs of a gym membership and workout for free. A lot of school gyms also offer free exercise classes and inexpensive personal training.
17. Apply for Scholarships
Whatever your GPA is, you should try applying for scholarships. Even if you don’t think you’ll be awarded one, it costs nothing to apply. You might even be surprised! Take advantage of this to help lessen the burden of tuition, no matter how small the reward is.
18. Apply for FAFSA
Maybe you already do this, but be sure you are applying for FAFSA on time every time you need to. You don’t want to forget and be responsible for thousands of dollars of tuition you may have had covered with financial aid. Even if you think your parents make too much, it never hurts to try.
19. Start at Community College
Community college is a great way to start your education on a budget. You will save thousands on tuition to be able to take the same classes that are offered at a four-year school. Community college is a great option if you plan to go into undergrad with an undecided major. Take the time at community college to decide where you really want to invest your money.
20. Be a Good Student
Remember, you’re paying for your classes by unit. Don’t fail that 5 unit class because you could be out a few grand and have to pay to retake it! Be a good student, study hard, and make the most of your education. Classes are expensive, and you only want to pay for what’s necessary to receive your degree.
21. Meal Prep
Meal prepping is beneficial in so many ways, not to mention helping save money in college. By planning out your meals, you can budget your grocery bill to avoid overspending at the grocery store. Buying staples like rice, chicken, and veggies actually isn’t that expensive. You will be able to stretch your meals without starving yourself. Not to mention, meal prepping is a great way to cook healthy meals to fuel your brain and body.
22. Limit Eating Out
This tip isn’t just for college students. The average household spends $3000 a year eating out. That adds up fast! This one definitely goes hand in hand with meal prepping. When you meal prep, you will be less likely to go out for food. Cooking is time-consuming, and eating out is convenient. That’s why setting yourself up with ready-to-go meals will limit the temptation of eating out.
23. Buy Refurbished
If you’re in need of a new computer, look for a refurbished option. Good computers can now cost well over $1000. Most of us just don’t have that kind of cash laying around, especially in college. There are plenty of certified refurbished options available at your disposal. Use those options to find good deals on computers, phones, TVs, etv.
24. Shop Craigslist or Offer Up
Need to furnish your new apartment? Don’t spend money on furniture! At the end of the school year, so many people are moving and ditching perfect furniture. You can find couches, tables, appliances, bed frames, etc., for free or for significantly reduced costs. When you’re living in a college town and partying it up, the last thing you want is your nice furniture getting trashed. Avoid this by reusing someone else’s furniture. That way, should anything spill and stain your couch, it won’t hurt as badly.
25. Host Friendsgiving/Christmas Parties
Save money on food and drinks by hosting potlucks like Friendsgiving! It’s such a fun way to celebrate with your friends before going home for the holidays, and you can all fill your bellies on a big feast for cheap. Having a Secret Santa gift exchange can also save money on gifts. You’ll only need to buy one gift instead of multiple.
26. Go to Happy Hour
Hey, all of us like to go out for food and drinks every once in a while. If this is you, too, try happy hour! Get your food and drinks for discounts and have the same dining experience.
27. Shop at Thrift Stores
Have a costume party coming up? Check out the thrift stores for your costume needs. There’s no reason to spend tons of money on something you may only wear once. Another pro tip: keep all your costume pieces! In need of a cute dress for bid night coming up? Check the thrift stores first before dropping a good chunk of change. Save money in college by being smart about where you’re shopping and how far your money will take you.
28. Join a Club Instead of Greek Life
Greek life can become a major expense. Sorority/Fraternity fees can be thousands a semester. If you live in the house, your rent will most likely be more expensive than living in a separate apartment. Most people join Greek life for the social aspect. You can get the same or similar social experience by joining something like a sports club. A lot of schools offer club sports for a small fee or even for free!
29. Save on Spring Break
Of course, spring break trips in college are a BLAST. You can have just as much fun on spring break by going somewhere affordable vs. not. That trip to Mexico is going to be costly. You have to cover air travel, hotels, food, drinks, and more.
Save money by traveling a little more locally. You can road trip somewhere and split the costs on an Airbnb while enjoying the scenery.
Save Money on Rent/Housing
30. Live Off-Campus
Truth be told, dorms are expensive! Sure, it’s a great experience to be immersed in the campus especially for your first year. However, after that, you should plan to move off-campus. Paying for a dorm and a meal plan can get extremely pricey when compared to renting an apartment a few blocks from the school.
31. Live With Roommates
While living on your own in college sounds appealing, you can significantly reduce your rent costs by living with roommates. Not only are you saving money on rent, but you’re creating a fun social environment for yourself. College roommates can become lifelong friends after the golden years are long passed.
32. Split Costs with Roommates
Want to watch those shows streaming on Hulu, Netflix, HBO, etc? Split those streaming costs with your roommates and watch together. Buying alcohol for that party this weekend? Split the cost with your roommates. This will lower everyone’s bill in the end and help you save money. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to pay their fair share. Use this rule for household items such as cleaning supplies and toilet paper. Everyone can pitch in, and it makes it easier for everyone to save on costs.
33. Use Cheap Renter’s Insurance
Break-ins are notorious around college towns, especially during long breaks. It’s not uncommon for things to be stolen. If your house is open to parties, you never know who will come in and their intent. Protect yourself and your valuables with renter’s insurance. This can save you money in the long run, should you run into any issues with theft, water, or fire damage. Lemonade is a great go-to, and it’s only $5 a month.
34. Consider Living at Home
We all want the college experience of moving out and finally living on our own! However, if you are going to a school close to home, then consider staying to save money on rent. Is it going to be more worth it to you to have the true college experience at a price? These are things you should think through before coming to a decision. Maybe that means living at home for one to two more years and then moving out.
If you can find a happy medium of gaining your independence, but with a better financial situation, you could be putting yourself in a really good position.