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Hey struggling college student, are you trying to figure out some ways to save money in college?
College is one of the best times of your life.
You don’t want money stresses to hold you back from this memorable time in your life.
What are some ways to save money in college?
Should you create a budget?
Have you had the itch to start saving money but don’t know how to get started?
You realize the benefits of saving money, like:
- Growing your savings account
- Building an emergency fund
- Stocking your bank account for your transition to the workforce when you graduate
- Paying for school
- Reducing your debt
- Learning to be financially independent
But, you wonder how you can actually get there?
These questions and more will be answered in this article.
Make sure to bookmark so you can come back to it later!
10 Ways to Save Money in College
These are going to be broken down by a DO’s and DON’TS. Take a look.
1. Don’t Leave Home Without Your Student I.D.
Take advantage of your student discount all around town, from getting discounts at fast food restaurants to saving money on everyday purchases on groceries, electronics, home goods, and more.
So before you leave the house, make sure you’ve got your student I.D., which is usually the only proof you need to claim your discount.
Here are some more examples of student discounts that you might not be taking advantage of:
- Apple products
- Adobe products
- Amazon Prime
- Jiffy Lube
- Hancock Fabrics
- The New York Times
- The Wall Street Journal
- J. Crew
- Sam’s Club
- Banana Republic
- Charlotte Russe
- Sally Beauty Supply
- Kate Space
Take a look at these 100+ stores where you can get a student discount.
2. Don’t Be Careless with Credit Cards
This is a big mistake in college.
You are new to money and learning the ropes with finances.
You can fall into credit card debt really easily.
My Personal Story of Falling Into Credit Card Debt as a College Student
I was a junior in college and I had just transferred to a new university in a big city.
I was promised free Subway in exchange for a credit card application.
Subway is a chain restaurant that serves submarine sandwiches, if you aren’t familiar.
I remember the person hosting that Subway stand telling me, “don’t worry you won’t get approved.”
But, I did!
And, I actually qualified for 2 credit cards.
I promised myself that I would only use one and I ended up using both and maxing out both cards before I graduated.
So, thousands of dollars in debt for a free Subway sandwich.
Don’t make the same mistake I did.
Credit cards are a neat way to help you build credit.
They are revolving debt and a mix of debt, revolving and installment loans (like personal loans, auto loans, etc.) are great for building up your credit and helping you earn a strong credit score.
There’s a smart way to use credit cards to reach that goal.
Take a look at these suggestions:
- Set up automatic payments on your credit card to ensure you pay on time, every time
- Ask for a credit limit increase twice a year (which helps lower your debt utilization ratio)
- Keep your account open
- Keep balances low
- Use for purchases that you can afford to pay cash for (small buys like gas, groceries, etc.)
More on this: Using a Credit Card to Build Your Credit
3. Don’t Live Alone
Embrace this lifestyle.
It’s a great way to save money.
You can split the rent, split the utilities, food cost, and more.
I was watching a video recently where this millennial described how she paid off $40,000 in a year, following her graduation.
One of her tricks was living with roommates.
She even went a step further and got a roommate for her room.
So she paid a whopping $250/month, which is truly unheard of for rent.
She continued this way of living after college, which allowed her to save heaps of money.
If you’re up for going the extra mile, you might want to take a look at these extreme ways to save money.
4. Don’t Eat Out
This one is a no-brainer.
Eating out is expensive.
It is a lot more cost-effective to cook at home.
This one can be tough to navigate with a busy college lifestyle but if you truly want to save money in college, you’ve got to do it.
Here are some ideas to help you save on food costs in college:
- Meal Prep
- Pack Snacks
- Cook in batches
- Freezer cook
- Crockpot cook
- Cook family style
- Split food costs with roommates/friends
Meal Prep for Saving Money
Meal prep means preparing your meals in advance.
This saves time and saves money.
This is how I do it in my household.
Every Sunday is meal prep day.
I do grocery shopping the day before usually so, Sunday, the house is stocked with all the ingredients to start prepping meals.
I will crank out 4 to 5 meals, cook them, and store in meal prep containers for easy lunches and dinners all week long.
I also prep snacks.
This means portioning out and packing snacks for the whole house.
Meal Prep Ideas for Lunches/Dinners
- Turkey Taco Lunch Bowls
- Honey Sesame Chicken
- Chicken Fajita Lunch Bowls
- Grilled Veggies and Black Beans
Meal Prep Ideas for Snacks
- Trail mix
- Fruit/yogurt parfaits
Here’s how to start meal prepping for beginners:
Step 1: Plan out your meal
This means picking your menu for the week, making a grocery list of all ingredients, making sure to survey your kitchen stock first so you don’t overbuy then, do your grocery shopping trip.
Step 2: Buy the ingredients
Go to the grocery store, list in hand and buy your supplies.
Don’t shop hungry.
Don’t shop if you’re in a cranky mood.
Make sure you have enough time.
Shop alone, if it helps you.
Give yourself a reward for doing the grocery trip.
If you’re like me, you hate grocery shopping.
Any time I have to do something I don’t want to, I attach a small reward at the end of it, as motivation to help me through that task.
Like, a small ice cream cone or a Starbucks coffee, a hot bath, going to bed early (yes this is a treat), and more.
Step 3: Start Cooking
This might feel overwhelming.
You will likely be cooking multiple meals at once.
If you’re doing this right, it’ll take a few hours to make a handful of meals for the week.
Step 4: Prep It
Once all meals are cooked, next you will portion out meals into individual servings.
You can use meal prep containers like these ones and store them easily in your fridge.
When you’re hungry, grab a container and you’re good to go!
Recommended reading: 10 Meal Prepping Tips for Beginners
Packing Snacks So You Never Go Hungry
This is a big help that is often forgotten.
Pack snacks for yourself.
Buy snacks in big batches.
You will save the most money if you are a member of a warehouse store like Sam’s Club or Costco.
Portion out the snacks into individual servings and have one or two on hand always in your purse, bag, or backpack so if you’re hungry, you won’t be tempted to buy food on the go because you’ll have your own!
Mastering the Art of Batch Cooking
You will fall in love with batch cooking!
It goes hand in hand with meal prep.
Whether or not you decide to pursue meal prep, batch cooking is still a money saving strategy you should use always.
You cook all your meals at once and eat them all week long.
This means you don’t have to cook new meals daily.
You won’t have to worry about cooking hungry.
When you’re ready to eat, there’s no waiting, you’ll have a prepared meal ready and on hand.
Freezer Cooking to Save Time
Freezer cooking means you’ll be cooking food for the purpose of freezing so you’ll have cooked food ready and frozen, ready to reheat and eat, right away.
Resources for freezer cooking:
Crockpot Cooking for Easy Homestyle Eating
Crockpot cooking is cooking your food in a crockpot.
You’ll get delicious, homestyle-tasting food that will make you drool.
Crockpot cooking is not just for the winter season.
Enjoy crockpot food all year long.
Why Do People Love Crockpot Cooking?
It’s easy, fun, and requires little work.
You basically just throw all your ingredients into a pot, set the time and let it cook.
A lot of working professionals will start their crockpot in the morning, at the start of their day, go to work and when they return home, they have a pot of hot food ready and waiting for them to eat.
Here’s how you do it:
First, invest in a good crockpot.
You’ll want to make sure it’s a good size, big enough to feed you and your family (or roommates).
Make sure it has different heat settings (like low, medium, high) and if you have one that has a timer, that’s a bonus!
Next, plan out your meals.
Make sure you have all ingredients on hand.
Then, follow the instructions and cook your meals.
This is perfect to pair with meal prep, batch cooking and/or freezer cooking, too!
Cooking Family Style Saves Money
Cooking family style is a great way to save.
Cook a big meal for your entire house (family or roommates), eat, and enjoy!
Try circulating this task with all your roommates.
Split the costs of the meal for even more savings.
Splitting Food Costs to Drastically Reduce Your Food Budget
If you are living with a roommate, split food costs.
This is much cheaper than buying your own food.
Give this a try.
5. Don’t Be Without a Job or Side Hustle
Make sure to have a job or side hustle while going to school.
Living off student loans or grants might be tempting but it’s better if you just work and a have a small job on the side.
Working part-time is better than not working at all.
When I was in college, towards the end of my degree program, I felt burnt out.
I had been working the entire time I was attending school and I needed a break.
So, I took one!
I took a year off of work, when in hindsight, I should have just transitioned from full-time to part-time work or school hours.
I also took out a student loan to supplement my income during that time.
Today, almost a decade later, I’m still paying for it!
Here are some college job ideas to get you started:
- Delivery driver for Postmates, DoorDash, Uber, or Lyft
- Take surveys online to earn up to $600+ per month
- Make money with Amazon
- Try one of these 35 work from home gigs
6. Don’t Stress Out
Don’t stress about college life or money.
Stress can actually make you sick.
It has an impact on your physical health and mental health.
Getting sick means a trip to the doctor or emergency room, which can be expensive.
So, avoid stress if you can.
College is a fun time.
Set reasonable goals.
Meet those goals.
Rinse and repeat.
7. Do Watch Your Spending
This can include:
- Eating out
- Extracurricular events (like football games, etc.)
- Going out with friends
- Night life
- And, more!
Track your spending habits and create a budget.
Start using a budget app, like Mint.
Must Read: 13 Money Management Apps to Try This Year
8. Do Take Advantage of Campus Amenities
Take advantage of these.
This can include:
- Basketball courts
- Other sports courts
- General store
A lot of these are totally free, as a part of your admission with the college you attend.
This goes back to taking advantage of all the student perks you can.
My sister went to school for over a decade and today she has multiple degrees and her dream job.
She didn’t miss a beat during her school years, claiming as many student discounts as she could, including restaurant deals, half price discounts, discounted software, Amazon prime and more.
Don’t miss out.
9. Do Cook at Home
Cooking at home is a must do to save tons of money.
Cooking can be fun, allowing you to explore your creative side and make delicious, nutritious meals.
Save even more money with these cooking hacks:
- Buy staple ingredients that you can use for multiple recipes (like onions, garlic, pasta, rice, beans, etc.)
- Scan your receipt with Ibotta for cashback
- Buy fresh produce that’s in season
- Shop farmer’s markets
10. Do Embrace Free Activities
Free activities are totally underrated.
There are so many free events that fly under the radar.
These will probably surprise you:
- Music in the park
- Walking around campus
- Citywide festivals
- Campus events
- Sports events
- Movie marathons at home
- House parties
- Free museum days
Consider embracing a no-spend weekend, too.
Try this, one weekend a month or more, if you can and explore one or more of these activities above.
11. Do Study and Get Good Grades
You might wonder how studying and getting good grades helps you save money.
If you get good grades, study, and pass your classes, that means you won’t have to repeat that class.
Repeating classes is super expensive.
You are paying to retake the class.
So, it’s like you’re double paying for the same class.
This is why studying and passing your class is super important.
It also means of course, less time in college and the faster you can enter into the workforce.
12. Do Buy Used Everything
Lastly, buy used to save money.
Used products costs a lot less than new items and a lot of times you’ll get comparable quality.
When I was a college kid, I bought used as much as I could, like textbooks, apparel, electronics, and more.
Here are some more examples of used products you can buy to save money:
- Electronics (like MP4 player, computer, tablet, cell phone, etc.)
- Linens (like curtains)
For used apparel, head to your local consignment store or thrift shop.
You can also find used clothes at flea markets.
I’ve personally shopped both stores and they have a huge variety for men, women, and kids.
You can even find brand new clothes (with tag) on these sites for a big discount.
Used electronics are a great money saver.
I recently purchased a used tablet that’s just 2 years older than the current model, but 5 years newer than my previous tablet and I got it a fraction of the price.
Places to Find Used Electronics
A lot of the marketplace websites like those shown above are great for finding used electronics.
You may even be able to get a warranty included!
Used books are a total must as a college student.
Why buy new?
This was my bread and butter as a college student.
Me and all my friends would always ravage bookstores looking for the used version of the textbook we need.
Head to local and campus bookstores or save money with borrowing books from the library.
My first furniture purchase was for used furniture.
I got an entire living room set for under $400, including tables and curtains!
Used furniture can be found at yard sales, rummage sales, thrift stores, and furniture outlets.
Online, look at neighborhood groups like Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace, Facebook groups, and Craigslist.
Lastly, linens are one of those goods that you may think to buy used but you can save a ton of money purchasing used linens, like curtains to furnish your home.
You don’t have to live like a broke college student to save money.
And, you don’t have to wait until after graduation before you start your savings journey.
Saving in college comes with so many perks including helping you live a more fruitful lifestyle, feel secure in your purchase and money decisions, pay for school while attending, minimize and eliminate debt, and save for the future.
Living a More Fruitful Lifestyle
You can live more fruitfully while saving?
Yes, you can!
Saving does not mean you have to go without.
You are just making wiser decisions with your money.
And saving in college means you can grow your savings account, save for big purchases like a car or vacation, and more!
Feel Secure in Purchase Decisions
Feel confident, secure, and good about your spending habits.
You are paving your way through the financial world and learning from your experiences.
When it comes to money, peace of mind is everything.
Nothing beats feeling confident about your money situation.
Pay For School While Still Attending
This is a goal many people have and a lot of folks reach that achievement.
How cool would it be to fully pay for your studies before you graduate.
It can be done and saving is something that will help get you there.
Minimizing and Eliminating Debt
Lastly, saving in college means you can minimize and/or eliminate your debts:
- Auto loan
- School loans
- Credit card debt
- And, more!
Knocking down your debt while still in school is an amazing way to get a good leg up after you graduate.
You do NOT want to be strapped with debt as a new graduate and starting to save money while in college will you aid in helping you meet that goal.
Lets recap these 12 money-saving strategies to save money in college:
- Bringing your student I.D. with you everywhere
- Be smart with credit cards
- Live with others (family or roommates)
- Avoid eating out
- Get a job or side hustle
- Keep stress to a minimum
- Watch your spending habits
- Take advantage of campus perks
- Cook at home
- Embrace free activities
- Study and get good grades
- Buy used when you can
There ya go!
What are some ways you save money in college?