If you’re finding it hard to make ends meet in college, you’re not alone. Rising tuition costs and living expenses make it increasingly challenging for students to stay on a budget. That doesn’t mean you have to be a “starving student” – there are plenty of great ways to save money in college. We’ve gathered some ‘do’s and don’t’s’ for smart spending in school and beyond.
Top 10 Ways to Save Money in College
- DON’T buy new textbooks. Textbooks can be surprisingly expensive. Before you hit the campus bookstore, see if you can borrow books from a fellow student or from the university library. If not, buy or rent used textbooks at Amazon.com. You can also rent books from Chegg or Barnes & Noble’s textbook service or order digital textbooks through sites like iFlipd, which offer a pay-as-you-go model.
- DON’T leave home without your student ID. Discounts are available on everything from clothing to laptop and notebook computers for those with a valid student ID. For example, Apple, and Adobe offer reduced prices on tech, while hundreds of big brands like Madewell, Forever 21, and J.Crew give money off on clothing. Local restaurants and chains often give money off on meals, so be sure to ask before you order!
- DO limit meals out. If you bought into the meal plan at school, use it! Student discounts aside, the costs of eating out can add up quickly. Consider investing in a good coffee maker instead of spending money every morning on lattes.
- DO choose housing wisely. It usually costs less to live in the dorms than it does to . Stretch your housing budget even further by splitting the cost with a roommate.
- DO explore campus amenities. Check out activities that are available on campus. Everything from movie nights to fitness classes might be offered free of charge.
- DON’T own a car. Parking, gas, and insurance (not to mention unexpected car repairs) add up to a substantial amount. You can always use public transit, borrow a friend’s car, or use a Zipcar if you need to travel long distance. Uber and Lyft are also affordable ways to get around when you need to go off-campus.
- DO visit your local bank. Ask about checking and savings accounts designed especially for college students. These often have lower fees and no minimum balance required. To track your balance and avoid expensive overdraft charges, use online banking to check your balance regularly.
- DO monitor cell phone usage. Services like My Data Manageror WhistleOut.com will analyze your cell phone bills to make sure you have the best plan in place. They’ll also alert you if you exceed your monthly data limit. Make sure you understand your cell phone settings – weakened WiFi can force your phone to switch over to data when you’re unaware!
- DON’T be careless with credit cards. If you do elect to get a credit card, choose one with the lowest interest rate and only charge what you can afford to pay off in full each month. This will help you avoid late fees and costly credit card debt while you establish good credit for your future.
- DO stay focused on your studies! Many students don’t complete their degree within four years, and every additional semester is another big expense. To stay on schedule, take advantage of university resources like tutoring and academic advising.
Bonus Tips to Save Money in College
Buy in bulk. Get a membership card for a store like Sam’s Club where you can pick up nonperishable items and toiletries in large amounts.
Meet application deadlines. Some scholarships renew each year. If you take the time to reapply, be sure to get your forms and letters of recommendation in on time.
Start paying off interest now. If you took out student , make in-school payments when you can. Even just $10 a month can make a big difference in the long run.
There’s no great secret to how college kids save money – it just takes a little common sense and discipline. Remember that you’re in college to learn and earn your degree. Meeting your academic and budgetary goals will not only help you make the most of your college experience – it will help you start your financial future off right.