College is one of the toughest times in anyone’s life, financially speaking. With our limited budget and mountain load of expenses, the struggle is real. In between tests and projects, the last thing you’d want to stress over is money, so we made you a list of 25 Best Tips to Save Money in College 2018.
Since most students are living on their own, we’re expected to cover all of our basic living expenses – rent, gas, food, and other essentials (learning to adult). The most important thing to keep in mind is consistency. Saving yourself $5 or $10 a day goes a long way. This is a guide on the best ways to save money in college 2018, if you’ve already mastered the art of thriftiness, then you can move on to our guide for side hustling in college.
Saving money is going to require a bit of creativity and willpower, but you’re bank account will thank you.
Here are 25 Best Tips to Save Money in College :
1. Set a budget. – Thanks Captain Obvious! Yes- this is obvious, but most of us don’t do it even though we should. Before the start of each semester, set yourself a detailed budget plan. List down every expense you are expected to cover during your time in college for that given semester (average out how much it costs you for a night out to the club or bar). Make sure to account for even the smallest expenses such as gas or travel allowance. It’s often the small things that add up without you noticing that dents your bank. Keep your receipts and bank statement so you can determine where all your money is going.
Another way to budget yourself is to go on the cash budget- set a certain amount a week- say $100 and pay everything in cash.
Protip: Be very strict with your budget, and always ask for a “cash discount”. Use free phone apps like: PocketGuard, Unsplurge, Mint.
2. Avoid using your credit card. Credit card debt is one of the top causes of debts and bankruptcies in the US. Credit cards are doubled edged swords, you can build great credit if you make payments on time, but if you’re known to always spend more than you make- credit cards are probably not for you. If you have a credit card, avoid using it for impulsive buys- we don’t realize how easy it is to tap and buy. If you can’t afford, don’t buy it- not even on credit.
3. Watch what you eat. Let’s get straight to it: you’re definetly going to save if you stop stop eating out so much, budget yourself for one or two meals out a week. You don’t notice that $10 meal on the bank account, but it piles up. Plan your meals and stick to the plan. Limit the amount of times you eat out- period, and learn to say no, it’ll be a useful skill later in life. You can also create a meal plan so you know exactly how much you’re spending on each meal. Schedule weekly grocery runs and meal preps.
Here are a few Youtube channels to help you with meal preps: Tasty, The Domestic Geek, and here‘s a great post on meal prep.
4. Skip the summer hype. If you’re serious about saving money in college, rethink about how you spend the summer. It might be fun and enticing to head to some expensive all inclusive vacation but just know it comes with a huge cost! Instead of blowing your bank account on summer festivals, find a summer job or internship. This site can help.
If you simply just can’t say no, plan in advance. All inclusive packages are usually cheaper if you book in advance- but do your research. Check out Airefarewatchdog and Theflightdeal to find cheap flight deals. If you’re living on paycheque to paycheque- probably a good idea to skip on the summer or winter vacation.
5. Opt for used items. Do not buy new textbooks right away! For specific courses, you can always find used textbooks. Simply do a quick search on Craigslist, Kijiji, Thriftbooks, or post in your local college group. If you know someone who has taken the same subject as you, it might be a good way to save money to buy their old/used books. You can also rent books from others- there’s no shame in saving a few bucks. You don’t have to be limited to just textbooks- buying used furniture and accessories (such as lamps) is one of the best ways to save money (plus you can always resell them). A great time to buy, is at the end of every semester.
6. Ride a bike. If you have a bike, your saving a whole lot by using your leg muscles, no need to worry about parking, gas, maintenance and bus fares. Only ride a bike if it’s safe to do so, and remember to buy a good lock and sturdy helmet. Not only will you be saving yourself money, you’re helping the environment, plus your health will thank you. It’s just going to suck in the winter, so make sure you bundle up.
7. Use school resources. Most college campuses have their own library with computers centers which are available to all students. If you don’t own a laptop yet (and had been planning to buy one), skip the idea of a brand new purchase (remember to buy used- just make sure it works and has warranty). If you can find the book at your library, rent it out! There’s no need to buy a new one. Make sure you understand all your college’s student resources, some students pay for fees and never use their benefits. I didn’t realize we had a dental benefit plan until my last year!
8. Apply for Scholarships. There are so many college scholarships out there that go unclaimed every year, most of them just require an application and short essays. Don’t miss out on free money. If you’re relying on scholarships to pay through college, it’s important that you keep a close eye on application dates, so apply early. This will give you adequate time to process your scholarship application and get the approval. For scholarship lists: check this link out. Apply to as many as you can, it’s definitely worth your time.
9. Choose where you live carefully. Location matters. Most college students prefer to live off-campus in fancy houses but if you want to save money, staying in the college dormitory, or a relatively cheap rental multiplex might be your best option. Rent is going to be one of your biggest fixed expenses, so don’t skimp on the research. Be sure to calculate in all factors: travel expenses, monthly overheads (internet and hydro). Finding a place close to school might help you save on your travel expenses as you would no longer have to drive to or commute to campus. You can also share your dorm room with a friend or roommate to split the cost. Just don’t go to cheap and end up in a sketchy area- safety first! Places4students, and Rent is a great place to compare prices. Don’t forget to negotiate on prices!
10. Take advantage of campus amenities. College life is supposed to be fun. But just because you’re trying to save money, doesn’t mean you can’t the most out your college experience. Many campuses have a variety of activities open for students to enjoy – from fitness classes, music festivals, and movie nights! It is also a great opportunity to network and socialize with your fellow college students. If there’s free food- that should be enough to get you to show up. Check your college website to take advantage of free amenities.
11. Invest in your own coffee maker. For most people, coffee is their morning fuel. However, buying coffee on-the-go every single morning can be very expensive over time. That $5+ a day on your latte will cost you $1,825+ a year. Investing in your own coffee or espresso maker will prove to be one of the best investments you can make in your college years. You can split the cost of a new coffee maker with your roommate- or even buy a used one. If you’re not looking to buy a used one, Amazon has plenty of great and cheap coffee makers. Hamilton Beach Coffee Maker is one of the best-selling on Amazon; it’s great quality, reliable and budget-friendly (and looks sweet). Find it: here.
Plus: You can also make your own coffee for those late night assignments in the comfort of your own home.
12. Have at least one ‘no-spend’ day each week. This is a hard one, but it’s going to save you a bunch of money. At the beginning you might find the idea of a ‘no-spend’ day quite challenging, but it’s all about consistency and self-control. It’s just like developing a habit, except this one saves you a bunch of money. Pick a day (you should pick a weekday so you can still “splurge” on the weekend) and don’t spend any money on that day. We suggest picking the day right after grocery and meal prep day. Easier said than done, but it’s worth your effort.
13. Take advantage of student discounts. A lot local restaurants and stores offer student discounts that most people are oblivious to (did you know: Apple offers student discounts?). Most discounts can be enjoyed by simply presenting your student ID, so carry your ID around with you at all times. If you’re unsure, do not be afraid to ask! There’s no shame in saving a few bucks. A dollar a day goes a long way! Check out this list.
14. Cancel premium app or games subscription. If you’re in college, do you really need to be spending top dollar on apps and games? Chances are, you don’t. And if you really do- find someone to share the costs with. Cancel any of your premium app subscriptions so you can save money in college. It’s small, but it’s going to have a significant impact on your budget over time. Nothing wrong with sharing Netflix accounts.
15. Monitor your cell phone usage. If you really want to save, you can monitor your data usage and downgrade to a cheaper plan if you have data excess.Do not go over your data- ever. So make sure your phone Wi-Fi is enabled 24/7, and always ask for Wi-Fi access. There are plenty free websites or tools that can help keep track of your cell phone usage, including your service provider’s app.
16. Shop during sales only. Only- is the keyword, when buying your consumables (toilet paper, detergent, soap); buy them when they are on sale ONLY- and buy in bulk. You might not realize it but if you get 50% off toothpaste, that’s in some sense, an immediate return on your money. So if you see a great sale, don’t be afraid to stock up. Read your local flyers. Be sure to check out: Groupon, eBates, Coupons, and SmartSource, Flipp for discounts.
17. Stop shopping unless you need to. Captain Obvious checking in again. But seriously, if you want to save money in college, stop shopping unless you need to. The convenience of online shopping has made it quite tempting for shoppers to buy in an impulsive manner. But before you click on the checkout button, sleep on it – maybe you really don’t need to spend a few days’ worth of pay on that extra pair of shoes or brand new coat. You likely already have one.
18. Create a needs vs wants list. Here’s how you do #17. List down the items that you would normally buy and categorize them as ‘needs’ or ‘wants’. The next time you are compelled to buy something new, you can refer to that list to help with your decision making. Yes, those pair of shoes would look good on you- but you don’t need them. This might be a simple list but it can be life-changing if you’re willing to be strict.
19. Look for an e-book or scan the library for resources. Still looking for your course books? Before buying a used one, you can even look for e-books (they can be cheaper). Just do a simple post on the campus social group. You can also leverage your student library and check if they have the book then scan the specific chapters you need.
20. Go on the ramen diet. The ramen diet has recently gained popularity in the college communities. It’s fast and convenient, not to mention inexpensive too! If you’re looking into saving money, and don’t feel like meal prepping everyday, this diet is for you. There are several benefits to investing in the ramen diet. Aside from the fact that it’s extremely cheap, you actually do have more than one choice (simply buy different types/brands of ramen noodles). It’s also very easy to prepare so you can save time when making your own “gourmet” ramen meals at home. Most ramen noodles can be prepared by heating them in a microwave or adding hot water. You can pimp it up by getting creative and adding eggs, chicken and seaweed. How much simpler can this get?
21. Take advantage of coupons. Before you go shopping, do a quick search over the web and see if you can find any coupons. Sites such as have plenty of information and deals. There’s usually coupons at your local campus center or at the front of most grocery stores. If you’re a frequent Amazon or online shopper, you can also Install the google chrome extension called Honey, it automatically finds if there’s any discount codes or coupons when you check out (and most online retailers have some). Again, make sure you check out: Groupon, eBates, Coupons, and SmartSource.
22. Pay some of your student loan while in college. If you have student loans, try and make payments towards it while in college. It’s an indirect way of saving (future you will thank you). Any amount of money or savings that you can make while you are in college, make sure you use some of that towards paying off the loans. Even $20 a week will take you far. The longer you wait before you pay off your student loan, the more interest will accrue over time. It’s always good to think ahead!
23. Use only FREE software. Who doesn’t love free stuff? Before you feel compelled to purchase a license for software, check if any of your friends or your roommates have a licensed version of that software first. For every paid software, there are just as many free software that work just as well. If you can’t get a free version of Microsoft Office, use Google Docs. If you’re looking for more specific programs, check out these sites like TechRadar, and Freestudentsoftware.
24. Pay yourself first. This is savings 101. If you tend to overspend, force yourself to save by automating the process. Make an automatic transfer to your savings every month. You can easily set this up at your local branch or online. For instance, on the day your pay cheques are deposited, automatically transfer $25 into your savings account on that day. Combine this with all the tips above and you should easily be saving your way through college, more importantly you’re developing important self-control skills that will pay greater dividends later in life.
25. Graduate on time! Saved the most obvious one for last, so the captain gets the last word. Every semester or year you spend in college entails a cost – a big one! The longer you are in college, the more you have to spend. It’s also a huge indirect drain on your savings since you’ll be accumulating more interests and you’ll lose an “indirect” salary.
Saving money isn’t easy, but it’s well worth the effort. College is a time for learning, not just academically, but more importantly; personally. Read and learn as much as you can! As Benjamin Franklin would say: “ An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. The habit of saving a little today will pay huge dividends in years to come. Hopefully this list of Best Tips to Save Money in College  gave you some ideas, or at the very least, reminded you on your savings goals.
Next, find a high-yield savings account or open up an investment account to let your earnings work for you- Do diligent research and keep your fees low! Remember that every step, no matter how small, will increase your savings.
PS: Don’t forgot to have fun in college! You can always ball on a budget.
Have you tried any of these tips? If you’ve got any other tips, feel free to share them! Sharing is caring!