College is a time of fun, learning, and exploring who you are and who you want to be. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when money is usually quite tight. Most students leave college with $33,000 of student loan debt, so it’s important to enter your college career with a mind for frugality.
There are lots of creative ways to save money. Some are easy, some require a bit of discipline. Here are some quick tips for how to save money in college:
1. Avoid the bookstore. Rent or purchase used books online rather than using the expensive campus bookstore.
2. Share books. If you have a friend in the same class, offer to share textbooks, splitting the cost down the middle.
Food and Drink
3. Forego your latte for a regular coffee. If you frequent coffee shops, a latte or other specialty beverage can set you back upwards of $5. Regular coffee and tea are always a few bucks cheaper, which adds up in the long run. If you’re able to, save even more money by making coffee at home before you go out. (We love this compact, single-serve coffee maker that brews directly into a travel mug!)
4. Drink water, not soda. Instead of spending a couple bucks for a soda each day, purchase a reusable water bottle. Water can help keep your body working efficiently, reducing the need for a caffeinated pick-me-up.
5. Grocery shop for the week. If you live off campus, don’t shop for meals as you need them. This often leads to impulse buying and breaks your budget. Instead, plan your meals with your roommates and be sure to divide the bill evenly between everyone.
6. Clip coupons. Scan the local paper for coupons each Sunday and scope out free coupon websites before each trip to the store. Be careful, though: don’t let a good deal entice you into buying something you don’t really need.
7. Kick cable to the curb. Cable television is extremely expensive. Choose a free or low-cost streaming option instead.
8. Find free fun. When you want to do something fun with your friends, scope out free or low-cost options available in your area. Look for a local park, zoo, or museum that is free to the public. Instead of eating at a restaurant, have a picnic or invite your friends over for a potluck meal. Rather than going to a theater, host a movie night or TV show marathon.
9. Use your student ID. If you do end up going out somewhere, ask if the establishment offers a student discount. Movie theaters, restaurants, museums, and other businesses, especially those in college towns, sometimes offer discounts for students if they show their ID.
10. Take the bus. Many local communities offer free or reduced bus fare for college students. Instead of wasting money on gassing up your car, take advantage of this perk to get from point A to point B. If you must drive, carpool, and alternate who drives to keep things fair.
11. Bike it. If you have a bike, use it. Not only will this save you gas and parking expenses, it will help keep you fit. Plus, it’s usually much easier to find a place to park your bike than your car.
12. Shop in thrift stores. Before hitting the mall, check out local thrift stores to see what fashion-forward bargains you can find. If you’re crafty, you can always turn something old into something new! Try selling your old clothes on eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook community groups. To avoid using extra money, use only the profits from those sales to purchase new clothes.
13. Don’t use your credit card. If you have a credit card, don’t carry it with you at all times. Instead, take a modest amount of cash with you when you go out and save your credit card for real financial emergencies.
Saving money is never easy, which is why most Americans carry such high amounts of debt. Developing thrifty and frugal habits in college can not only help you ease some of the stress that comes with being a broke college student, but it can also give you a solid foundation for good spending habits once you graduate.
Russel Cooke is a business consultant and writer from Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from the University of Louisville, and worked in the Louisville area for over ten years before become an independent consultant and business writer. He recently relocated to Los Angeles, California. You can follow Russel on Twitter @RusselCooke2.
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