Money Saving Tips for College Students
Aside from acing your finals after getting very little sleep, the true collegiate accomplishment is found by cutting costs any way possible. Sure, your undergraduate experience will give you a wealth of knowledge in more ways than one, but the tried and true winner will be your student discount. Even those with part-time jobs in college will find themselves short on cash from time to time.
Here are some of the top money saving tips for college students.
Rent over buying
You’ll need a new set of textbooks every semester, but never buy them! Chances are you won't read the entire book from cover to cover. In reality, you'll have a handful of required texts for each assigned class with each new book featuring a very hefty price tag. There are even times when your “required” textbook will never need to be opened.
If you must, rent the textbook but hold off as long as possible. Sometimes a professor will only use a few sections from each book. If one of the textbooks on your syllabus says, “optional reading,” skip it altogether. If it seems like the only option is to buy a book, try to find the digital version rather than the hard copy.
Laptops, calculators, exam clickers - almost every college student ends up buying these things for one semester and then never needs them again. Companies like Dell, Apple, and Adobe will offer student discounts for certain products. Keep an eye out for tech deals associated with your student status.
The same rule applies for clothing. Buy used instead of buying new. Thrift and consignment stores will offer a variety of clothing appropriate for that internship you’ve been eyeing. If you must buy new, find online sites with great discounts and promo codes on everything from designer clothing to the Halloween costumes you’ll only wear once.
Use your meal plan
Purchase a meal plan that fits your needs. Identify when and how often you eat in order to choose the right plan for you, generally aligning your meal plan with your class schedule if possible. Plenty of dining halls will offer healthy options and a variety of food to satisfy the number of students rotating through the cafeteria daily. Especially for students living on campus without access to a full kitchen, a dining plan will cut costs on dining out and lessen the stress of having to plan meals in advance.
Deals and steals
Use coupons, sign-up for a rewards card with the local grocery store, and use Google Alerts for updates on affordable entertainment whenever possible. Check your local grocery store for daily and weekly deals and get creative with your meals. As a general rule of thumb, never make a trip to the grocery store when you’re hungry. This will prompt overspending on things you don’t need.
In order to dilute the possibility for overspending at the grocery store, keep a list of planned meals. Create a shopping budget for groceries and stick to it. If you must eat out, certain restaurants will offer discounts with deal sites, take Groupon or LivingSocial for example. This is especially true for new and up-and-coming places. These same sites are also a great tool for cheap date nights or stay-cations with friends. Entertainment or 'going out' doesn't have to be expensive!
Take advantage of campus amenities
Use the school library when you need to study or are looking to rent materials for class. Certain schools will rent miscellaneous items like camera and video equipment, iPads, laptops, and outdoor recreational gear. Talk to a representative from your university’s resource center to find out what specifically your school has to offer.
This can include a variety of perks ranging from discounted partnerships with local businesses to student ride sharing when planning a weekend trip at home. These “freebies” to take advantage of include working out at your school’s gym instead of buying a private membership, using your school’s bike sharing option, or free computer coursework through your IT Department to bulk up your resume.
Opt for roommates
Roommates have become a fact of life. If you’re apartment shopping on your own, it would be best to search for a roommate to cut costs. If you have the ability to live alone, by all means, forge on. However, if you’re looking to save extra coin a roommate would be an economical fit. If not a friend or potential classmate, living with your parents is a great way to save costs on housing. On the plus side, having a roommate is having a built-in companion if you happen to be compatible. Cutting half the rent can also translate to splitting grocery costs that can add up over time. Just be mindful on setting boundaries for your Netflix password.
Find the free food
Free food and student events go hand in hand. Attend university events where there are free meals and snacks galore. Go to the sorority fundraisers with free cupcakes. Sit in on the pro bono lecture offering free pizza. Sign up for any and every event offering a hot meal. These events are a great way to get involved and not to mention, food is the number one way to break the ice. Outside of student events, working in food service often includes a free staff meal or take home freebies at the end of a shift.