StraighterLine is committed to saving students money on their tuition, and we’re not the only way to save money during your college years. Learning how to save money while in college will pay off in the form of less debt when you start your post-college life. These ideas are important for every college student, but if you're also starting a family, buying a house, or running your own business, you have even more reasons to try these money-saving strategies.
You see, these 13 tips not only apply while you’re earning your degree, you can also use them for your personal finances and business budgeting long after you’ve graduated. Saving money never goes out of style, so whether you have to, need to, or want to save money, start with these tips and apply the principles to all areas of your life.
Here's How to Save Money in College
Our first tip: don't buy new textbooks - when possible, buy used, or better yet -- take advantage of free etextbooks available with some online course providers! Textbooks costs can be a shock to your wallet, but there are plenty of other options. The savvy textbook shopper starts shopping early, so they can take advantage of online options and used bookstores. Some schools have even converted to e-books in order to cut costs. Ask the professors if you need textbook, or if your note-taking will help you pass exams – most of the time you get a candid answer that can save you money. Don’t forget to sell your books at the end of a term to get some of that cash back.
Next, learn to brew your own coffee - paying several dollars a day to enjoy hot beverages is wasted money! Sure, you need your caffeine and sugar fix and the campus coffee shop is just SO convenient. But Bustle.com calculates that buying coffee at a popular café can cost $240 - $1,200 a year, depending on how often you stop. Stack that against the $45 per year cost of brewing your own coffee and you can see immediate savings.
Following that, learn some basic cooking skills and make your own meals - eating out is expensive. Setting a grocery budget is one of life’s basic skills, so you might as well start now. Most grocery stores have methods to help you save: member cards, in-store coupons and vendor coupons. There are also many websites that will help you plan economic meals specifically for college students and Pinterest boards galore to help in this money-saving quest.
Use all the free campus services you can - work out for free, attend free entertainment events and use the campus cafeteria if these services are available to you for no cost or a very small fee. Most campuses bustle with activity, so keep your eyes and ears open. Download the campus app to get news and alerts on activities you enjoy – and don’t forget the library! Commuters, don’t be afraid to get involved on campus. You, too, can have a meal plan tailored to meet your needs, attend sporting and entertainment events for free and work out in the athletic facilities.
Get discounts with your student ID - if you need a computer or software, you're probably eligible for great discounts. Check with the manufacturers. Around town, don't be ashamed to show your student ID and ask for discounts at local businesses. Most businesses located near any college campus will offer a student discount for any student from any college, so train yourself to ask (because they won’t always ask you). This goes for food, movie tickets, even thrift shops. Beyond that, using your campus email address to purchase technology can often get you a student discount as well. Always ask your student services office (or your professors) when making a technology purchase to see if they have recommended vendors who offer student discounts.
Don't sign up for cable television - pay for internet access and watch quality entertainment for free or at a very low cost with services like Hulu. Forget hundreds of channels you don’t need and opt instead for internet service coupled with any of the hot third-party entertainment options. From Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV and Amazon Prime, you’ll save money over cable even if you sign up for more than one of these services.
Even More Ways to Save Money in College
Avoid using or limit your ability to use credit cards - if you can avoid using one, you'll save hundreds in monthly payments and interest. Use a checking account debit card and balance your account regularly. Beware credit card vendors and offers posted on campus; they are not your friend. Sure, this may seem like a good idea on the front end, but what college student can afford to start making payments on a high-interest credit card while they’re still in college? Use this rule: if you want the credit card because you need to buy things, you really don’t need it at all. Focus instead on increasing your income and leave the credit cards alone.
Get used to going without a car - walk, get a good bike, learn how to use public transportation, ride share with a fellow student or use a car service like Zipcar. The costs associated with car payments, insurance, maintenance and gas will put a dent in your income quickly, as will unexpected repairs, flat tires and dead batteries. With all the other options available, exploring your environment doesn’t have to break the bank. And if you have a car, offer ride sharing to pay for gas and be thoughtful about how often you use your car.
Shop at thrift stores - there are fantastic clothes, including designer labels, at local thrift stores. It's not unusual to find new clothes with the original store tags still attached, so check in to the thrift stores about once a month and learn how to find great clothes at low prices you'll be proud to wear. You might also be surprised to find furniture, décor and kitchen items, too! Many thrift stores offer student discounts and hold regular discount days.
Share housing costs - get roommates! Many college students live close to campus in apartments or houses with other students in order to save money over living on campus. Housing and utility costs are huge, so learning how to successfully share space with others can give your bottom line a boost. Beyond the cost savings, you’ll also learn how to negotiate relationships and put those conflict management skills to good use.
Still More Ways to Save Money in College
Keep applying for scholarships - never, ever stop applying every year you're in school. You don’t stop being eligible for scholarships just because you’ve started college. All scholarships vary, so you might need to renew yours every semester or every year. You can also keep searching for scholarships – there are scholarships for (nearly) everything and, of course, your GPA and career interests.
Negotiate with the financial aid office on grants and scholarships - learn how to bargain and discuss financials to get a better deal. Become friends with your financial aid officer, they are your best resource for information on everything from completing your FAFSA to the best time to apply for grants and loans. At the same time, the business office (bursar) can help you negotiate a payment plan that may help you avoid unnecessary costs as well navigate deadlines for payments and refunds.
Understand your school’s policies about drop/add and withdrawal from classes - in the event you need to drop or add a class, you can pile some serious cost onto your education. Most colleges and universities have different deadlines for withdrawal from classes, after which you can receive a full refund, partial refund or no refund. It literally pays to know the time table.
StraighterLine can help you save money before you officially start college and while you are enrolled, and you can see there are many other ways to save money while attending college as well. These 13 tips are just for starters. Let your friends and family know you’re trying to save money and ask them to share their money saving tips with you. You can be creative or even cut back on luxuries, but the less debt you accumulate, the more cash flow you’ll have after graduation.