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Every college student knows that being a student is expensive. Tuition costs are rising, textbooks and activities are a major cost, and if you’re staying on campus, food and clothing are a constant budgetary concern. It’s no wonder many students graduate with major debt. The good news is that whether you’re on your own for the first time or coming back to college later in life and wondering “how to save money in college?” we’ve got the information you need.
Wondering how to save money in college when expenses are getting higher every year? It’s all about being aware of every part of your budget. Little expenses add up. Your campus is full of opportunities to save money and make money, and many of the biggest cost-sinks have easy work-arounds if you know where to find them. The key is going off what your campus may tell you and investigating for yourself. By taking greater control of your budget, you can find out how to save money in college without losing any of the fun of the college experience.
Here at Top 10 Best Budget, we’ve put together this list of 20 tips on how to save money in college. Read on to discover how to save money, make money, and make the most out of your college years.
20 TIPS ON HOW TO SAVE MONEY IN COLLEGE
The Used Textbook Store Is Your Best Friend
New, shrink-wrapped textbooks may look good, but they come with a hefty price tag. Large campuses will often have a used bookstore nearby, and Amazon has an extensive section for used textbooks. You can easily cut your annual textbook budget in half by finding alternatives to the campus bookstore. The caveat is to make sure your class doesn’t require a new textbook or digital code.
Invest in a Coffee Maker
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One of the biggest costs for most students is that morning cup of coffee. Popular coffee chains are expensive, and a student with a tough course load can easily drop $20 a day at Starbucks. By buying a coffee maker for your dorm room, you can enjoy hot coffee every morning for pennies and put that money into your savings account.
Get in the Habit of Saving
Small purchases add up, and so do small savings. After your daily purchases, if you have money left over, put it away into a designated saving area. This can be as little as the spare change you have in your pocket. Not only will it add up over the year, but it’ll provide an emergency fund should unexpected costs pop up.
Be Flexible about Your Course Load
Saving little sums is important, but eliminating the cost of a single course can save thousands of dollars over the course of a year. If you’ve taken a similar class at a community college or have a good knowledge of the material, ask the professor or department head about testing out of the course. This not only saves money, it can save you a full semester and help you kick off your career sooner.
Track Your Purchases
It’s easy to lose control of your budget if you use a credit or debit card for everything. Paying cash when possible and keeping an online ledger of credit purchases will help you know of your spending and resources. No more unpleasant surprises at the end of a billing period.
Become a Resident Advisor
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If you stay on campus in the dormitories, you’re familiar with the resident advisor – students responsible for supervising their fellow residents and organizing activities. These students often get free room and board, which saves them a lot of money. This can easily cut your college costs in half.
If you have a Walmart, Target, or major supermarket nearby, you know all about the generic brands of popular products. Even specific cereals have virtual clones retailing for little more than half the price. Stocking essentials like cereal, toilet paper, soap, and tissues with store brand items instead of their brand name counterparts can add up into more spending money quickly.
Use Public Transportation
Gas can add up quickly if you drive everywhere, and while many students bring a car to campus to use for longer trips, most major campuses have a local or private bus system. Students either have free access to the buses or can buy a discounted transportation plan as part of their tuition and take advantages of these buses to get from class to class or around town.
Use the Campus Gym
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A private gym membership can cost hundreds of dollars a year, but you can cancel it if you’re a student because most college campuses have a fully staffed and equipped athletic center that’s open to all current students. You’ll be able to get your daily workout in with no cost beyond a mandatory facilities fee you’re already paying.
Having a bottle of water with you at all times is a good way to keep from getting thirsty during long classes. It also saves money since you won’t be tempted to buy soda or coffee in between classes. For just the cost of a reusable water bottle and water either from the tap of from a gallon of spring water, you’ll have eliminated a needless expense from your budget.
Use the Campus Library
A printer may seem like an essential expense when you have papers due every day, but you can get the same result from the campus library. Unless you’re printing dozens of pages a day, it’s unlikely you’ll run afoul of any maximum printing policy.
Take Advantage of Student Discounts
Current college students are often offered discounts on many common items around town. This can include admission to popular attractions like museums, but is most useful for major electronics purchases, like products from Apple and Dell. You should carry your student identification everywhere to take advantage of these discounts.
Plan Your Laundry Days in Advance
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Most laundry rooms in colleges charge per load, and it can provide a small but stable source of savings over the year if you wait to do your laundry until you have full loads to run. The machines charge is the same sum for a full load or only a few items, so this can save you both time and money.
Take Care of Your Possessions
Nothing throws a budget off kilter like an unexpected expense when something essential breaks or is stolen. Protecting your items with small purchases like surge protectors and bike locks costs a little in the short term, but it can save you hundreds, if not thousands, over the long term. You should also protect your computer with trusted antivirus software and keep expensive items secure in your dorm room or backpack.
One of the best cost-saving measures is to take a pass on expensive professional treatments like dying, cutting, and styling your hair. Replacing expensive professional salon treatments with an occasional low-cost haircut and some personal styling at home can save hundreds a semester.
Cook for Yourself
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If you don’t have an all-inclusive dining plan or you aren’t satisfied with the on-campus options, the cost of eating out can add up quickly. After checking your campus rules about appliances, adding a hot plate or slow cooker like an Instant Pot to your dorm room can open new options to you and your roommates. You can prepare hundreds of recipes using these simple, self-contained appliances.
Every semester you’ll see a list of services on your bill for on-campus facilities and benefits. Ask your student advisor if any of these are optional. Health or dental insurance are unnecessary if you can remain on your parents’ insurance, and facilities like the gym or pool may be unnecessary if you’re not interested in these activities.
Stream, Don’t Buy
Monthly subscription services like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime offer a broad library of entertainment or music for a small cost a month – less than $10 a month, or slightly more for Amazon (which also provides major shipping savings). By comparison, a single DVD or Blu-Ray can cost over $20 and a cable package can reach $50 per month.
Pay off Debts
Paying off your student loans while still in college is unusual, but it can save you thousands of dollars in interest. The longer a debt stays on your record, the more it costs to pay it off and the worse it looks on your record. Take some of those savings each month from our other tips and apply it to your student loans, and you’ll be amazed by just how much of your student debt is already paid off when you graduate.
Focus on Academics
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This one is a two-part tip. In college, you’ll be under extensive pressure to blow off studying to have fun and party, but a night out can result in big, unexpected bills and a lost night of academic progress. A failed test or project can cause you to have to repeat a course, and that can be a thousand-dollar mistake. Keeping the focus on your studies will benefit you educationally and financially.
With these 20 tips on how to save money in college, you’ll find yourself with much more disposable income during and after college. The time is now to take charge of your budget and make the most of your college experience.