7 Effective Ways of Saving Money as a Student
Most students have limited monthly funds. By taking some simple steps, you can stretch your money further. We’ve outlined seven effective ways to save money as a student.
1. Create a Budget
To most effectively save money as a student, start by creating a monthly budget. This will give you a comprehensive view of your financial situation, so you save as much as you can, control your spending, and plan for the future while still living in the present. One of the best things about making a budget is that you can minimize the amount of debt you have when you graduate.
With a simple spreadsheet and/or an app on your phone, you can make a note of every purchase you make — everything from a book you buy online to a coffee you pay for with cash. Compare your income and expenses over the course of a few weeks, a few months, and the entire year. If you find that your income is greater than your expenses, you’re in a good position to start saving money for emergencies and your future.
If your expenses are more than your income, you’re not alone. You can think about finding ways to close the gap between the two and eventually bring your expenses under your income.
Being diligent about this and regularly reviewing your transactions will make you more aware of where your money is going and help you control unnecessary spending patterns. This will help you distinguish between things you need to buy and things you want to buy. You don’t have to eliminate the “wants” completely, but creating a budget will tell you when you can afford to get a “want” item and when it is better to wait.
2. Don’t Use a Credit Card
Having a credit card might look like it makes life easier, but credit card fees and debt are real problems. For example, don’t pay your college fees (like tuition and housing) with a credit card because there is always a 1.75% fee added to the total. That might not seem much, but 1.75% on a tuition payment of $3,000 is $30, which could have instead been spent on groceries or put in a savings account.
Instead of paying by credit card, see if you can pay directly from your checking account. For small, non-urgent purchases, think about using a debit card or even paying with cash. A Current Visa debit card is a good option for teens and students. Keep your credit for emergencies and for regular, controllable expenses that you can consistently pay off, which will help you build a good credit score.
If you live on campus and are making use of a meal plan, use that resource. Eat in the on-campus dining halls, where you will get a discount with every purchase.
3. Buy Secondhand Books
It’s no secret that textbooks are expensive, but there is a thriving used book market you can tap into. Browse Craigslist and Facebook to find cheap (sometimes even free) books.
If you want to buy new textbooks, Amazon.com (and many other retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar) have rental programs for students, where you won’t have to pay full price for your materials. As long as you can prove you are a student, you should be eligible for many discounts and deals that will save you a lot of money on books.
When you’re done with your semester or quarter, you should look into selling your textbooks back to the retailer where you got them, or put your books up for sale on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
4. Choose Store-Brand Groceries and Do Some Meal Planning
Food and groceries are necessities, but you can still save a lot of money without going hungry. Rely on home cooking more than takeout and restaurant meals, and you will get more value for your dollar (and you will eat healthier too).
Most grocery stores have apps that will let you find digital coupons and rewards, which will save you a lot of money on your grocery bill. You can also save dollars by choosing store-brand groceries, which are often just as good as the name-brand equivalent.
Meal planning is also a big way of saving money, preventing you from splurging on a daytime snack or a late-night pizza order. In the same way that a budget helps you control your finances, meal planning helps you control your meals.
5. Buy in Bulk
While at the grocery store, consider buying in bulk, even if you’re just shopping for yourself. For example, if you buy a $3 cup of coffee every day, you’ll end up paying around $600 for the entire school year. If you buy coffee beans in bulk, you’ll save money on what would otherwise be a daily purchase.
U.S. News & World Report cautions that buying in bulk is an upfront expense, meaning that you’re paying a lot of money now in order to save money later. While that is sound financial advice, you should always check your budget to make sure you can handle the expense of bulk buying. If getting your coffee by the bag is too much, consider a temporary switch to tea or cutting back on your caffeine consumption.
6. Shop Thrift and Discount
To save money while you’re in school, check out discount and thrift stores. You can find a variety of good quality secondhand material, enough to fill out a wardrobe, a dorm room, or even a small apartment.
You can also free up space in your current living arrangement by taking unwanted things to those same thrift stores, relieving you of the thought of moving into a bigger space just because you have a lot of stuff.
7. Don’t Buy on Impulse
A big part of saving money as a student is saying no to impulse buys. Wherever you go, you will be bombarded by marketing that tries to convince you to buy things you don’t need. This is where being very familiar with your budget comes in. The more you know the difference between what you need and what you want, the better you will be at resisting impulse buys.
Harsh as it may sound, every purchasing decision has a consequence, so think carefully about what you want to buy and what you need to buy.
5 Tips for Budgeting in College. (July 2021). U.S. News & World Report.
Basic Money Lessons Everyone Should Know. (July 2019). Current.
8 Common Credit Card Fees and How to Avoid Them. (July 2021). CNBC.
How to Save Big On College Textbooks This Year. (July 2021). Forbes.
Brand Names Just Don’t Mean As Much Anymore. TIME. (November 2012).
How to Meal Plan Effectively to Save Money. (August 2019). U.S. News & World Report.
Here’s When Buying in Bulk Is Really Worth It. (September 2019). U.S. News & World Report.
Thrift Stores Save Money, Provide Unique Gifts For Shoppers On A Budget. (December 2021). ABC Action News.
What Motivates Impulse Buying? (July 2012). Psychology Today.
Current is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by Choice Financial Group, Member FDIC.
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