I remember how confident I was when I started my freshman year that I could make my money last the entire semester.
“No problem, mom. I won’t be spending that much… I’ll be eating all my meals in the dorms, remember?”
Ha! The naiveté was almost cute.
What actually happened is that the reality of managing money hit me fast. Like a shiv to the gut.
Fortunately, for most college students one semester of destitution is all it takes, and finding ways to save money while spending money becomes a necessity.
Money Saving Tips for College Students
- Choose your meal plan carefully, and avoid the most expensive option. It’s easy to overestimate how often you’ll be eating in the dorm, and unless you’re a hardcore breakfast eater, that’s likely a meal you’re going to find yourself sleeping in and missing on a regular basis.
- Set a limit to how often you can eat out each month, and cut back or eliminate expensive vices like cigarettes and alcohol.
- If you are grocery shopping, take the time to figure out which items on your list can be purchased from the dollar store and buy those items there instead. Also, never grocery shop on an empty stomach!
- Apply to be an RA (Resident Advisor). Schools provide free or heavily discounted room and board to their RA’s – a huge cost savings.
- Buy or rent used textbooks, and sell them back soon after the class ends.
- Take advantage of thrift, discount and second hand stores for great deals on furniture, housewares and clothing. My son shopped Goodwill’s monthly half-off sale and got tons of t-shirts for $1 each, and my daughter shopped for heavily discounted name brand clothing at Plato’s Closet.
- Shop at places that offer a student discount.
- Attend free events offered through your school. There are often movies, concerts, speakers and sporting events, so check the college newspaper to see what’s up and coming.
- Make sure your bank has ATM locations on campus to avoid transaction fees.
- Get a part-time job. Check the career center for openings, as on-campus jobs are particularly flexible with class schedules. (Residence hall desk jobs and dining hall positions are usually available.)
- Walk, ride a bike or take public transportation. Leave your car at home.
- Meet with your advisors regularly. Colleges are notorious for limiting the availability of courses required for specific majors (which means you’re stuck staying in school longer). Your advisor can help you plan ahead and line up your schedule of courses to help you reach graduation as quickly as possible.
- Pay your bills off in full every month to avoid fees and maintain good credit. If you are a Discover cardmember, you can see your FICO® credit score for free online and on monthly statements.
- Make sure your credit card offers cash-back rewards. Discover it chrome for Students offers an automatic 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases quarterly. Discover it for Students offers 5% Cashback in categories that change on a quarterly basis. Both cards earn 1% Cashback on all other purchases.
- Work hard and enjoy good grades benefits. The Discover Good Grades Reward Program lets new Discover student cardmembers earn $20 in Cashback Bonus® each year you are enrolled in school up to five years for achieving GPA’s of 3.0 (or equivalent) and higher.
By taking advantage of penny pinching tips like these, college students can make their money last longer and have more of it to spend!