5 Ways to Save Money in College

College is a tricky time for many young adults, especially when it comes to finances, so plan ahead and be money-savvy. All that money you collected from friends and relatives at your high school graduation? Put it in a savings account! You’ll thank me when you’re a senior in college, struggling to get by on peanut butter sandwiches and Top Ramen. A lot of college students make many mistakes when it comes to saving. Here are some tips and tricks for saving money in college and making the most out of your pitiful paychecks.

  1. Shop around for textbooks. Don’t feel like you have to buy all your books at the college bookstore. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to NEVER buy your books from the college bookstore. Refuse to pay full price for your textbooks, and always shop around online to find the lowest price possible. Instead of buying from the bookstore, search for your books on websites like Chegg, College Book Renter, ABE Books, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Expert tip: Try to rent the book instead of buying –you’ll avoid ending up with a pile of books that you can’t sell back because the publisher has added a new edition.
  2. Purchase in bulk. Items like toilet paper, paper towel, Clorox wipes, dishwasher and laundry detergent, shampoo/conditioner, feminine care items, and hand soap can (and should!) be purchased in bulk from a store like Costco or Sam’s Club. It might seem like you’re paying a lot at first, but when you don’t have to buy TP for three months, you’ll thank me. It’s a good idea to throw some non-perishable food items in there as well (ramen noodles, anyone?), but avoid bulk-buying perishable goods like dairy products or produce.
  3. Pay your bills FIRST. If I learned anything from being in college, it was this: bills should always be paid before anything else. I found out the hard way – instead of paying my sorority dues, I spent my paychecks on other things, which meant that I racked up a debt of over $1,000 within one year. After I was put on probation by my sorority, I finally realized that I needed to make my bills a priority. When that paycheck comes in, your essential expenses need to be covered before you go to Starbucks or buy a new sweater. You’ll be in a very uncomfortable situation if you can’t pay your rent or tuition because you went on a shopping spree first.
  4. Just say no to restaurants. Eating out during the week is easy to justify, especially if you have a busy schedule. Maybe you’re spending $10 on lunch twice a week because you don’t have time to go home between classes. However, that $20 per week turns into $80 per month, which adds up to more than $600 during the course of one school year. Going out to eat is a major expense that can easily be cut from your budget. If you don’t have time to go home for lunch during the day, pack a lunch! The same rule applies to coffee: as much as we all love Starbucks, it’s a major drain on our finances. Make your coffee drinks at home to save money. Picking up a $4 coffee three mornings each week during the school year adds up to almost $400 over the course of eight months. If you stop going out to eat and make your coffee at home, you can save more than $1,000 during the school year!
  5. Be a cheapskate. Don’t pay for the coin laundry at your apartment – take your laundry to your cousin’s dorm on weekends so you can use his free on-campus laundry facilities. Put a recycling bin out during parties and turn in the cans and bottles for extra cash. Get to the bar before the cover charge starts, and only buy drinks that are on special (or better yet: pregame before you go to the bar and don’t buy any drinks while you’re out). Buy only store-brand products when you go grocery shopping. Subscribe to restaurants’ email lists and plan your date night around their specials. See a movie during weekday afternoons when you can get matinee discounts (expert tip: many colleges offer free movies on campus – check with your student activities committee for more information).

College is a great time to learn about managing money and to develop some cash-saving habits that will benefit you later in life. Although some of these suggestions may sound silly or extreme, they will definitely help you stretch your paycheck and make the most of every dollar.

This post was written by a guest contributor for The Perfect Card Box, a card holder for all of life’s celebrations, including your college graduation! View there graduation card boxes here.


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