5 Tips to Save Money in College

Every year in the United States, about 2.2 million people go to college. College for many people signifies the beginning of a journey of firsts: the first time living away from home and all the responsibilities that come with that, going on college spring break, joining Greek life, etc. 

For many people, all these experiences are what make up their college careers, however, all of these things come with a big price tag. Here are five tips to help you make the most of your college years without going broke. 

1. Budget

Let's be honest, college students have a million things going on; it’s hard enough to remember how much they spent at the mall two weeks ago that led to their debit card declined (twice). There are many money management apps such as Mint and You Need a Budget (YNAB), that have a cult following. 

They give you a reality check of your spending by grouping your past expenses into categories, giving accurate snapshots of your financial wellness. Most money management apps send automatic alerts when you're over budget, are charged late fees, and most importantly, remind you when bill due dates are coming up. It’s important to do your research as not every app may be for you.

You can also budget the old-fashioned way by using an Excel spreadsheet. Keep receipts to verify that the charges on your credit card statements are accurate. Doing so also ensures that you’re including all of your spending in your budget. No more excuses about budgeting taking too long; just grab your receipts and use a handy Excel budgeting template to help you take control of your financial well-being.

2. Hustle during school breaks

Some students might struggle with balancing a job with schoolwork and extracurricular activities. No sweat — picking up a job during school breaks is a great way to get some quick cash for future trips, holiday presents, or “treat yo self” days. 

The holiday season is like the Super Bowl for the entire retail industry, and stores are always looking for all the help they can get. Many major chains such as Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic are trying to get ahead of the pack by having in-store seasonal associate hiring events in the summer. Check out Indeed or Craigslist for local, seasonal gigs that are updated daily. 

3.  Use your student discount

There are a countless amount of companies offering generous discounts, however, many of these discounts are still underutilized by students. Being in school gives you amazing savings right at your fingertips to the hottest attractions across the country. 

Here is a list of 100+ companies offering student deals — happy shopping! If you haven’t already, download Unidays, a student deals platform that has exclusive partnerships with brands.

4. Reduce your transportation costs

Think wisely about bringing a car to college. Do you really need to deal with paying for hefty monthly car payments, parking fees, or car repairs just for 2 a.m. Taco Bell runs or to avoid being judged for blasting Hamilton? 

Look into renting a Zipcar to avoid all the unnecessary hassles that owning a car comes with, but still be able to live your best life. As a college student, some expenses are inevitable, like textbooks, printing costs, and rent. If your issue is rideshare surcharges, buckle down on Uber or Lyft expenses and use free, reliable transportation options to get from point A to point B instead.

5. Curb your dining out habits

Eating out is a popular social activity for many college students. Instead of spending $5.25 on your daily honey lavender latte or $12 on your avocado toast, think of cost-efficient solutions that still let you have fun with your friends. 

Some fun cost-reducing options could be hosting a monthly potluck dinner. You can even make it fun by setting up a cookoff challenge using ingredients entirely from your pantry or freezer. Another idea to cut spending in this area is by eating dinner at home and meeting up with your friends for an affordable (but delicious) dessert.

Olga Lurye, FinGym Intern