If you're headed to college this fall, or you're already there, you may find money incredibly tight and wonder how to save money in college. Between books, tuition, and all the stuff that makes campus life worthwhile, it's easy to get off your financial track. We have some ideas for you.
Fifteen money-saving tips
Fifteen ways to save money in college
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1. Map out your courses ahead of time with your advisor so you're not taking more classes than necessary. You'll save on books, housing, tuition, and so much more.
2. Take summer classes and graduate early. Again, you'll see significant savings in rental housing, plus a lot of other daily expenses.
3. Consider community college for your general education requirements. Even if you only take an extra course each semester or do your summer school at community college, it can help you save a lot. Just make sure your courses will transfer.
4. Save money on textbooks. They're a huge college expense, but choosing used books, leasing textbooks, or even asking professors which books on the booklist are optional can save a bundle.
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5. If you live on campus, choose an unlimited meal plan and take full advantage. Be sure to grab packaged snacks while you're there for times when the dining halls are closed.
6. Take advantage of campus services since you're paying for them anyway. Even commuter students can save money by using the campus gym, school printers, and other resources that are part of their tuition and fees.
7. Trade your car for a bike. If you can, choose a bike over a car during school. Insurance, gas, maintenance, and parking add up fast.
8. Carpool if you must drive. A lot of commuter students have a pretty long commute. If that's you, you can save gas and have more time to study if you carpool with other students. Just be sure to share the driving, or you'll soon be on your own.
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9. Make a monthly budget and track your spending. While obvious, it's important to know where your money is going if you want to carve out more savings.
10. Understand the fees on your bank accounts and switch to student accounts if necessary. Student accounts are often fee-free or offer other benefits.
11. Scope out student discounts and take advantage of them all. Although it's ideal not to spend anything extra while at school, movie night calls to us all, and you might as well not pay full price.
12. Check your subscriptions and cancel what you're not using. You'll find that school keeps you pretty busy, so make sure you're not paying for subscriptions that are going unused such as streaming services. Those accounts can often be placed on hold for a while, so you can get back to them in the summer.
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13. Invest in goods that are built to last. Don't buy the cheap sheets at Target just because they're cheap; buy the mid-range ones that will last for years.
14. Be honest with your friends about your budget. Saying "no" is hard, but it's important to stay in control of your finances and not give in to peer pressure. Everyone's financial picture is different.
15. Beware of legal vices. Cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana (where legal) are expensive habits that add up and can lead to bigger issues down the road. They're also sometimes taxed at a higher rate.
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Small amounts can add up
It may not feel like you're making much progress saving money as a student, but with every dollar you put back, you're getting closer to your goals. Those small amounts add up over time. Imagine if you saved even $25 a week throughout your four years of university, an easy enough goal to achieve. After four solid years (including summers), you'd have $5,200 in savings! And that's not even counting money you may have saved in other ways, like by minimizing your student loan debt and, therefore, the amount you pay in interest.
Find every way you can to save money by creating a financial plan and sticking to it. By the time you're done with school, you'll have a nice little nest egg to invest in stocks and set up a life all your own.
College students' money management FAQ
What's the best way to save money for college?
For many parents (and students), 529 plans are an excellent way to save for college, but of course, this depends hugely on your circumstances. Others find that high-yield savings accounts also serve them well, offering additional flexibility should the student need funds for non-educational purposes, like buying a car or bike for school.
Other investments, like stocks, are less of a sure thing in the short term and aren't a solid savings vehicle for college money, even if the potential exists that they may grow. They also might not, and then you'd be in trouble.
How do students save money in college?
It can be really difficult to save money in college, but students who have managed to save money in college tend to be those with a financial plan who keep their college expenses to a minimum. This may require some research to find discounts, map out your college courses, or even get the supplies you may need from a buy-nothing group.
How much should I save while in college?
How much you save while in college is very dependent on your lifestyle while you're there. If you're only working a handful of hours a week, that's obviously going to make it difficult to save very much money in a savings account, but you may make up for that by going to school for fewer semesters, which could mean less student loan debt.
How do I stop spending so much money in college?
Being a student is a minefield of peer pressure and decisions made under pressure, but the best way to stop spending so much is to become more mindful of where your money goes. If you're a habitual stress shopper, for example, you may want to implement a new rule that you can't buy anything until you've really thought about it for a couple of weeks.
If your spending is more of the social variety, you need to just be honest with yourself and your friends about how much you can afford to go out or order in. Although it might be awkward at first, being able to talk about money and create financial boundaries will serve you throughout the rest of your life.