5 Easy Ways to Save Money in College
Managing finances in college is tough. Between the hefty cost of tuition and books, not to mention the high cost of living, you might wonder how you're going to make it work these next few years.
Here are 5 ways to stretch your dollars farther!
ONE: Make Coffee at Home
Did you know that the average college student spends $93 a month on coffee alone?
Sure, coffee shops make delicious drinks. And the convenience is nice. But is it really worth unloading your bank just for a cup of sugar water?
If you make your coffee at home, it should only cost about 25 cents a cup. That’s a 2000% savings! So, buy yourself a good coffee maker and take an extra 5 minutes in the morning to brew your morning coffee yourself. You’ll be happy you did.
TWO: Buy Groceries at a Cheaper Store
It’s a bummer to shop at Walmart all the time, but it might be worth it. After all, groceries are one of the biggest budget killers for students!
On average, students are expected to spend between $163 and $367 a month on food. (And with inflation, that number could grow—unless you only eat top ramen!)
So, picking out a cheaper grocery store could literally save you hundreds of dollars a month. Check out some of the best and cheapest grocery stores here.
THREE: Plan Your Meals
Yes, it can be a burden to plan out your meals ahead of time. Yes, it’s easier to go eat fast food (or even cafeteria food) when you’re hungry.
But not only can fast food be detrimental to your health—it also costs a lot of money! One study found that male students tend to spend $1200 a year on fast food. And college meal plans usually aren’t the answer, either—they tend to cost a lot more than groceries, ranging from $3000 - $5500 per academic year (and sometimes going as high as $9000!). Check out your college’s meal plan costs to be sure, but there’s a good chance you’re getting overcharged.
So, if you’re willing to go grocery shopping and spend a little time prepping your meals, you could easily save $100 or more a month!
FOUR: Look for Your Textbooks Online
Want to know a secret? Your university is squeezing money out of you by selling you overpriced textbooks!
But, they know you probably won't do anything about it. After all, you're stressed out during the first week of classes. You've had to sit through too many syllabus lectures, and you know you've got to get your hands on the textbooks in advance.
So you can take the easy route and spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks at your college's bookstore. Or, with a little research, you can likely find what you need online for a lot cheaper. If you can, email you professors before the term starts (or check your school's website) to find out what textbooks you need, and what editions.
For many classes, it's okay to use older editions of your textbooks. (Not recommended for some math or science classes). When you email your professor before the term starts, you can ask if it's okay to use older versions of the textbooks.
Check out some of these websites to buy textbooks online:
FIVE: Set a Budget, and Stick With It
It might take a little work, but if you can set a budget—and actually hold yourself accountable to it—you will be miles ahead of other students.
One simple way to set a budget is the envelope system. Grab some envelopes and categorize them all. Write “Groceries” on one, “Rent” on another, and so on. Set a budget for each of those spending categories, and each month put that amount of cash in the given envelope.
For example, if you have $250 a month to spend on groceries, then at the beginning of the month put $250 in that envelope. Each time you go to the grocery store you can then pay in cash, and track how you are doing with your spending. Don’t spend any more money on that category than what you’ve budgeted!
If you don’t like the envelope system, you can also track your expenses using a spreadsheet (like Excel), or come up with a different method. The important thing is making sure you are tracking your expenses and not overspending. And if there’s any money left over from any of your categories at the end of the month, make sure to add that money to your savings account! Financial coach Dave Ramsey has some good advice on budgeting here.
Here are a few other tips:
· If you’re an impulsive spender, consider ditching your credit card! It’s way too easy to lose track of the purchases you’ve made and the amount of money you owe. Over 50% of people have $1000 or more in credit card debt. And the average interest rate is 22%, which can lock you into long-term payments if you’re not careful.
· Pay in cash only, when possible. Sure, it’s convenient to use a debit card at the store. But as Dave Ramsey has pointed out, it affects you psychologically. You’re likely to spend less money when you use cash because you realize the weight of your purchases.
Lastly, set aside a “fun money” budget. Whether it’s for an occasional coffee splurge or to go see a movie, it’s important to remember that you will sometimes want to do something out of the ordinary. So let yourself! Just stick to the budget.
We hope this post has inspired you to get ahead. Check out some more money-saving tips here!