There are so many things about money I wish I would have known when I was in college. At 20 years old, I was newly married and starting my third year at community college. While my college experience wasn’t “traditional” in the sense, we did have to be resourceful with the money we had and learn how to save money.
1. Avoid debt if possible
Student loan debt is no joke and it feels like it is going to take forever to pay off. When I graduated college, I accepted a teaching job right away and went on an income repayment plan to start repaying my student loans. I started off paying about $275 a month on my loans, which ended up going mostly towards interest. My total balance on my loans wasn’t going to go down unless I started paying more on them each month, which was tricky on a new teacher salary. To avoid taking out student loans, start looking for scholarships and grants when you are still in high school if possible.
2. Apply for scholarships
Scholarships are basically free money to use towards your degree. You can apply for scholarships through websites like Scholarships.com. Also check you colleges website to see if they have a list. Sometimes scholarships from local donors are listed or scholarships for certain programs are available.
3. If loans are unavoidable, only take the minimum amount needed
If avoiding debt isn’t possible, only take out the amount of loans you need to cover tuition and books (possibly room and board.) Depending on the cost of your tuition and books, you may have more loan money than you need to cover those costs. Don’t use that money to buy unnecessary things or go on vacations- you will be paying those back for year. You can always put that money back on your loan and end up owing less at the end of your education.
4. Go to a community college
One way to cut cost on tuition is to go to a community college at a fraction of the cost of a university. Take all of the classes you can through a local community college, then transfer to a 4-year school if needed for your degree. Our local community college offers some associate degrees and certificates that don’t need additional schooling.
After going to a community college for 3 years, I still ended school with $45,000 in student loans. I can’t imagine how much student loan debt I would have if I chose to only take classes at the 4-year university.
5. Compare textbook prices
The campus bookstore is one of the most expensive places to purchase books from. Check Amazon and Chegg for prices to purchase or rent textbooks. It might also be worth checking out Facebook Marketplace to see if someone local is selling the textbooks you need for a particular class.
Before selling your book back to the bookstore at the end of the semester, check bookscouter.com to get the best price for your used textbooks.
6. Make sure you are on track with your courses.
Routinely meet with you counselor to make sure you are on track with you classes and to be sure you aren’t taking unnecessary classes. Unneeded classes not only waste money, but they waste time as well. If you are undecided, take all prerequisite classes first, and meet with your counselor as soon as you have a decision (or if you need advice on selecting a major)
7. Live at home
I know that is not always possible, but consider living at home instead of paying for room and board or an apartment. If you do move out, find reliable roommates to split the cost with. Shop around and tour apartments and compare location, amenities and prices before making a decision.
8. Create a budget
Creating a budget and sticking to it is so important, especially when you start to make your own financial decisions. Even if you are only working part time or not working at all, it’s still a good idea to have a budget. Your expenses will look a little different depending on if you live on your own, on or off campus and if you are living at home. Learn how to create a budget here.
A budget helps give you a plan for your money. Without a plan it is easy to overspend and wonder where your money went at the end of the pay cycle.
9. Work a part-time job
Check out the jobs on campus and see if there is a part-time job you can work to earn a little bit of spending money. These type of jobs are normally flexible to work around your class schedule. In college, I worked 3 days a week as a teller at a credit union and took classes on the other 2 days.
10. Avoid Credit Cards
Credit cards can be a slippery slope. It is so easy and mindless to just swipe a purchase and the interest is expensive. Instead, use cash or a debit card linked to your bank account. Check your online banking account often if you choose to use a debit card.
11. Meal Plan
If you are going to be on campus for more than one class, pack drinks and snacks. A few dollars at the cafe may not seem like a lot, but it adds up if you eat out every day. For meals at home look into a meal plan if you live on campus. If you live off of campus make a list of meals you plan to eat for the week. Make a grocery list before going to the store so you know exactly what you need and to prevent impulse purchases.
12. Use your student discount
Some stores and venues will give you a discount with a student ID, you just have to ask.
13. Take advantage of campus amenities
Look into things offered on campus like the gym, fitness classes or events like movie nights. These are often included in the price of tuition or at a low cost.
14. Ride the bus
If you live on campus, walk or rind the bus. Not only are you saving on a parking pass, but you also save gas, car repairs and insurance payments.
What ways do you save money as a college student?