Creative Ways to Save Money in College

It’s a well-known fact: most college students are near broke.

Between student loans, the atrocious pricing of textbooks, and the lack of time to work a full-time job, money for gas, food, clothes, and entertainment can be pretty scarce. And what about a savings account? If you find yourself staring at your checking account, fearing an overdraft fee, you’re not alone.

Your time in college should certainly be focused on academics—after all, that’s why you’re in school isn’t it? But you don’t have to be scraping the bottom of the barrel every week in order to purchase Cheez-Its at the grocery store. If you’re looking for some ways to put aside some money for a bigger purchase or simply have enough cash to get yourself to and from school each day, here are some handy tips for saving money in college.

1. Get a part-time, on-campus job

No car to get to and from work? No matter! Most colleges have plenty of jobs available right on campus. See what’s available in your school’s cafe or coffee shop, check the library, or see if you could work as an usher for events and theater performances.

Many colleges have work-study programs as well, which is truly the best of both worlds. Work-study jobs are generally positions that are related to your area of study. In a regular job, your financial aid might be affected, but work-study jobs protect from that. Employers are also required to consider your class schedule when assigning you work hours whereas regular employers are not.

2. Skip the coffee

Ah, but you’re already addicted to your morning roast, is that right? Maybe it’s time to purchase a bag of ground coffee, then, and brew your own!

You could save over $5.00 a day by skipping your medium caramel macchiato each morning and switching to black coffee with a little cream and sugar. Or you could just quit coffee altogether and reap the benefits of living without dependance on caffeine. Will it be challenging the first week or two? Absolutely. But the benefits pay off in the end.

3. Buy your textbooks used

Textbooks cost a lot of money, and some can be well over a hundred or even two hundred dollars. Who has that kind of cash lying around? Do yourself a favor, and buy your textbooks used. Amazon is a great place to search for used books, and some campuses have online Facebook groups filled with students trying to sell last semester’s texts.

At the very least, ask around and see who’s taken the classes you have coming up. You might find out your roommate actually has a few books she’s willing to borrow you for the semester.

4. Careful with the credit cards

Credit cards seem so easy: free money you can access months in advance?? Sounds like a dream! The thing is, you have to pay them off or else you accrue interest. If you’re not good about making payments, your credit score can suffer, which can affect your ability to do certain things in the future, like take out a car loan or purchase a house.

Your best bet is to either avoid credit cards altogether and stick with a debit card, or get one or two credit cards that you very carefully manage and meticulously pay off. One idea for keeping things in line with your credit card is to only use it for a certain sort of purchase, like gas for your car. Don’t spend what you don’t already have, and you should be okay.

5. Shop shrewdly 

Depending on the college or university you attend, many surrounding shops in town will have student-discount rates. Make sure to ask before plunking down your cash, as you might discover a hidden discount somewhere you didn’t expect.

It’s also a good idea to make a budget and stick to it. Do you really need to buy three cardigans in the same month? Is it necessary to go out to the movies, or could you have just as much fun hosting a movie night in your dorm with homemade popcorn? Saving money involves sacrifice, that’s for sure, but you can certainly get creative in how you do it and keep things fun and entertaining at the same time.