Yes, it is possible to save money in college. Saving in college may seem like an impossible dream. Chances are you’re on a tight budget and struggling to make ends meet as a college student. So how is it even possible to think about saving under these circumstances? You’d be surprised at how many ways there are to save money in college even when you’re cash-strapped.
How to Save Money in College – 24 Things You Can Do
#1. Fill Out The FAFSA Every Year
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the gateway to qualifying for low-cost and even free financial aid.
This form gives access to free grants, scholarships and low-interest federal student loans. Not filling out this application can cost you money. Without the FAFSA, the only way to get financial aid is through private student loans, which come with high interest rates.
Filling the FAFSA is a great way to get started with saving money in college right from your first year. Submitting the application each year you’re attending college can add more savings.
#2. Apply For Free Scholarships and Grants
Financial aid received in the form of scholarships and grants are free of interest and fees. The good news is you can apply for scholarships and grants every year throughout college.
Submitting the FAFSA helps you qualify for certain grants, if you meet certain financial need requirements. As for scholarships, there’s no limit to the number of scholarships you may apply for or the awards you may win. You can apply to all the scholarships you qualify for every year. And you keep all the money you win without having to pay interest. There’s no other better source of free financial aid. Make sure to submit your applications for grants and scholarships before the deadlines.
#3. Reduce Your Textbook Expenses
Textbooks can be your third highest expense every semester, after tuition and accommodation. And textbooks for some subjects can be shockingly high. You can reduce these expenses by renting or buying used textbooks from students who have already graduated. You can find several places online where you can rent or buy used textbooks.
#4. Use The Library
The campus library should be your go-to resource if you’re committed to saving money in college. They have a wide array of study and research materials available to all students, for free. Make sure to check out what books and videos are available before buying new materials. Quantities may be limited, but with some advance planning you can get take advantage of this savings.
#5. Choose Housing Wisely
In most colleges, it is mandatory for first-year students to live on campus. After that they can choose to live on or off campus. If you live on campus from your second year onwards, make sure to explore all the options available. The cost of campus housing can range from relatively affordable to surprisingly steep. Choosing a shared housing option in one of the lower-cost dorms can save you a large sum over the year.
#6. Use Your Campus Gym
Most college campuses have well equipped athletic and gym facilities for all students, not just for their star athletes. In most colleges, your annual fees cover the gym membership too so why not make the most of it and use the facilities. There’s no need to join a private gym for an exorbitant free. Working out in your campus gym is a great way to stay fit while still saving money in college.
#7. Make Full Use Your Meal Plan
Paying for a meal plan can save you money but only if you use it to the fullest. Don’t pay for it and then forget about it, choosing to eat out or get takeaways instead because they are ‘tastier’. The meal plans may offer limited food options but if you’ve paid for it, you should make full use of it. Otherwise, don’t purchase the plan.
You can also use your meal plan to pick up snacks to stave off those mid-morning cravings. It may seem insignificant but these small savings can add up to a significant amount over the year.
#8. Live off Campus
Sometimes, renting an apartment off campus is cheaper than living in the dorm. The option to split rent with 2 or 3 house-mates can help lower costs, as well as sharing utility bills and even splitting groceries. Make sure everyone understand the expenses and living arrangements.
#9. Limit Eating Out
Eating out can eat into your savings faster than you can imagine. If your aim is to save money in college, eating out even once a week can derail those plans. You may think nothing of that cup of coffee that you grab on your way to class every morning. But add up what you spent just on coffee for a month and you’ll be surprised to see how much it adds up to.
If you need your daily caffeine fix, consider investing in a good coffee maker. The initial investment is worth it when you consider how much you’ll save over the four years in college. If you prefer smoothies, invest in a blender.
#10. Learn To Prep & Cook Meals
Cooking food at home is always cheaper than eating out or even getting takeaways. Home-cooked food is healthier too. That’s a win-win for you! ‘No time to cook’ is no excuse. With some smart meal prep, you can plan your meals in advance and cook once or twice a week for the entire week.
A $6 or $8 meal may sound cheap but it will add up over time. That same $6 or $8 will get you a variety of groceries that you can use to whip up delicious and healthy meals at home. Never cooked a meal before? Check out easy, budget-friendly recipes online and you’ll can get started within minutes.
#11. Do Your Grocery Shopping at Discount Supermarkets
Discount supermarkets do stock a wide variety of fresh produce and staples at lower prices. And no, this does not mean that that products are of lower quality. The quality of their products is just as good as any you’d find in higher-priced stores. Discount stores keep their prices low by trimming unnecessary frills and overheads. Shopping for groceries at these no-frill supermarkets can add to your savings every month.
#12. Buy Non-Perishables in Bulk
Stock up on nonperishable food items such as toiletries, detergent, and other items you use on a regular basis. Look for nearby stores with discounts on bulk purchases and see if you can get a membership card for the store.
#13. Carry Your Student ID with You Everywhere
Several stores offer students discounts on everything from gadgets to clothing and more. All you need is to show your student ID to avail of these discounts. You can even get discounts on bus and train tickets as well as entry to museums and amusement centers. You never know where or when your student ID will come in handy so make it a habit to carry it with you everywhere you go.
#14. Buy Computer Hardware & Software Through The Education Store
Technology is among the bigger expenses in college. You may need to upgrade your laptop or install proprietary software if the program requires it. These are high-ticket items and buying them from regular stores can make a huge hole in your savings. Designated education stores offer college students substantial education discounts on these items. Considering the high cost of technology, even a small discount can add up to a significant amount.
#15. Get A Free Checking Account
A checking account is the best place to stash away any cash you get as gifts. Keeping it in your wallet increases the temptation to spend it. Depositing money into an account right away reduces the temptation, out of sight, out of mind.
When opening a checking account, look for a bank that waives account-opening fees for students. Paying these fees can eat into your savings . You also want to make sure that the bank does not have any minimum balance requirement.
#16. Never Overdraft
Use online banking to track your checking account balance on a regular basis so you don’t inadvertently incur overdraft charges. An overdraft is when you spend money that you don’t have in your account. When you spend more money than you have in your checking account, your bank will charge you a hefty fee pf $25 or more to process the transaction. This can send you even more into debt. To protect your savings, never overdraft.
#17. Get a No Fee Student Credit Card & Pay All Bills on Time
Getting a student credit card in college [D1] is a smart financial strategy in more ways than one. It gives you unparalleled purchasing flexibility, which can be especially useful in an emergency. Credit cards also offer great rewards and rebates on purchases, which lowers the purchase price significantly, adding to your savings.
The biggest benefit of getting a credit card in college is the opportunity to get started on building your credit history and credit score. A good credit score can help you get approved more easily for low cost loans in the future. The earlier you start, the more time you have to build a strong score.
Using your credit card responsibly and making all payments in full and on time are critical to building a good credit score. Every missed payment will shave a few points off your credit score. Missed payments also cost you money by way of late fees and interest on the outstanding, which can take a chunk out of your savings.
#18. Save Money on Transportation & Travel
Whether you travel from your off-campus apartment to classes or from the dorm to the grocery store, the cost of transportation can add up over time. Fortunately, there are ways to cut down these costs. Start by checking if you can get a student pass for public transportation.
Many local transit authorities partner with colleges and offer students travel passes and discounts on buses, trolleys, and subways. This can add up to massive savings for you over four years. And it’s definitely cheaper than driving a car.
Having a car while you’re in college is a luxury. And it can get expensive very quickly with gas, maintenance and parking costs. If you’re looking to save money, get rid of your car and use public transportation.
#19. Sell Your Textbooks When You’re Done with Them
Once you’re finished with certain courses, you won’t need those textbooks anymore. Just like you bought used textbooks from older students, there are younger students who’d be happy to save money by buying used textbooks from you. When you’re done with your textbooks, consider reselling them to add to your savings.
#20. Stop Paying for Cable TV
Even the most basic cable TV subscriptions can be expensive. Watching back to back television shows to make the most of your subscription is detrimental in more ways than one. As a college student looking to save money, you’re better off not getting a cable TV subscription at all. If you’ve already paid, cancel all further subscriptions. There are plenty of free alternatives online that you can watch instead.
#21. Get Your Printing Done on Campus
It’s tempting to buy your own printer to print out all the material you inevitably need through the academic year. But this can work out to be very expensive by the time you add up the cost of ink cartridges, paper, and maintenance. It’s far cheaper to print and pay when you need. This small step can save you hundreds of dollars every year just in printing expenses. To save even more, go paperless where and when you can.
#22. Start A Side Hustle Using Your Skills
Starting a side hustle is a great way to make money in your free time and increase your savings. To get started, think about your skills and experience and how you can use them to make some money during your free time. From freelance writing and website building to jewelry designing and selling handmade items on Etsy, there are unlimited opportunities that you can tap into depending on your skills. What’s more, when you freelance, you can take on as much or as little work as you want depending on the free time you have.
Besides earning an income while you’re in college, the experience will hold you in good stead after you graduate.
#23. Consider Investing Your Money
This may not be for everyone but if you have a knack for investing, you can make your savings work for you while you’re still in college. Opening a high-yield savings account is the easiest and safest way to invest your money even if you have no prior experience. The returns may be small but it is a risk-free investment. Putting your savings into a Roth IRA is another possibility. Talk to your family or a financial advisor about the best opportunities available and how to get started legally.
Investing even in a low-return opportunity can make you a decent amount of money and boost your savings while you’re still in college.
#24. Start Paying Off Student Loans
The interest on some student loans starts accruing from the day the money is disbursed. By the time you finish paying off the debt, you will have paid thousands of dollars in accrued interest. Paying off student loans early can help lower the burden of debt after you graduate. Even paying off an amount as small as $20 a month can make a huge difference in the long run and is definitely worth it.
Use any one or more than one of the 24 ideas above and start saving money today while you’re still in college. Years later, you’ll be glad you did!