How to Save Money in College
College can be a financially difficult time for most people. You’re handling a lot of financial burdens for the first time, as well as additional expenses related to your education. Financial burdens often put students at a greater risk of dropping out of school. There are ways to make money while you’re studying, but you’ll need a solid plan in order to make the most of the time you spend working. Otherwise, you might find your balance between work, school, and personal time difficult to manage.
Spending Less in College
One of the most effective ways to save money is to find opportunities to spend less. This isn’t feasible for everyone, but if you can do it, it’s worth the effort. Creating a spending plan that fits your budget can help you save for future expenses, and cut down on your financial stress. Reducing stress about your finances can help you focus while you’re in college, prioritize your education, and ultimately invest in your future.
Your ability to save money during college can also have a major impact on the kind of educational experiences you’re able to take advantage of. If you’re thinking about studying abroad, your ability to save might have a direct impact on that opportunity.
Saying that you’ll spend less is one thing. Actually doing it is much more difficult. After all, there are certain unavoidable expenses in life, and in college is no exception. Some of those necessary expenses, however, can be mitigated with good planning and a little research.
Manage Your Budget
Probably the first step in reducing your expenses and increasing your savings is going to be creating a budget. Start with what you both make and spend currently. Don’t focus on creating a budget for the future just yet; this is an informational exercise to get you thinking about your finances in the present.
Once you have your current budget, with your estimated monthly expenses, it’s time to start future planning. Look at your expenses and start making decisions about what you can cut or reduce. This doesn’t have to be exact! Do some research, and look at what expert financial sources suggest for inspiration about how and where to start making cuts. Play with your budget until it feels right, and then start making a plan about exactly how you’ll implement it.
The most important thing about a budget is that you are able to access it on the go. Put it in your phone for quick reference. Budget decisions are made in fast moments — when you’re at the grocery store, or out walking and feeling like a snack, for example. There are so many little moments that make a huge impact on our finances., so it helps to be able to check your budget promptly.
In the end, it takes planning and effort to stick to a budget, but being able to save more will reduce your stress long term, and let you focus on assignments and exams with clarity and peace of mind.
Sign a Nine Month Lease
Some landlords, especially in college towns, offer nine-month leases specifically for student renters who want to return home for the summers. By signing your own nine-month lease, instead of the typical twelve, you can return home and avoid paying commercial rent during the summer.
Nine-month leases can be hard to find. Fortunately, though they might not budge on length of lease, many landlords are willing to work with you in other ways. You can sublet during the summer — rent your house or apartment to someone else, even though you’re still responsible for the lease. Not everyone is willing to do this, but you’ll know whether you can by checking your lease agreement.
In the end, whether you’re signing a shorter lease or subletting during the summer, it’s a financially wise idea to avoid paying additional rent during that three-month-off period, if you can manage it. If you hate the idea of lugging all your things back and forth between home and school twice a year, you could always leave your things in a storage unit while you’re at home with your family.
However you go about it, saving money is key if you’re trying to cut down on financial stress and focus on your education without distraction. In this way, stretching your dollars during college can help you make the most of the education you’re paying for.
Cut Down on Travel Costs
The balance between living cheaply and living close to campus can be difficult to manage. Due to the demand for living space, housing closer to your campus may end up costing more. When you’re considering those costs, however, remember that expenses such as gas, vehicle maintenance, parking, and even bus passes can represent a significant drain on your finances. It may ultimately be cheaper to pay a little more for housing within walking or cycling distance of campus.
Buy Used Textbooks
Textbooks are one of those previously mentioned unavoidable expenses. You need them to pass your classes, and without them you might be wasting what you’re already paying for your education.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to shell out for bookstore prices to get ahold of the study materials you need. Not all course update their textbooks every year, and even if they do, sometimes the changes are minor. It can be beneficial to talk to a professor and see if you can get by with an older edition. If this is reasonable, and still allows you to get everything you need out of the class, there should be a number of opportunities for you to purchase used textbooks.
Students going into a new school year often sell the previous year’s textbooks at a discount in order to make some extra money. Used textbooks can also often be found in used bookstores around colleges or through online vendors, so it’s a good idea to check around.
Buying used books can save you hundreds of dollars per year, freeing up a significant amount of money and reducing your overall stress levels.
It’s often wise to check and see whether you can find required readings at your school library or another library nearby. You might be surprised how many books you can find free of charge with library services. This often requires more careful planning to work around the maximum borrowing periods, but it may be worth it.
Plan Your Meals
It’s easy to eat on campus. The only problem is that eating at fast food places on campus every day comes with a few drawbacks. It can be extremely unhealthy, and it may also be pricier than doing your own shopping.
Getting to the grocery store might not be easy, depending on where you live during the school year, but it could well be worth the extra effort to save money on cheaper, healthier food. You can look up healthy recipes with cheap ingredients like rice, vegetables, and whatever meat happens to be on sale. You can often check a store’s sales online, a build a recipe with reasonably priced ingredients before you go shopping.
This is one area of life where extra planning helps a great deal. Building good habits about food now will also help you in your adult years, setting you up to save money on food for the rest of your life. Necessity can breed healthy skillsets!