How to save money during college

Julia Dent is a senior at Meredith College where she’s majoring in Media Writing and minoring in Environmental Sustainability, Photography, International Studies, History, and Professional Writing. She dreams to be a photojournalist one day and to travel the world. 


College is expensive, plain and simple. From tuition alone, the average college student is racking up debt of tens of thousands of dollars. But many people don’t take into account all the extra money they’ll spend on things like cost of room and board, textbooks and food, which can exceed several thousand dollars. Students can spent a couple of hundred dollars on superfluous items and activities per month, which can accumulate to be over a thousand dollars by the end of the year.

These extra financial problems can be prevented by simple budgeting. Here are some tips to keep you from going into even more debt your first year:

Keep track of how much money you spend. Many college students often get fast food for a late night snack or hang out at coffee shops, but those value meals and four dollar cups of coffee can quickly add up, even if they seem cheap at the time they are bought. Hold on to all receipts to see how much money you spend each month. This will also help to see where you spend the most money, which will help cut back on items that you don’t need.

Don’t splurge; buy items on sale. Girls are notorious for being shoppers, and they often spend excessive money on spur-of-the-moment purchases. Whatever new purse or shirt has come out will usually go on sale in a couple of weeks, especially when the season changes. I use this maxim for clothing purchases, as well as for food or other necessities. Grocery and drug stores regularly have sales on food, so it’s easy to stock up on favorite foods and save at the same time.

Rent or buy used textbooks online. During my first semester, I ran out of time to find my textbooks online. I rented all of my books from the campus bookstore and had to spend five hundred dollars. If I had bought my books new or used, I would have spent close to a thousand dollars. For my second semester, I wised up and found my books online. I spent less than a hundred dollars on the same number of textbooks that I rented the first semester.

Find a job. Students don’t have to go off campus to find a job; colleges have many student worker jobs open, and students don’t have to be on financial aid to apply. While the student worker jobs might only pay minimum wage, they are more convenient and usually demand fewer hours than a job in an off –campus job might, and students can get raises the longer they work. I currently work three on-campus jobs, and the schedules are very flexible. Since I’ve worked since my freshman year, I’ve gotten a raise every year, and I make more than minimum wage. Babysitting and tutoring children are also popular options for college students since they usually pay higher than minimum wage, and the hours are also flexible.

Don’t eat out too often. A large chunk of the money my friends spent freshman year was on food. The dining hall food was less than stellar, so they would often skip meals to go out or buy late night snacks. Their wallets quickly emptied, and their waistbands expanded. The dining hall has healthy options, and, since the students already paying for meals in the room and board fee, extra money shouldn’t be spent on something you don’t need.

Pay in cash. When cash is on hand instead of a credit card, it will help keep a limit how much is being spent while shopping. The wallet always feels lighter after much cash is spent instead of using a credit card, which can help cut down on spending. This can also help prevent students from going into credit card debt.

Spend less than you earn. This sounds like common sense, but many college students don’t live by it, which is why so many college students have credit card debts. It’s helpful to put a percentage of your paycheck in your bank account to save so you’ll have some money saved up by the time you graduate.

Leave the car at home. Most larger universities won’t let freshman have cars on campus to keep the parking to a minimum, but my college did allow freshman to have cars. Gas, insurance, repairs and parking spots all cost much money. It is easy to manage without a car, as I and many of my friends did. I would walk to places I needed to go if I could, and I could always hitch a ride home on the weekends with friends heading the same direction.

Budgeting was key for me to spend as little as possible during my first year in college, and I’ve gotten even better at financial planning. As a senior, I’m glad I starting saving money freshman year to have some money to get me started when I graduate and go into the world on my own.

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