If you find you are living paycheck to paycheck or trying to stretch every dollar of that financial aid check just to make ends meet, you are not alone. Being a college student can mean you are sacrificing time that could be spent earning a paycheck in order to advance your education and future career. In the long term, the benefits of a college education are priceless, but right now it may feel like you are having to choose between eating, paying rent, going out with friends, or purchasing school supplies. The good news is you may not be as broke as you think. There are so many different ways you can save money throughout college so that you can comfortably make ends meet and be able to pay for the activities that are important to you.
1. Always bring your student ID with you!
You might be surprised to discover just how many businesses have your back as a student and offer student discounts. Thousands of businesses are offering student discounts on everything from laptops to gym memberships to cell phone service. Even if you don’t see a student discount listed, it never hurts to ask.
Here is a list of some of the incredible businesses that offer student discounts:
- Clothing retailers: Adidas, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, Champion, Converse, Express, Forever 21, Lulus, Nike, and so many more businesses. A lot of the student discounts available are exclusively online only, but you probably order most of your goods online these days anyway.
- Cell phone companies: AT&T, OnePlus, U.S. Mobile, and Verizon all offer discounts to active college students.
- Technology: Apple, Adobe, Adorama, Best Buy, B&H Photo, Dell, HP, and many other electronics companies have special offers for students.
- Entertainment: Many movie theaters, rec centers, museums, and even local restaurants have student pricing available.
2. Avoid purchasing textbooks brand new
Especially if you are a brand new college student, you may become overwhelmed at just how much one term’s worth of college textbooks may cost. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to purchase brand new textbooks from your school or publishers. There are many resources to save money on textbooks by purchasing either used or getting a rental.
Amazon is a great resource for price-checking used textbooks and rentals—you can also get a student discount on Amazon prime to save money on shipping and get your textbooks shipped out ASAP. Some colleges even have programs where students can trade textbooks. You can also ask any of your classmates if they have previously taken a course you are signed up for and trade or borrow textbooks. If you are reading this late and already ended up purchasing your textbooks on campus for full price, see if your bookstore offers a buyback program at the end of the term to give you a partial refund on your books.
Have you checked Book Viking? Booking Viking is a local textbook store in Rexburg that buys, sells, and rents used textbooks. They may have exactly what you’re looking for at a better price than the campus bookstore.
3. Don’t worry about having a car
If you live on campus, you really don’t need to have a car. Odds are your apartment and all of your classes are within walking distance. Cars can be expensive for college students to maintain. You have to pay for gas, insurance, maintenance, and often parking, too. If you already had a car prior to getting into college, see if you can leave it with a family member and remove the insurance or see about getting a discounted rate while you are away at school. On the occasion that you need a ride somewhere, you could use public transportation, ride-sharing services, get a rental, or ask a friend for a lift. Many car rental services even offer student discounts.
4. Learn how to cook and eat on a budget
First off, if you already purchased a student meal plan, you should take advantage of all the meals you can while on campus. Otherwise, if you have a nice apartment with a complete kitchen, utilize it and learn how to make some meals at home. Use Pinterest to find fun delicious recipes and unlock your inner chef. You may find cooking to actually be a fun new hobby that is therapeutic even, or at the very least you will save a lot of money by not eating out so much.
5. Stop giving all of your money to soda shops
Yes, all businesses deserve a little love, but if you are on a tight budget you might want to cut back on being a regular at Pick Me Up every day.
Here’s a fun challenge to try:
Every time you get the urge to go to a soda shop, try to resist and set aside the $5-$6 that you would have spent in a jar. At the end of each month, see how good your self-discipline was and how much extra money you have for other things.
If you have to have caffeine to get by, set up your own drink station at home. Purchase your favorite sodas, energy drinks, and Torani syrups so that you can handcraft your own beverages. You might even find a new passion for mixing drinks and being your own barista.
6. Find affordable student housing options
Housing can get pretty expensive. Explore all of your options for housing. Compare pricing between on-campus dorms and nearby apartment complexes that are affordable and available for student housing. Also, take advantage of having roommates to help split expenses. Check out our affordable housing options at American Avenue. When shopping for housing, look for eligible discounts like early bird pricing, or bundle deals for longer stays.
7. Purchase things secondhand
Buying items like clothing, electronics, and school supplies doesn’t have to be a big deal. You don’t need to spend hours at the mall or spend a whole month’s worth of income on one trip. You can find some amazing deals on items you need by purchasing them used.
Here is a list of great resources for purchasing used goods:
- Facebook marketplace
- Local thrift shops
- Community yard sales
Not only is purchasing items second-hand more affordable, but it is an environmentally responsible thing to do. It is more environmentally friendly to buy used goods to extend the lifetime of perfectly good products. The fashion industry alone is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions. Purchasing secondhand clothing allows us to spruce up our wardrobes without using additional resources, or emitting additional pollution from the manufacturing process.
8. Get rid of unused subscription services
Are you signed up for multiple subscription services? It is common for college students to use subscription services for software, entertainment, household goods, news/education, and assortments of other random purchases.
Count how many subscriptions you are currently signed up for and don’t forget to look for things like:
- Subscription boxes: Meal kits, Birchbox, FabFitFun, etc.
- Online memberships: Wall Street Journal, MLM businesses, Stitch FIx, etc.
- Entertainment: Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO, Xbox game pass, Playstation Plus, etc.
After figuring out how many different subscriptions you have, get rid of the ones that you are not actively using. You can also save costs by sharing services with friends and family. Instead of paying for both Netflix and Hulu, see if you can be on a friend’s account, and in return let them be on one of your accounts. Especially if you live in the same household, see what services your roommates are willing to help with so that you aren’t stuck paying for everything when others are also reaping the benefits.
9. Study and pass your classes
Do your homework! Spend time dedicated to studying for your classes. People who fail classes have to spend twice as much to retake a course. Failing your classes could lead to more costs in tuition and supplies. Each additional term you need to graduate will add unnecessary expenses, so stay focused! An additional perk of focusing on your studies is that you won’t have as much time to go out and spend money on entertainment. It’s important to get out of the house sometimes, but it’s also important to focus on what you set out to do in the first place…getting a college degree!
10. Learn how to create an annual budget
Creating an annual budget allows you to focus on the future and see the bigger picture. With budgets that only extend a week or a month, it’s easier to get stuck living day by day and paycheck to paycheck. It is important to anticipate future needs so that you can be prepared for other expenses that could arise.
Fun Fact: If you saved $13.70 a day, you would have an additional $5,000 a year from now. With a monthly budget, you would only be able to see savings of $300-$400. That money may currently be allocated to travel, spending, entertainment, subscriptions, clothing, gas, or any other little purchase that you make regularly. Figure out all of the areas in which you can cut costs each month and incorporate that into an annual budget. $13.70 a day could be a movie ticket, a fast-food meal, a t-shirt, or any other purchases you make that aren’t completely necessary.