10 Ways To Save Money in College

There’s one thing I know I could have done better while away at school—save money. During the months I spent away from home, my credit card was my best friend, and I spent a ton on books, clothes, food, and fun stuff. Had I noticed and admitted my spending problem at the time, I would have been fortunate to know these ten tips. Don’t be like this cost un-efficient career blogger; read ahead.

1. Buy used books.

Had I not been a crazy writing major, I probably would have bought more used books. Buying pre-owned textbooks is such a great way to save money—especially if you don’t plan on keeping the books you use. Check your university’s bookstore prices in advance, and compare them to websites like Amazon and Half.com. Oftentimes, you can make a steal just by doing your research.

2. Work in the kitchen.

One of the perks of working at a campus food establishment, or any food establishment, is that you can frequently eat for free or for a pretty nice discount. An added benefit, is you will always know what the freshest items are and which items to avoid. A dininghall friend of mine once gave me the heads up about hard mayonnaise and a rodent problem. Tip number two: make friends with the dining hall staff.

3. Find a job as a Resident Advisor.

Living on campus can be costly. If you live in a big city, and there is a dorming requirement, it’s a great idea to become a Resident Advisor. Not only can your room and board be free, but you can gain valuable experience dealing with people, as this is like a management or supervisor role. Try to apply to live on a floor that encourages a community of likeminded people. During my time in college, I was fortunate to live on a floor of writers and a floor of wellness-minded people.

4. Apply for scholarships.

Who doesn’t want free money? There are a variety of scholarships out there, and you just might be eligible for one or more of them. Contact your school’s financial aid department to get information regarding free money for school. Every years lots of funds are unused because students don’t realize what’s out there, and few actually apply. Use your book smarts and your street smarts to take advantage of this big financial help.

5. Use your student discounts.

Lots of restaurants and stores in college towns like to participate with the community by offering discounts for university students. Contact your student services center to find out more information on local deals. Also, don’t be afraid to ask if there is such a thing as a student discount at any of your favorite spots. You might be pleasantly surprised.

6. Avoid using a credit card.

This is how I did the most damage while away at school. Credit cards are great for impulse buys, but boy, once you get the statement in the mail… no good. If possible, try to use cash or a debit card when making purchases. Credit companies charge interest on your balance, and that pair of twenty-dollar slacks may wind up costing you sixty dollars if you aren’t careful. Keep one card for emergencies. Hide it in the back of your wallet, and pretend to forget it’s there.

7. Track your spending.

This was something I didn’t do. Frequently, I made big purchases and just stuffed the receipts in a drawer next to other random papers. I know that if I had tracked my spending habits, I certainly wouldn’t have had such a worn out wallet. Try not to spend more than you make, and if your parents are footing the bill, be up front with them to agree on a reasonable budget.

8. Shop the sales rack.

Who doesn’t love a good bargain? It’s easy to become blinded by the newest items in the window. Don’t forget, the things in the sales section of your favorite store were once new items, too. Take a few minutes to peruse the discounted merchandise. There’s nothing like the feeling of a good deal. One of my favorite things to do is brag about my favorite purse. It was five dollars, at Walgreens!

9. Attend campus activities.

Looking for a fun party? Free food? Movies? A nice girl or guy? Campus activities provide all of the above, and they’re usually free. Get involved with a number of interesting clubs, and start participating. I wish I had done more during my time in college. If there’s one thing I’ll never forget about my experience in campus activities, then it would have to be the food. Ooey gooey rice crispy treats,gluten-free pizza and cupcakes, and many a fruit platter put the word perfect on my tongue at the end of the night. Enjoy the freebies!

10. Only buy what you truly need.

This sounds so simple, but it’s the best advice I can give. Before making a purchase, stop and ask yourself “Do I really need this?” It’s easy to get excited over the newest posters and dorm room décor, but there’s a difference between spending money on the things you need and wasting it altogether. Be sure that every purchase you make has a real purpose. Don’t forget to have fun buying things, but don’t break the bank or live above your means while doing so. Big bills take the fun out of a good time every time.

The important thing to remember while away at college is that this is your opportunity to learn. It can be very easy to get carried away spending money with friends by going out to eat, buying clothes, or barhopping.

For more posts by Sara Kosmyna.

What are your best money saving tips?

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  1. Mary
    Posted May 10, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Very good advice! Hope everyone takes it!

  2. Posted May 16, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    And this works regardless of what country you go to school in

  3. Posted May 24, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Mary! If anyone has any more money saving tips, please share them in a comment :)

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