According to a survey conducted at Ohio State University, 70% of nearly 19,000 college students worried about their finances. The rising student debt and increased cost of living are main sources of stress.
Although we cannot change the large economic environment, trimming spending and earning extra cash will help relieve students’ financial burden. Here are 11 tips on how to save money in college:
1. Make maximum use of school resources
Many campuses offer full-time students helpful resources (already covered by the tuition and/or other fees). School resources may include library, museum, recreational facilities, writing center, career service center, school health clinic, etc. Make full use of those resources.
2. Use free (or low-cost) local resources
There are many free things to do in your local areas, such as visiting the local libraries, parks, and museums. Check local newspaper and city/town website to learn about upcoming community activities and community resources. Use local deals apps to find deals for dining out, entertainment, and many activities.
3. Use free (or low-cost) online resources
There are many great online sources that help us saving and managing money. Students can go online to find free courses to learn new skills in many areas, use free software such as Grammarly for improving writing, search for good recipes to learn cooking, just to name a few.
4. Take advantage of your student discount
Bring your student ID and ask for a college discount (even if it is not clearly stated) when booking a hotel, visiting an attraction, shopping for an insurance, purchasing a software, etc.
5. Join Amazon Prime for Students
Amazon Prime student membership is an excellent deal for college students. The membership only costs half price of the regular Prime membership with a 6-month free trial (regular prime member only has 30-day free trial) but offers almost all Prime membership benefits such as free shipping, access to Amazon Prime video, audio, library, photo, etc.
6. Save money on food
The best way to save money on food is to cook your own meals. Fast food is not cheap. Learn how to save money when doing grocery shopping. If you are living on a tight budget, go with the cheap but healthy foods for meals and snacks. Even if you just choose to eat instant ramen, there are ways to make it more nutritious and delicious.
Of course, it is not always possible to cook your own meals because of class schedule or other factors, so you may need to sign up a school meal plan. Evaluate the meal plan to find one that works best for your daily schedule and budget so you don’t overbuy or underbuy meals.
Although not always the case, there are several ways to score free food on campus, such as attending a club or a sponsored event.
7. Save money on transportation
Think twice whether you really need a car. Owning a car means costs on gas, insurance, maintenance, and parking. If you live on or near the campus, consider biking, walking or taking public transportation. For an occasional long-distant trip, consider car-pooling with others or using Zipcar, which allows car rental for a few hours, a day, or a week.
8. Save money on housing and utilities
Housing and utilities can be a big expense. Whether you are living in an on-campus dorm or an off-campus apartment, having roommates to share the cost can always save big.
When looking for an apartment, consider factors such as free parking, distance to your school, public transportation, and grocery stores.
9. Save money on textbooks
Textbooks from school bookstores can be quite expensive. Shop around online and look for used texts from other sources.
If you are willing to embrace digital technology in your academic life, you will like Redshelf, a website that provides textbooks in digital format, at a much lower price and more easily accessible. Students can highlight text, add comments and notes, and create and organize flashcard for efficient learning.
10. Find an on-campus or off-campus job to earn money
On-campus jobs are conveniently available in school and are part of the academic community. Some jobs require little training, such as desk receptionist and library assistant. If you have skills in certain areas, you may find a more technical job, such as an IT assistant or a tutor at a writing center. You are not only getting an income but also adding experience to build your resume.
Off-campus jobs are generally better paid than on-campus jobs and offer more choices. The flipside is that those jobs may require more traveling time and costs. Ideally, you would like the off-campus work experience to be related to your major and future career.
Find a paid internship from websites such as Internships.com to make money and gain relevant experience.
11. Make money online
The Internet brought numerous opportunities to make extra cash. One can sell old textbooks, unwanted game tickets, pre-worn clothes on the school website or online marketplaces such as Amazon, Ebay, and Craigslist.
One can also complete small gigs on Fiverr, sell photos on a website like Shutterstock, develop a course on Udemy, and use many other channels to general income streams. All online work requires time and effort so it is critical to do your research and choose the one that you are most capable of.
College is expensive; these money-saving and money-earning tips will help you get in a better financial shape.
With that said, you are only in college for a few years and the main purpose is to learn and to be well-prepared for the future. It is not worthwhile to miss great learning opportunities or neglect school work just because you need to earn or save a few extra bucks somewhere.
While saving money is important, getting the most of out of your college experience is far more important.