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How to Save Money as a College Student

Many college students are broke. They are struggling to pay the outrageous costs of higher education and cannot afford the commodities that many people take for granted. Not to mention the fact that college textbooks practically cost more than a new car. So if you are one of these college students who is struggling to make ends meet and still enjoy a social life – then keep reading. Even if you are the parent of a college student, you can read this article and pass it on to your child.

Save Money Beforehand

It is a common saying that prior planning prevents poor performance. If you think about ways to pay for college (which is where 99.99% of your money will be going) ahead of time, then paying for the extra little things here and there once you are attending college won’t be as big of an issue. Before the first tuition bill is ever mailed, you should have researched and applied to many scholarships. Even if your parents make a decent amount of money, there are still many scholarships out there. Check with your school, the department itself, local organizations, clubs, national organizations, your church, and your high school guidance counselor to find scholarships to pay for college. You will find that many of them are a $1000 award here, a $500 award there, but when you add them up, it helps.

If you have a summer job or have maintained a job for a while, set up a savings account with a decent interest rate. Talk to your parents or the local bank about possible checking accounts for college students who typically don’t have the same fees associated with them, which will save you even more money.

Manage Your Money Once You Have It

Many students I have known make a decent income. They have one or two jobs and earn upwards of $15 an hour. Oftentimes they have held these jobs for their entire time in high school.Most often it is either a remote job as a custom writer or a job in the service industry. Yet these same people, who you would think have thousands of dollars saved up are almost always out of cash. So what happens? They don’t know how to save and manage the money they do have. They spend $100 on shoes, $70 a month on movie tickets, and they don’t realize their entire paycheck is disappearing. 

The best trick to managing money before, during, and after college, is to use financial planners. You log in with all your different accounts (credit card, savings, checking, investments, etc.), and it creates awesome little graphs and charts that show you where your money is going. Once you know that you’re spending $350 a month on dining out, it helps you cut back. The biggest problem is when people spend a little money a lot of times. For example, if you buy a $5 coffee every day for a month, that’s $150 a month on coffee alone. Mint helps you track this and offers suggestions and ways to save. If you’re worried about security, there are a lot of articles on and off the site that praise it for being as, if not more, secure as your bank.

Deciding What You Need

You’ve probably been told this your entire life, but it is still true, especially in college: don’t buy things you don’t need. Stop going on trips to the mall with your friends if you can’t resist spending $200 on clothes every time you go. Or here’s a better idea: lock your credit card, debit card, and all but $50 in cash in your dorm. That way, when you get to the mall, you won’t have the ability to purchase things you don’t need. Avoid making impulse shopping trips and stay off of the internet stores. This part takes a lot of self-control, especially if you are a big spender. But if you combine this strategy with the financial management I mentioned above, hopefully, when you see how much you have saved, it will help you from spending too much again.

The best way to tell if you need something is called the “10-minute rule.” If you look at something in a store or online and think you want it, don’t buy it yet. Leave the area for ten minutes, and avoid thinking about it. Then, if you still want it after ten minutes, it’s probably something you could use. This doesn’t work for every situation, but it has helped many college students (especially with a short memory) save money.

When You Do Need It

There are some things in life you do need to spend money on food, college textbooks, clothes, etc. But instead of just buying the first item you see, look around to find it for a cheaper price. Instead of purchasing your textbooks from the campus bookstore, look online, or a book rental service. Chances are you’ll save 10 – 20% or more of the cost of the same book at the campus store.

Instead of going out to eat a lot, which adds up in terms of cost (and calories), try going to the local grocery store and buying some food that can be cooked in the dorm’s central kitchen. You’ll save a lot over a semester.

When it comes time to purchase a new computer or software for your computer, check with the college IT department about savings for students. Many companies like Microsoft and Apple offer deals for students.

Avoid The Credit Card Problem

If you cannot afford something, never pay for it with a credit card unless you are 110% sure you can pay for it at the end of the month. If you pay it off – no problems. If not, it accumulates interest, and you’ll wind up paying $200 for a $100 item if you let it go for several months.


In the end, college is going to be expensive. There’s no way to avoid the costs that are associated with getting a degree. But by looking at how you spend money in other areas and reducing the amount you spend, you can set yourself up for a better future. Your loans will be paid off quicker, and you’ll be able to start your new life when you graduate.