As a college student, I'm always trying to think of new ways to save money. I honestly can't complain too much because the grand scheme, it could be worse. However, I have noticed that money has a knack for disappearing if you don't pay attention to it. Below are some of the methods I personally have been using to save money in college.
Watch Out for Hidden Expenses
Hidden fees are everywhere. On campus alone, there are convenience fees for everything, from adding money to your meal and laundry accounts online, the cafeteria charging double is you use a debit or credit card over your meal account, the coffee shop charging tax to debit transactions but not the meal account, and my dorm having an administrative fee of $800 a semester (on top of my segregated and unsegregated fees), something I had no idea of until after starting the semester! Off campus there are even more possibilities, such as ATM fees and outrageous parking rates ($10 an hour in this lot but only $5 for the day in another). Keep your eye out for the hidden expenses. Some are small and some are huge!
Literally Save Money
This is a difficult one. Expenses are everywhere in college, but last semester it occurred to me that I'm going to want to have something put away for when I graduate and enter the vast, surreal, and unknown realm of true adulthood. Save money when you can. If you can afford it, save a certain percentage of each paycheck. I understand that having a job can be difficult in college. I recently took one on this semester and am just now figuring out how best to balance it. Having a job during college is a great way to make extra money. If you don't have a job though, there are still ways to save money. If you receive moolah for your birthday or other special occasions, put some away and keep the other portion for fun things. I also pick up all the change I find on the ground and am saving the change from buying groceries in cash. I'm going to deposit it all into my savings account at the end of the semester. It's adding up quicker than I thought- as of October 6th it's up to $17.48. Not a lot, but it's something.
If you want something, try and wait to see if it's really that important. Do you need something? How long can you go without it and can you get it for free? (this doesn't apply to food) I realized I forgot to bring an umbrella back with me and we get a lot of rain over here. Thankfully my mother was willing to mail one to me free of charge from home. If you're lucky enough to get gift cards, try not to spend them right away. Wait until you know what would really be a proactive purchase. To cut down on food expenses, make a grocery list before shopping, never shop while hungry, and try limiting yourself to cash so you stick to your budget. If you feel up for the challenge (I'm struggling with this one) try a "no spending" challenge where you limit yourself to only essential spending on things like food and laundry. Above are photos of one of my favorite wallet drainers: coffee. Buying fancy lattes from coffee shops are nonessential purchases but are still ones I often indulge in. Try limiting these splurges to just a couple times a month.
Look for Non-Traditional Sources of Income (and Goods)
Participate in research studies. I was initially wary to try this until I actual did and found it isn't that bad! Most of the studies on my campus offer Amazon gift cards for $10 or $15. That's enough to cover some basic items (for example I just used mine to restock my concealer) or you can save them up and apply them to something larger! Also, go to events on campus that offer free food. The photo above was from an event hosted by my dorm's restaurant operations. They didn't limit how much you took! At my campus there are free events multiple times a week and the announcements are usually sent out in a newsletter or advertised on the ground in chalk. Also, join student organizations for opportunities of personal enrichment and for the snacks they often provide!
Ask Family and Friends
Let or kindly ask your family and friends to help out. Last year, instead of giving me a traditional birthday present, my family took me to my favorite restaurant and then on a large grocery shopping trip instead. If the holidays are coming up, ask for "luxury" grocery items or personal products you don't usually have the budget for, such as nice chocolate, coffee, or lotion. Do this for your friends in return (this is a functional thing to do even outside of college because then you know the gifts will be used and appreciated). When it comes to odd ingredients for recipes, ask to borrow from a friend. The same goes for cleaning products that aren't used very often (there sure are a lot of those where I live). Lastly, if you live with a group of people, take turns rotating who buys things like toilet paper and cooking oil so one gets stuck paying all the time for things everyone else will use too.
These are some of the methods I've been using this semester to save money while in college. Some of these may work better for you then others, so pick and choose as you wish and feel free to leave more ideas in the comments below.
Hi my name is Emilee and I am a kinesiology undergraduate student. These are my adventures as a young adult living in Milwaukee. Here I will share my experiences as I navigate through college. Thanks for stopping by!