Save Money in College | Money Saving Tips for Students

November 30, 2011

How Students Can Save Money in College

College is an exciting time in students’ lives.  Students learn about new subjects and explore their career options in a safe, knowledge-based setting. However, it is important college students also begin to form healthy financial habits in college. Too often, students that start off on the wrong foot make poor decisions later on, especially when it comes to their finances. Here are some ways students can save money in college and use their money in smart ways. These methods have worked for a number of students and are a good way to usher in adulthood and responsibility.

Purchase Second-Hand Supplies & Textbooks

Save money in college - used funrniture

You'll probably have some of these items that you can bring from home. Credit: William Hook, Flickr.com.

Many students want all new supplies for their dorm room. This can cost students and parents a lot of money and frustration when the bill arrives.  Thus, consider borrowing and buying used as strategies to save money in college:

  • Buy items like furniture, second-hand. You may find good second-hand supplies like coffee tables or lamps at consignment shops or garage sales. You might even have these supplies at home and can easily transport them with you to college.
  • Talk to family and friends and see if they have any supplies lying around you can buy at a lower cost. You never know when an old desk can become a study companion at college!
  • Bring materials and supplies you already have. Your pillow from home will work just as well at college and decorative items like photos or pictures you wish to hang up might be suited for your dream dorm room design. Additionally, bringing items you already own may help when you feel homesick at college. It is always a better option to add a touch of home to a dorm room rather than shopping for brand new items at stores.

Use Meal Plans

Most colleges require students to purchase a meal plan as part of their room and board. Even commuter students that live at home or have an off-campus apartment may be required to have a meal plan in order to keep their enrollment status. Meal plans are often grandfathered into costs and are difficult to avoid. Here are some tips for strategically using a meal plan to help  save money in college:

  • The meal plan is typically already paid for as a set number of meals per week or in points for food and beverage items on campus. The school may offer a combination of both of these options in their meal plants. Students do not have to spend extra money on meals with meal plan options, which is a benefit for those students that do not work while in school.
  • Colleges have begun focusing on healthier meal options. This helps students avoid calories and unnecessary spending on unhealthy foods they might be tempted to buy off campus.
  • Check your school’s policy on meal plans and any restrictions, such as times the cafeterias might be closed. This can help you plan your schedule better and make plans with friends to meet on campus for meals.

Check out even more advice on how to save money on food in college.

Avoid Using Credit Cards

Save money in college - avoid the plastic!

Leave the plastic at home and save money in college. Credit: Andres Rueda, Flickr.com.

Credit cards are readily available on college campuses and can easily lead students down to a dangerous path of increased debt and frustration. Avoid using credit cards or being cajoled into signing up for one while on campus. The benefits the salesperson might tell you at the table will not outweigh the cost of high interest rates.

  • If you come on campus with a credit card, use it sparingly. Students typically have a parent as a cosigner on credit cards, so overuse of credit might harm the parent’s credit score, too.
  • Avoid using credit by leaving the card out of your wallet altogether. Store it in a safe place, such as in a small safe with a lock, so you are not tempted to use it on a regular basis. If you must use credit for purchases, pay the debt off immediately the next month.

It may be challenging for students to save money in college, but it is not impossible! Following these steps will ensure many dollars (and headaches) saved during your college experience!

4 thoughts on “Save Money in College | Money Saving Tips for Students

  1. thefrugallery

    I know it’s hard (I’ve been there) but saving during college is so important. If people have any money left over, I would encourage themm to contribute to a Roth IRA. Contributing early on in life gives the money a lot more time to grow before you need it before retirement. The power of compounding interest!

  2. Fanni Lang

    I think you should start earning money as soon as possible. It’s much better to spend those years actively than having to skip a lot of great stuff because you are saving on food or a computer part.

  3. James

    Here’s how I bought my textbooks for the upcoming semester. There’s always a line at the bookstore that’s buying back used texts at the end of the semester. Find out ahead what the books you need are being bought back for. Just hang out near the line and look for the students with books in hand that you need. It’s easy to make a deal. “Hey, they’re going to give you $15 for that book. I’ll give you $12 and you don’t have to wait in line.” Of course you really need to have done your homework to know exactly what books you need and if they were used that previous semester. The college bookstore doesn’t exactly approve either.

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