Money management has never been easy.
Especially when you are a student trying to mix business with pleasure:
“I am a sophomore, and I do my best to balance my study and private life. Tons of homework and bills for textbooks make me depressed sometimes, nothing to speak of other aspects of my college life: food, rent, and all those payments. Plus, I want to spend time with my friends and girlfriend, go to cafes and cinemas, attend parties! After all, YOLO! No?” (Jacob, 20)
Yeah, Jacob, I’ve been there, too.
Parents, loans, and credit cards – they were all my best friends when it came to asking them for financial help. And it seems I wasn’t alone: surveys say that American students are those most stressed about finances. Of those polled, rent, food, and social were three of the most cost-intensive fields.
What surprises me most is that half of students don’t even understand their loan agreements or repayment terms. Why is this a surprise for me? Simple: when I was in college, I thought I was the only one who couldn’t get how all that financial stuff worked! Turns out, lots of students are just as confused.
Students need help when it comes to money management. The internet is full of articles sharing tips like “don’t eat out,” “rent DVDs instead of going to cinemas,” “don’t buy textbooks but borrow them from senior students,” etc. Oh, really? Do they really think students will give up dinners out with friends or going to the movies? Yeah, right…
In 2018, students need to think outside the box. I know that for sure because I work with them. And above-mentioned Jacob inspired me to write this article and reveal unconventional tips on saving money to help Jacob and other students like him make ends meet.
So, here we go. To save money in college, consider the following:
Develop Good Habits
Maggie McGrath from Forbes shares tips on developing habits for college students, which not only help students learn to manage money while in school, but also how to handle expenses after graduation.
Among them are, including but not limited to:
- Reselling used textbooks
- Living with roommates to cut down on rent
- Using summer money all through the year
- Walking to class
- Taking advantage of free student activities
These days, many students need more than four years to get a bachelor’s degree. (Shame on me, but I needed six.) With tuition being so cost-intensive, it’s imperative that students get organized from the get-go and plan their study carefully.
If you’re still in high school, think about taking some AP courses so you can earn college credits before even setting foot on campus. If you’re already at university, make sure you look ahead to what courses you need to pass and when in order to graduate in your chosen degree on time. The less time spent on courses, the more money you save.
Use a Calendar to Keep Track
One of the easiest ways to keep on top of your expenses (and avoid paying late fees) is to utilize a good old-fashioned calendar. Hang it in a place where you can easily see and check it on a daily basis. Maybe in the kitchen by the pantry or in your bedroom by your mirror. You could even hang it in the bathroom!
Alternatively, if you’re not much for pen and paper options, you could also take advantage of the calendar on your computer and/or smartphone. These can be great since you can set alarms and reminders for important dates.
I used such calendars to note:
- Dates of bill payments;
- Dates for scholarship deadlines;
- Dates of activities when I need money (parties, movies, etc.);
- Upcoming expenses related to school (books, textbooks, courses, etc.).
Tracking your expenses also allows you to understand how much you’re spending each month and, therefore, cut unnecessary ones.
Don’t Ignore Coupons
Oh, those were my favorites! I tried to find and use them everywhere I could.
Many websites provide discount codes for different deals. Anytime you’re about to make an online purchase, do a quick online coupon search before hitting “submit payment.” You can also check Coupons.com which lists more than a hundred offers or try the extension Honey which will automatically alert you to upcoming deals.
Signing up for store emails can also so you money as many stores include coupon codes in these emails and offer special deals on holidays and sometimes even your birthday!
And don’t forget, a lot of stores offer student discounts. When you’re at the register, simply ask the cashier if they offer a discount for students. If they do, all you need is your current student ID.
Take Advantage of Apps
We live in the mobile age baby! From smartphones to laptops and tablets, as a millennial you’re probably no stranger to the wide world of apps. But did you know some of them could help you save and manage money?
These are my must-tries:
- Mint will help you pay all your bills in one place.
- RetailmeNot will help you find coupons.
- Doxo will help you organize bills and go digital.
There are also apps to help you monitor transactions or check your account balance. Just decide on features you need – and go browsing.
When in college, I got creative and inventive when it came to saving money. Even though I considered myself to be somewhat financially illiterate, I was still able to budget on everything: I lived with a roommate to share rent, I cooked at home to take food with me rather than going out for lunch every day, and I never bought anything without asking for discounts.
I think it was because I understood I had no skills in money management, so I just tried to compensate this gap higgledy-piggledy. But as a result, I have many tricks on money saving in my pocket, and among them are the following:
- Don’t buy textbooks. Rent or borrow them from your library.
- Don’t be lazy. Get a campus job or do some freelancing while in college.
- Attend campus free events for entertainment.
- Choose low-cost hobbies such as reading or running.
- Pay in cash. When you pay with card, it’s easy to think you’re not spending as much as you are since you don’t actually see the money leaving your wallet.
Got some unconventional money-saving tips of your own? Share them in the comments below!
About Lesley Vos: Lesley Vos is a private educator and online tutor from Chicago. Passionate about writing, she blogs about plagiarism-free content and contributes to many publications on education, career, and lifestyle. Connect with Lesley on Twitter.