Finances and student life – need I say more? Busy schedules make it tough to focus on saving money in college so it often gets put on the back burner. Even if you are able to manage a part-time job through all the chaos, managing income as a student is a whole other story. Don’t underestimate financial freedom – your college degree may give you a leg up once you graduate but not if you’ve got a pile of loan debt.
According to Forbes, college graduates with “the average $27,000 in student loan debt can end up making payments of over $300 a month for 10 long years.”
In short, start saving while you can with these 7 tips on how to save money as a college student.
1. Take budgeting seriously
Whether through an app or a spreadsheet, it’s important to make a habit of tracking where your money goes. This is especially important on campus where busy schedules and convenient coffee shops never help. Keeping tabs on your finances will help you identify those expensive habits (hint: Starbucks) and get rid of them once and for all.
I recommend using Mint.com, a free website that helps you realistically manage your finances. It’ll not only help track your spending but it’ll let you know if you go over your planned budgets or if you have a bill coming up. And for those iPhone users, Mint has a handy iOS app for budgeting on the go. If you’re into the good ol’ Excel spreadsheets, check out Microsoft’s collection of free budgeting Excel templates made especially for college students.
2. Get creative with textbooks
The high costs of textbooks really doesn’t help the whole college student situation when it comes to finance. Thankfully there’s a number of ways you can save yourself a ton of money by buying your textbooks the right way. Lifehacker has a great article on getting cheap textbooks. Many professors have copies of the course textbook in the library available for rental and in some cases, you can get away with photocopying just the pages you need for the course. However, if this is not an option, go with used textbooks at your college bookstore, student-run bookstores, online from Amazon, or even from local classifieds sites.
Another great tip is to consider purchasing older versions as they’re often much cheaper than the latest version but with nearly the same content. Of course some research is required to make sure you have all the information you’ll need for success, but it’s definitely worth the time!
3. Student software discounts
Like textbooks, software can be really pricey but also just like textbooks, there’s a bunch of ways you can save money by buying smart. Many universities offer discounted or free software for students with titles from Microsoft, Adobe, SPSS, Minitab, Parallels, and much more. Be sure to check what software deals are available to you using the OnTheHub School Search. Plus, as of December 2013, students of participating educational institutions can get free access to Office 365 thanks to the Microsoft Student Advantage program.
Remember to pay attention to licenses as some allow installations on multiple devices which will be handy if you’ve got a tablet, laptop, and so forth. If it ever comes a time you have to purchase software, try picking the edition with only the features you need. For instance, instead of purchasing the entire Office Suite, consider purchasing only Word, Excel, and PowerPoint if that’s all that you’ll use.
4. Use your student status
Your student status is valuable for more than just software. With your student card or .EDU e-mail address, you can pick up some awesome deals from Microsoft, Apple, BestBuy, Staples, Dell and much more. Plus, check out your local restaurants, grocery stores, or even the movie theater which usually have discounts for students – it never hurts to ask!
5. Eat smart
Looking to save money on groceries? Buy in bulk and use your freezer that way you’ll always have those back-up meals or snacks instead of opting for those pricey vending machine chips. Here are some of the best tips on saving money when grocery shopping that we’ve come across! I’d also invest in a handy gadget called the crock-pot. Perfect for busy schedules, students can throw in some meat, veggies, and spices before class and come home to not only a warm meal, but freeze four to five leftover dinners. According to Forbes, a student can save about $200 a month in food costs using this method which translates into about $9,600 in savings over four years in college.
6. Work on campus
If you can fit it into your class schedule, a part-time job is a great way to bring in some extra income. Specifically, on-campus jobs give you more flexibility in terms of transportation while providing a great opportunity to meet other students. Check your school library for part-time positions as it’s usually not too demanding (letting you get some studying done) while getting paid at the same time. If you really need a couple of bucks and have some extra time, try signing up for a research project on campus.
7. All the scholarships
Aside from the obvious chunk of cash, several scholarships offer all sorts of perks and benefits such as semester stipends, group trips, access to useful resources, the list goes on. StudentAwards is a great site for seeking money and support for students, plus membership is free. Note-sharing platform OneClass also has their own scholarship program. There are all kinds of scholarships available so I encourage you to keep applying!
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