College can be very expensive and because we tend to get a college education when we’re young, ambitious and have the world at our feet, we’re also less inclined to watch what we spend, to be frugal and to think about future implications.
As a result, millions of Americans are still paying off the debts they accrued at college ten, twenty and even thirty years later.
We’ve already discussed ways that you can get out of debt, get the best student loans and get those student loans forgiven, but what about saving money when you’re at college? After all, the less you spend the more you will have to pay off those debts and the less money will be added to those debts in the first place.
Take these tips onboard as we look at How to Save Money in College to help students everywhere.
1. Don’t Buy New Textbooks
Textbooks are ridiculously expensive. You can spend hundreds of dollars on brand new books and once you buy all of the books you need for your course that could lead you over $2,000 down.
But that’s only if you buy new and there is simply no need. You will use these books for a year or two, after which they will end up in a cupboard somewhere gathering dust.
Rather than buying them new, get them secondhand from auction sites like eBay or Amazon Marketplace, and then sell them on again when you have finished with them. It can save you a fortune, money that is better spent elsewhere.
You can also rent them from Bares & Noble, who have a textbook rental service. Or, better yet, you can buy or rent eBook versions.
2. Get a Student Credit Card
Students aren’t renowned for having great credit and most students won’t have any credit at all. When you consider that the best reward cards need a “Good” to “Excellent” credit score, it doesn’t leave students with many options, at least not on the surface.
But there are a few options that can help you to build a credit rating, get a decent credit limit, and prepare for a more financially secure future. These include student credit cards, which are geared towards the needs of students and also offer rewards tailored for the things that they spend money on, and reloadable credit cards, which don’t have huge credit limits initially but can be built up over time.
3. Make Sensible Purchases
Sit down with your roommates and discuss some key purchases that you can make to save a lot of money in the long run.
The most important one is a coffee maker. For less than $100 you can get a good coffee maker and a bulk supply of pods that will keep you in coffee for weeks. And every time you run out you just need to buy in bulk again.
You will pay between $2 and $3 for a cup of coffee at popular chains, but around $0.25 to $0.50 for some premium coffee pods when bought in bulk. It is a no-brainer. If you drink 1 cup of coffee every day for 3 years it will cost you around $225 per semester, which would be $1,350 over the course of three years. A coffee machine with bulk pods, however, could cost as little as $50 for the machine and less than $40 a year, which works out at a total of $170 over the course of three years.
There are other ways that you can save as well. If you’re spending a lot of money eating out, then buy a microwave and some packaged food. Noodles, rice, jerky—anything that can curb those cravings and stop you from dropping dollars at a local restaurant or cafe. The same goes for drinks and pretty much anything else that you find yourself spending a lot of money on every day.
4. Buy in Bulk
It’s not just coffee that you should buy in bulk. You can do the same with essentials like toiletries, potentially saving hundreds of dollars a day, not to mention all of those trips to the grocery store.
You can signup to membership schemes like Sam’s Club, and you use rewards credit cards or student credit cards to make the purchases, unlocking points for cash-back at a later date.
Toilet paper, soap, shampoo, shower gel, bottled water—all of these things and more can be purchased in bulk to save you money.
5. Calculate the Value of Big Money Purchases
Many students will spend a large chunk of their budget on a car, thinking that it will save them money in the long run. But not only will the initial purchase be expensive, but then you have to factor in parking, tickets, repairs and gas. And if you’re one of the few students on campus with a car then you better believe that your friends will have your number on speed-dial for every time they want to go out.
It's a responsibility, and an expensive one at that. It’s much cheaper and more convincing to take public transport or even to be the one who always asks your friend for a lift. You won’t have that initial outlay, you won’t have the responsibility of paying for something that could breakdown at any minute, and you won’t have to feel guilty saying no when your friend asks you to take them somewhere.
It’s not just limited to a car purchase either. Any time you are going to make a significant purchase because you think it will make your life easer, sit down and write out a list of pros and cons, while also calculating how much money it will really cost you. Just because it makes sense to buy a coffee machine, doesn’t mean it will make sense to buy a TV, games console or car.
6. Buy Clothes that Don’t Need Ironing
When you go clothes shopping make sure you check the labels and don’t buy anything that needs to be dry cleaned. If ironing is going to be too costly or time consuming, you may want to focus on fabrics that will require little to no ironing.
So, rather than cotton and linen, buy denim and polyester. Wool should also require little ironing and if you can’t bear the feeling of it against your skin then buy cashmere instead.
If you still need to iron, you may want to buy a steamer instead. It is cheaper, requires less space and won’t take as long to get those wrinkles out of your clothes.