Money saving tips for college students

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Jill Kelly
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College is by far the most expensive times of our lives. Whether your tuition is $50,000 a year or $10,000, it’s easy to neglect how much you need to save. Academics are important, but social life can also be an important part of every college student’s life. It can also have a big impact on your budget. If someone asks you to get lunch, it’s hard to say no and there goes $10. Two more dates and there goes another $30. For someone who only gets $50 a week, that’s more than half your money. What if your car breaks down and it is $50 to get it towed and you don’t have that? If you ask your parents for help they’ll ask you where the money they already gave you went? This is a time where we probably shouldn’t be spoiling ourselves. Instead we need to realize the many ways we can save money while still making the most of college life.


Putting your academics over your social life can be a difficult task in college. Many students struggle with finding a healthy balance. Almost everyone has made the mistake of attending a late night activity when they have to be up at 7 am for class the next morning. I personally believe keeping a strong social life helps me stay sane through all of the work we deal with on a daily basis. Not to mention, making connections is important for any career you could end up in. But we all know that in the long run, partying won’t help you land your dream job. Students should feel more compelled to involve themselves in paid work, internships, and externships. 

By working more, you are making more money so that you don’t feel as guilty when you do excessively spend, but you spend less because your time is already preoccupied. I spent a lot during my freshman year because I wasn’t working and had so much free time. People that do have an income, however, will sometimes tend to spend more than they need to. Whether you work or not, look for ways to be social without spending a lot of money.

Save and Save More

Saving money in college is important so that you don’t graduate with a financial burden. Begin by making an income. We all like to think that by making money, we can spend it. You won’t be able to save or build an emergency fund by living paycheck to paycheck. Making more income doesn’t necessarily working more hours, but rather spending less. 

There’s something called “the latte factor.” The $4 latte that people buy at a coffee shop every day amounts to $124 a month. That is over $1,000 a year! Though $4 sounds insignificant when you’re spending it, $1000 is a lot when you want to take a spring break trip to another country. We get caught up in the idea of spending more than we can afford. Many students have loans and everything beyond their budget leads them into debt before they can even begin to pay off loans. 

Use Your Breaks

Most students consider summer break to be a time to relax and not worry about work. During breaks, I try to work 40 hours a week to save money for the school year. This way I don’t have to ask my parents for money when they are paying so much already. The job gives me a sense of accomplishment and cancels out my problem of wondering what Netflix show I can binge watch next. It also encourages me to keep a healthy sleep schedule, something we all tend to struggle with. 

Budget Friendly Ideas

In addition to the ideas above, here are three of my favorite money-saving ideas for college students:

  1. Use public transportation! We all know parking on campus isn’t easy and we end up wasting more gas than we expected to by driving around trying to find a spot to park. You can even encourage a friend to walk with you and spend quality time with them. Bam! You are enjoying your social life on your way to succeed in your academic life!
  2. Make the most of your tuition and activity fees. Chances are when you visit a free event at your school or use those recreation facilities, you will feel more grateful for the university you attend and realize how much is offered to you at minimal to no extra cost. 
  3. Look for student discounts. Many stores and restaurants close to college campuses offer student discounts. I’ve been to three different nail salons in the area around my school and each one offers a student discount. My local Salvation Army sells their items at half off on Wednesdays. There is even a free app you can download on your mobile device called “Unidays” that gives students exclusive discounts to all the top brands such as Pacsun, Under Armour, Calvin Klein, and so much more!

Budgeting can be hard, but not impossible. Your future self will thank you for making smart financial decisions in the moment.