Saving money is one of the most crucial steps to attaining financial success. All investing and wealth-building endeavors stem from the fact that you have money saved up to work with. Even though this is common knowledge, most people don’t start saving until really late in their lives. The absolute best time to start saving money is yesterday, and the second-best time is today.
If you’re currently a college student or just about to embark on college life, now is a great time to start saving money. But how do you save money when you’re on such a tight budget? You’ll find out in this post. This post will teach you how to save money in college and demonstrate some of the best techniques that have worked for countless students.
Ready to save some money and start building your financial future? Let’s dive right in.
How To Save Money in College
Here are a few tips for saving money in college that could benefit you tremendously.
1. Buy Used Stuff
Let’s be honest. There are lots of things in college that you don’t need brand new. For example, college textbooks!
The same goes for a lot of other college supplies. These items listed below can almost all be bought second-hand at a steep discount:
- Tablets, computers, and laptops
- Furniture and decor
- Fridges, microwaves, and freezers
- Cars (if you are getting one; we’ll talk about this in the next point)
- Sports equipment (if you’re part of a sports team)
The simple act of buying some of these items second-hand will undoubtedly save you some money. You can then take this money and invest it! Some great platforms to check out for buying used clothes and accessories are Poshmark and Thredup. Though it might not sound like a lot, the key is to get started, so at this point, any little bit counts.
2. Ditch the Car
Cars are an extremely pricey way to get around. If you’re thinking of getting a car for the sake of getting around in college, I urge you to consider your options.
On average, a new car costs around $40k! Once you add in the interest and time value of money, plus the opportunity costs, that works out much more. There are many alternatives to getting a new car for college, including:
- Getting a USED car for college
- Riding a bike
- Walking (if your campus is small enough)
- Public transportation
- Uber and/or Lyft
If you’re smart about it, there are much cheaper ways to get around college than buying a new car. This can be a huge money saver.
3. Be Safe With Credit Cards
Credit cards are indeed a great way to build your credit score, but that’s only when they’re used correctly. If misused, credit cards can be your financial ruin. Unfortunately, nobody in the banks ever really tells you about this, but if you’re late on your credit payments, they usually charge you upwards of 20% per year….. compounded!!!
The absolute worst thing you can do with credit cards makes the minimum payments on them. Unfortunately, this will likely lead to you paying way more money necessarily to credit card companies than you need to.
Learn how to use credit cards properly, and you’ll put yourself in a much better spot financially. Heck, they could even help you EARN money if you know what you’re doing. Look for a rewards credit card that aligns with your goals and wants.
Most credit cards offer a cashback option of around 1% and point that you can redeem if you collect enough of them. So if you use your credit card responsibly, you’ll find yourself with more money to save in college.
4. Start Investing
Ever read the headlines about Warren Buffett or other famous investors earning millions and billions of dollars a year just off of investments? You probably thought to yourself, “humph… must be nice.”But, don’t forget, they all started with nothing!
One of the best ways to make your money work for you is to start investing. Investing simply means putting your money to work, and there are countless ways you can do it:
- Stock market investing
- Real estate investing
- Bond investing
- Commodity investing (like gold and silver)
- Alternative coins and cryptocurrency
Because you’re still in college, you have a long time to withstand market volatility. This means it’s more ok for you to take some risks in your investing. It doesn’t matter what you invest in at this point in your life as long as you start investing in something.
5. Look for College Discounts
As a college student, there are tons of discounts available for you. It would be a shame for you not to take part in any of them. Here are some college discounts listed below:
- Amazon Prime Student – receive Amazon Prime for free for six months, then pay half price after that.
- Evernote – some students can receive up to 50% off for one full year of Evernote Personal.
- Bed Bath and Beyond: during back-to-school shopping, students receive 20% off absolutely everything!
- Microsoft Office – students can receive Microsoft Office for free with 1TB of storage included.
- Spotify, Hulu, and Showtime – students can receive a subscription to all three services for only $4.99/month
These are just some of the savings that are available to you as a student. Even if a store doesn’t explicitly state they offer student discounts, ask anyway. The worst that can happen is they say no, and you haven’t lost anything.
Make sure you carry your student ID wherever you go, as you never know when and where you’ll be able to take advantage of student discounts.
6. Never Buy New Textbooks
One of the biggest rip-offs in college is textbooks, especially if you buy them new from the university.
There were so many instances when I was in school where I would buy a new book for $100+, use it just a few times for the course, and then be given half (if not less) of the cost when I sold it back to the university. I learned the hard way, but you don’t have to!
Especially in our digitized world, there are many more options for accessing textbooks than when I was in school. Before buying a book, first see if you can borrow it from another student, find it online, or rent it from the university or online at sites like Amazon.
If all else fails, try and buy the book used online.
7. Live off Campus
Many college students want to live in the center of it all during their first year, especially if they attend college far from home. However, most of the time, living on campus in a dorm is the most expensive option for housing in college.
Not only are you charged a premium for living on campus, but you’ll also likely need to be on some meal plan because you probably won’t have a kitchen.
While living off-campus definitely isn’t as convenient, and you’ll have the added expense of transportation, the cost savings on your housing far outweigh those downsides. You’ll be able to get better accommodations for less money, and you can save even more by finding roommates.
8. Avoid Eating Out
Although there are ways to save money when eating out, cooking most of your meals at home will always be the least expensive option.
And it isn’t just eating food at home that will save you money. If you’re a coffee drinker, I highly recommend investing in a coffee maker, purchasing various latte mix options, and making your morning drink at home.
Especially as a college student looking to save, grabbing Starbucks or other coffee brands out every day will add up fast.
Instead, make a shopping list, invest in a coffee maker, and look to make meals that will last several days. Having a meal plan will save you money, help you eat healthier, and save time. You can also save even more money by utilizing these tips to save money on groceries.
9. Focus On Your Studies
The last tip is also the most important. It is imperative that you focus on your studies while at college so that you can complete your degree as soon as possible.
I get it, it’s tempting to focus on having fun. The college will be some of the best years of your life. But, if you’re not careful and have too much fun, college can also end up being some of the most expensive years of your life.
It’s likely you’ll already have some student loans when you’re done, so you want to make sure you don’t do anything to delay the completion of your degree. Every additional term you’re there and extra class you take is more money out of pocket and lost months that you could have started your career.
Time is money, so make sure your studies are your number one priority.
Recap of How To Save Money in College
Saving money early on in your life is one of the best financial decisions to make. As a college student (who can legally start working but isn’t in the “real world” yet), there is no better time to start than now.
Some of the various ways you can save money in college include:
- Buying used stuff
- Replacing new cars with literally anything else
- Being safe with credit cards
- Starting to invest
- Looking for college discounts
Do all these things, and you’re sure to find some extra change lying around which you can save away. So what are you waiting for? Start saving money today. In the future, you will thank me for it.
Jeff is a Harvard 2025 student who is passionate about learning, living, and sharing all things personal finance-related. He has experience working in the financial industry and enjoys the pursuit of financial freedom. Outside of blogging, he loves to cook, read, and golf in his spare time.