When people said, “college students go hungry,” they weren’t kidding. Throughout college you’ll see just how quickly that bank account empties—that’s just a fact. When payday comes, so do the bills. It becomes an endless cycle of getting money, and then losing it soon after. Sure, most of us get help from our parents, but you can’t deny that the expenses of college can feel overwhelming.
If you’ve been struggling in managing a budget, take a look at these 10 tips that will show you how to save money as a broke college student.
“I would say (mostly as a college grad) that cooking your own food is way cheaper than going out every day,” alumnus and Economics major from the University of Michigan Felipe Montes de Oca said. Cooking can feel overwhelming at first. Start small and prepare on the weekends when you have more time. Look up easy recipes on Pinterest or on other websites. After a while, you’ll not only notice yourself getting the hang of it, but even enjoy the process of putting together a savory meal.
2. Budget yourself.
Creating a budget might seem tricky because it does mean cutting out expenses that you might not want to let go of—like your regular Starbucks drink (more on that later). However, it’s the little things that really make a difference because often we don’t even notice how they add up. First, note how much you have in your bank account. If you have a job, include how much you make per week. Then, make note of your monthly expenses (e.g. rent, electricity, groceries, etc). Once you’ve calculated what you’ll have left over, you can budget how much you can spend on fun activities.
3. Pre-game before going out.
On a night out, you can easily spend $30 to $50 through Uber rides, cover and alcohol. Why spend $6 on a shitty drink when you can get a whole bottle of vodka for just $10? If you pre-game before you go out and drink enough, that’ll hold you for a while. Then, if you want to buy another drink or two as the night progresses, you might spend $15 instead of $30. It’ll still save you so much just buy starting the night a little earlier. And, I mean, who can complain about that?
4. Always look for student discounts.
I had you at discounts right? Yup, you can get student discounts at clothing stores, restaurants, even movie theaters. I did a little research—so you wouldn’t have to—on places that offer student discounts. Princess Polly, Kate Spade and Top Shop all offer 10% off your favorite clothing items. Apple also offers discounts to save you from buying a Dell. In fact, I saved $200 on my MacBook Air. To those who constantly have to listen to music, the Apple Music and Spotify student discounts are well worth the money, offering half off ($5 a month) to students. When on the run and need a quick bite; Subway, McDonalds and Burger King all offer 10% to students when you show a valid student ID. It might not be the most nutrient heavy, but it definitely won’t break the bank. These discounts will make you feel grateful to be a student.
5. Buy a Coffee Maker
“Stop buying $5 coffee and get yourself a coffee maker! A little goes a long way,” senior at the University of Florida Cecilia Martinez said. Yes, it’s hard quitting your daily dose of Starbucks coffee, but the rewards are beneficial. Use that extra $5 and put it in your savings for when you really need it.
6. Buy/rent used textbooks.
Does it really make a difference if the book has been used or not? It won’t affect your learning, but it will affect your bank account. Textbooks sell for hundreds of dollars. Buy used textbooks for less than half the price. You can find students selling their books online, many times through college pages on Facebook.
7. Shop smartly.
Never go grocery-shopping hungry. You’ll buy the whole store. Trust me, I’ve been there, done that. Write a list of all the things you need from the grocery store and then stick to that list as best as possible. The grocery store may have awesome sales, but if you don’t need it, don’t buy it.
8. Take advantage of campus amenities.
Campus amenities for the most part offer their services free for students, which make it that more appealing. Many campuses, for example, have their own theatre. So, instead of buying a movie ticket, go to a theatre on campus that’s free. Look online to see what amenities your campus has to offer. You may just discover your school has its own bowling alley, arcade and other facilities you didn’t know about.
9. Use cash as much as possible.
Think about it: You go to the grocery store with $40 in pocket. So, you can’t spend more than you have and you’ll have to leave something behind if you do end up going over. When you use a debit or credit card, you most likely will swipe that card without thinking about the total costs. Using cash limits you, but in the best way possible. It puts a price limit on what you can spend, thus, saving you from going all out at the mall or grocery store.
10. If you want to save money, don’t go places where you’ll easily spend it.
“Don’t put yourself in a situation to spend money when you’re trying to save. For example, don’t accompany your friend shopping thinking that you’re not going to shop and just look around. Because you will end up shopping,” University of Florida senior Amanda Fernandez de Castro said. Similarly, don’t go out to a bar if you’re tight on money thinking you’ll just have “one drink.” Trust me, it never works.