Water is wet. Barb from Stranger Things deserved better. And college students need to save money during undergrad. Obvious as all of these statements sound, it feels like that last one gets overlooked too much for comfort. As much as we all like to joke about the five dollars in our bank accounts, saying that money causes stress in college students is likely the vastest understatement of the last half century. However, you don’t have to panicked-laugh anytime someone mentions money.
With these ten tips on how to save money realistically, you’ll feel at ease knowing you can build yourself a better (and more stable) future.
1. Utilize the Internet
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you can find the most magical things on the Internet. Including that textbook you wanted, at about fifty dollars cheaper than the campus bookstore version. Or an almost exact replica of that dress you tried on, but at an incredibly small fraction of the price. “Try buying any of your books and your school supplies from places like eBay. You can try selling anything you don’t want on places like eBay, too, and have some extra money,” University of Iowa senior Geoff Montour said. With sites that re-sell already manufactured product, you can feel a little greener as well, knowing that nothing goes to waste. Take it a step further and go to your local selling sites like “(Your Location) Garage Sale” on Facebook or Craigslist. We live in the future, folks.
2. Buy Things Ahead of Time
I’ll paint you a picture: it’s midnight. Stress, high. Morale, low. And all you want lies in the snack shelf at your campus library. I know this one well. But I also know that those snacks usually range way higher in their single-package pricing than the bulk packaging we both know we can buy at a regular grocery store. When you know you have a long day and/or night ahead of you, over-pack for your meals ahead of time. Thank yourself for the money you save when the time comes.
3. Analyze Your Weekly Purchases
I know for a fact this one will scare some of you (because $5 just for one damn latte, seriously), but it must happen at some point or another. “One of the main things we recommend for college students is to take some time to track their spending. Even though college students may be living on a small budget, it’s still very important to know where your money is going in order to know what type of budgeting goals you should set,” Assistant Director of Financial Literacy and Counseling Kelsey Ryder said. “Mint and Good Budget are both great free apps that you can download to help you track your spending.” You can even keep direct track of the amount that goes to each of your spending points. This also means that you’ll know exactly how much you spent at Jimmy John’s last week. A tragic but necessary evil.
4. Scope Out the Free Stuff
Take advantage of all the deals that offer themselves during college. Companies and campus activities constantly provide sales and even free products to students when they want to promote their own cause (i.e. free pizza at first club meetings, free shipping with Amazon student memberships and so much more). The Spotify/Hulu student discount alone makes me a little teary-eyed. You can use these four years of stress and debt to your advantage here.
5. Invest Where You Can
I can’t analyze trends in the stock market to save my own or my cat’s life. Thankfully for you, however, some of you geniuses most certainly can. “I like creating a budget and creating long-term investments, such as trying out your hand in the stock market,” Mount Mercy junior Megan Johnson said. You can go through a whole host of different sites that can assist you as well, whether that’s E*Trade, Charles Schwab or Stash Invest and. As well as that, you can even invest your funding into a rewards program that gives you money back when you pay it back on time. We love a win-win kind of situation.
6. Pregame (Responsibly)
Think of how much you can spend in one night if you go to a bar sober. Just one drink can cost five or six dollars, plus the tip (because every bartender deserves a tip, don’t change my mind), and boom. You find yourself fresh out of $20, just from one bar. Drink beforehand with your pals, or limit yourself to just one or two drinks once you venture out. Sip on that bottled drink with confidence before you go, and even miss the onslaught of the crowd trying to shove their way to the bar. Yay, savings.
7. Save Money with an App
Why go through the stress of checking your savings account to the penny when you can download an app that does the job for you? “There’s this app, Digit, that gives you rewards anytime you achieve a goal you set, and it keeps track of all your individual savings goals. Anytime you don’t spend money for awhile, it gradually moves money into a savings account for you,” Kirkwood College sophomore Jordan Rochester said. This little app automatically analyzes how much you save in a given day and moves the excess amount of money into a savings account. Just enter the money you need to spend on certain days, such as paying rent and utilities or taking a friend out for a birthday, and the smart little device does the rest.
8. Take Out Cash
This one I recently discovered last week, in all honesty. It’s strange, but the amount of times you can swipe your card within one day likely means you don’t pay attention to how much you spend in 24 hours. When you have the physical cash in your wallet, you can notice how slowly or quickly you deplete it within the course of one day. From there, maybe you can even start a tactical plan for where and how you want to spend your money. You can budget it by taking out a certain amount—twenty for example—and say you will only spend this amount today, and watch that savings account start to grow.
9. Get Strict
I’m guilty of this as much as anyone else, but a simultaneously fantastic and painful way to save money involves getting way, way stricter with yourself on your own plan. “You have to stick pretty strictly to the plan. Open accounts that aren’t connected to your debit, put money in a place that you can’t touch,” Hills Bank Retail Banker Cody Miller said. “A certificate of deposit is good because there’s an interest rate, and you have to pay a fee at your bank in order to withdraw anything.” While a minimum to start a certificate of deposit ($500 as a standard) usually exists, this gives you the ability to save an absurd amount of money. Start with that graduation money and get saving, kids.
10. Stop Buying Brands
This might sound super nit-picky, diverting from brand goods offers an easy path to a strong savings account. I don’t even mean to refer to the triple–digit Yeezy shirts you can buy (although I will happily roast that to the moon and back), but even grocery shopping or convenience store items make a difference. Do you ever notice that the conspicuous “Nut-O’s” sitting next to the regular “Cheerio’s” cost about half as much? Or the store-brand painkillers seem a bit cheaper than the Advil next to it? It’s not because they taste worse or work less. You can even check the ingredients. Go for the product without the brand, and take a look at how much you save.