College students are usually in a pretty tight budget. Although many students manage to work full-time while attending college, most are on a very limited income, so stretching those dollars can be tricky. We've put together a few tips that we hope will help college students reduce their spending while earning that diploma.
Avoid impulse buying
Most college students have a limited income, so it's very important that they watch their spending to avoid financial pitfalls. In fact, most of us, college student or not, are tempted throughout our day-to-day lives to make impulse purchases of things we simply don't need and often can't afford. But being a full-time student puts an even tighter noose around our pocketbooks, so giving into an impulse purchase could have more severe consequences than those of us who are already in the workforce. However, by incorporating some simple, money-saving strategies throughout the school year, even college students on a limited income can find themselves spending less money. Here are a few tips that we think may help:
Trick yourself into being thrifty
- Create a budget. One of the best pieces of advice we can give anyone trying to reduce their spending is to create a budget and stick to it! We often don't realize just how much money we need every month to cover our basic living expenses until we actually take some time to write them down. Click to learn more about creating a budget.
- Leave your credit cards at home. If you're going somewhere with your friends where you'll be tempted to spend more than you should, make it difficult to access your money. This way, when you see that new pair of shoes, you won't be tempted to spend money that you probably shouldn't be spending. Learn more about college students and credit cards.
- Walk away from impulse purchases. We can't stress this one enough. Buying items on impulse can really hurt your budget and your ability to save money. To avoid making impulse purchases, take a day or two to think about it. If you decide you really want the item, make sure you have the money to pay for it and do not charge it on your credit card! For more advice on avoiding impulse purchases, visit TheSimpleDollar.com to read their 10 Simple Ways to Beat Impulse Buying.
- Stick to your budget. Take out the amount of cash you need for the week and leave your debit card at home in a safe place, not in your pocket. It's easy to reach into your wallet and grab a dollar or two for a cup of coffee or a scone but, at the end of the month, these small purchases will add up to big problems with your budget.
Get inventive with entertainment
- Go to matinees or theaters with student discounts. See a movie at matinee price or scope out the theaters that offer student rates. Those movie ticket prices can add up fast!
- Look for sales. If there is something you need to buy, look for it on sale. There are lots of places online to find good deals on pretty much every item imaginable. In fact, there are many sites that exist solely to tell you what's on sale and when! Check out sites like coupons.com, groupon.com, dealcatcher.com, overstock.com, or simply do a search for the item you're looking for. You'll be amazed at the deals you can find online!
- Hang out at places that do not cost money. Instead of going to the club, go listen to the band playing at the local coffeehouse.
- Rent movies. Rent a couple of movies with your friends instead of going out.
- Brag about being a student. Use your student ID to get discounts.
- Check with your Campus Activities Board about upcoming FREE events before going out on the town. You never know what kind of fun you can have for free until you find out!
Save money on necessities
- Shop around for the best cell phone plan. If you have a cell phone, make sure you have the most cost-effective plan to meet your needs. Only get the options that you know you are going to use.
- Share gas costs. If you drive your friends around frequently, have everyone pitch in money for gas.
- Buy your schoolbooks online or at a discount bookstore. Before you buy your books at the campus bookstore, see if you can buy them cheaper online or at another bookstore.
- Cover your books. You might end up with more money at the end of the semester if you protect those covers from getting damaged!
- Need a fancy dress for a party, or a dress shirt for a presentation in class? Don't go out and buy a brand new outfit just for one event! First, ask a friend if they wouldn't mind lending you one for the day. Good quality dress clothing these days can be pricy!
Get frugal with your food
- Forget the expensive drinks from the coffee house! Brew your own coffee. You will save lots of money.
- Don't shop at the grocery store when you're hungry. You will more than likely spend a lot more money than you normally would at the grocery store if you are hungry.
- Make your meals at home, your dorm or eat at the cafeteria instead of going out.
- Only snack when you're hungry, not when you're bored. Snacking out of boredom is not only bad for you, but expensive! You'll run out of food faster than if you were only eating when you were truly hungry.
Work hard, play hard!
- Get a part-time job. You may think it's impossible to work while going to school, but you'd be wrong! According to The Huffington Post, about 4 out of 5 college students are working part-time while attending college/university.
- Take online surveys. Some websites offer these and you could earn cash, gift cards or even airline miles!
- Don't have a car on campus. Just because you're allowed to have a car after your freshman year doesn't mean you need one. Try taking the bus or asking for rides from friends. Gas these days is too expensive to spend money on it before you absolutely have to.