It can be challenging for college students to make ends meet, let alone save. That said, there are things you can do to manage your finances as effectively as possible so that you have a little left over to put some money aside for a rainy day or an indulgence. Our Money Matters provides ten steps to make your money go further.
1. Learn how to Budget: This one is the most important because it will be hard to save if you don't have a plan for managing your expenses. Once you analyze what you spend every month, you will probably find some things you can cut out, like that specialty coffee that costs you $4.00 per day, $120 per month, or $1,440 per year! Fortunately, there are free tools like budget calculators that you can access for free at Our Money Matters.
2. Purchase Used Items: Save money by purchasing textbooks from former students or try renting them online. You can also buy many other used or refurbished items, such as clothes, computers, phones, furniture, etc.
3. Rent out Your Car: If you have a car but don't use it much, consider renting it out through a service. However, it's essential to follow the proper steps. Here are some suggestions on how to go about it from Progressive Insurance.
4. Live in the Dorms: It might not be as much fun as living off campus, but you can save a lot of money by living in the dorms, including transportation.
5. Use Your Student Discount Everywhere: Your student ID grants you discounts on items such as food, movie tickets, computers, and books, to name just a few. You can also use your student discount when traveling, as companies like Amtrak or Greyhound offer discounts.
6. Scan Receipts for Cash and Gift Cards: Take all the receipts you have accumulated each week and scan them for free cash and gift cards. You can use several apps, such as ibotta, but use more than just one. Also, if you shop online, use apps such as Capital One Shopping or RetailMeNot, which find available coupons or discounts and automatically apply them at checkout.
7. Buy at Salvage Grocery Stores: 40% of all the food that America produces gets thrown out. Surplus Valentine's Day candy, a dented can of beans, or a piece of fruit with a bruise all go to waste. Fortunately, salvage grocery stores buy those products and resell them to consumers at a steep discount. It's a win-win because good food won't end up in a landfill, and you reap the savings.
8. Savings Match Programs: Individual Development Accounts (IDAs): IDAs are special savings accounts where program funders (a combination of government, nonprofits, and financial institutions) match the money that low and middle-income individuals put into savings to achieve specific goals. There are also Private Savings Match Programs such as SaverLife.org, which the nonprofit EARN funds – you get rewarded points for saving money in your own savings account (no need to sign up for a new savings account, link your current one to the SaverLife platform). For a complete list of programs you might be able to participate in, click here.
9. Health Insurance Wellness Programs: Most insurance plans offer wellness programs through employers, but there are also individual plans. These programs improve and promote health and fitness by offering premium discounts, cash rewards, gym memberships, and other participation incentives. Some examples of wellness programs include programs to help you stop smoking, diabetes management programs, weight loss programs, and preventative health screenings.
10. Pay Off Your Credit Card in Full Monthly: College students receive many credit card offers, and while it's a good idea to start building credit, it's crucial to use it wisely. If you get into debt, you will pay a lot more in the long run because a poor credit score can mean you pay more interest rates. Consider starting with a secured credit card before opening an unsecured one. Ensure you also get a card with the lowest interest rate and rewards. You can compare credit cards by signing up for free at Our Money Matters.
While saving money as a college student is not always easy, it is possible with plenty of hard work and a commitment to your financial wellbeing. Using a few of the above tips, you can effectively save money as you work towards your degree.
For more tips on how to save money, sign up for free at Our Money Matters.
A grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation generously supports our Money Matters.
To read more Our Money Matters blogs, click here.