College kids are notorious for a lot of things: Netflix-binging, drinking copious amounts of coffee and alcohol, staying up ’til the early morning hours, making bad diet choices, and just being poor. As a college student, I can relate to many of these things, especially the being a little broke part. And I understand how difficult it can be to save money when there are so many other things grabbing at your wallet. But even though saving money is tough at this time in your life, it’s also very important. Not only will you build a little financial safety net, but you’ll develop smart money habits that will carry on into your postgrad life. Fortunately, I’ve discovered that there are a lot of easy steps you can take to begin saving money in little ways.
You need to get a savings account
If you don’t already have a savings account set up, do it ASAP! Personally, I try to deposit a little bit into my account whenever I can. Refrain from withdrawing any money unless you really need to. If you have a part-time job, see if you can get your paychecks by direct deposit; then you can opt to have a percentage directly deposited into a savings account as well. Keeping money in a savings account rather than just in a checking account really does make it easier to save. Spending money from a checking account is as easy as swiping your debit card, but there are more steps involved when it comes to spending money stashed in savings.
Sign a lease when they’re offering good deals
If you’re living at school but looking to move off campus, you’re probably well aware that local apartment complexes are expensive. A lot of apartments run specials for students all the time, so it isn’t unreasonable to hold out for a better opportunity. You may find options to have your security deposit waived or your rent costs lowered a bit. By waiting until I saw a good deal, I managed to have my deposit waived and $500 taken off my costs for the year. Score!
Get a job between semesters or during the year
I work a summer job, which means I’m earning money and saving while I’m home. Can’t save what you’re not making, right? Depending on your schedule, you could also pick up a part-time job for the school year. Granted, balancing a part-time job with full-time studies can be hard, but it’s doable with time management! And you can get more out of it than a paycheck, like an experience to put on your résumé. The ideal would be a part-time paid position that’s related to your major and career interests, so you can feed two birds with one scone.
Shop where student discounts are offered
Many stores and restaurants offer deals just for pulling out your student ID. Subway, Apple, Charlotte Russe, Adobe, Chick-Fil-A, and many other places offer students discounts. A quick search online will turn up tons of lists of stores with student discounts, and your college’s student union might have one handy too. Be sure to take your ID wherever you go so you always have it for deals!
Avoid paying full price for clothes
When I want new clothes, I always wait until there’s a good sale going on. Sales happen all the time and everywhere, so it’s never a very long wait to find something new at a reasonable price. Waiting until your favorite jeans cost $25 instead of $55 is a massive money saver. And you can’t forget about thrift shops, clothing swaps with your friends, and consignment stores. Speaking of which, you should take your old stuff to a consignment shop for some extra cash too. It doesn’t bring in a lot of money, but a few bucks for dropping off some old jeans is better than no money for letting them sit in your dresser unworn for another year.
Skip the Starbucks (or Dunks)
Coffee is great and delicious, but it's also expensive, especially when it comes in that iconic Starbucks cup—or even the slightly less iconic Dunks cup that America runs on. This year, try limiting the amount you spend on coffee. All those purchases really add up, and while I think it’s totally okay to splurge sometimes, it’s unrealistic to have it every day. Besides, have you ever tried making your own cold brew? Delicious!
Don’t buy books from the campus bookstore
Purchasing textbooks from your college’s bookstore almost guarantees you’ll pay way more than you need to. Instead, there’s a plethora of textbook renting and selling sites out there to get the cheapest textbooks possible. You can almost always buy used copies—if you need to buy them at all. Grab your syllabus and do a little research on professor ratings and college review sites to see if you can get a sense of how much the textbooks are really used in your specific classes. You might be able to get away with photocopying pages of the library’s copy of your textbook.
Saving money doesn’t have to be as hard as it seems. It will, of course, take some extra time, a little extra forethought, and some extra effort—but doesn’t that apply to everything worthwhile? One of these days, you’ll check out your savings account and be glad you did it.
Start saving money and get tools to help you do so with our article on Budgeting Best Practices All Students Need to Learn.