Living on a Budget: How to Save Money While in College

For many, college is the first time in their lives when they have complete control over their finances and have to live on a budget. This means that it is only natural that students often make poor financial decisions and spend far more than they should. However, it does not have to be this way. Although at a glance saving any significant amount of money while studying in college may seem impossible, it is quite doable – and the sooner you start to learn how to do it, the better. After all, we do not just talk about college here – the habits you learn during this period will most likely stay with you for many years after you graduate, so it is best to make sure the behaviors you learn in college are useful ones.

So how does one go about saving money in college? Let us take a look at a few ways.

1. Build a Budget and Follow It

This is the foundation of any money-saving scheme. You cannot save money or build any other positive financial habits if you do not have a budget. Until you start calculating your expenses and incomes and put them into balance, all your attempts will remain in the domain of wishful thinking.

Fortunately, these days keeping a budget is much easier than it used to be. You do not have to draw it out on paper and calculate things in your head. You can easily find any number of useful tools like You Need a Budget, Mint, or Personal Capital that will take most of the associated heavy lifting off your shoulders. Start introducing all your expenses and incomes into it. Once you have a little more understanding of where your money comes from and goes, you will be able to start controlling the process.

2. Get a Free Checking Account

Make sure your checking account with your bank is not just cheap, but free. The amount you pay for it may not seem like much, but it adds up, and you can easily find banks that waive their service fees for students. So why pay for something you can get free of charge?

3. Get a No Fee Student Credit Card

Some people believe that credit cards are pure evil, with no exceptions. They are mostly right – when you use them for their intended purpose, credit cards usually lead to overspending and debt. However, if you treat your credit card like a debit card and make sure you find one with no associated fees, it can actually be useful. When you use it this way, you get an opportunity to build up your credit for future use without spending a single dollar on interest.

4. Get a Job

Working in college is an excellent choice for a variety of reasons. Having a job while attending college will look good on your resume. It will teach you useful professional skills. It will make you better at managing your time and attention (because you will have to somehow find time for both your studies and your job). It will earn you some extra money. Finally, it will help you save money – because when you work, you are not out there spending what you have but are adding more to it!

5. Apply for Scholarships and Grants

Many people believe that you can only apply for scholarships and grants before you start college, which cannot be further from the truth. In fact, you can apply for them every year throughout your studies in college. Another popular belief is that it is pointless to apply for them because you have to be special in some way to get one. Again, it is simply not true, to the point that many scholarships remain unclaimed or have only a few entries. In other words, virtually everybody has a real chance of getting a scholarship – you simply have to dedicate a little time and effort to it.

6. Look for Affordable Academic Assistance Services

Sooner or later, many students have to delegate some of their work to somebody else. The reason why does not matter – it may be due to the lack of time, or poor planning, or unreasonable demands of professors, or something else entirely. The thing is, you have to hire somebody to help you with an essay or another type of academic paper. If you do not prepare for such a contingency, you may have to pick the first writing service you stumble upon, irrespectively of how much it costs. A better approach would be to pick a service for future use right now, paying special attention to its pricing policy. Contact the services you are interested in and ask, “Can you help me with my project? I am looking for someone to do my essay for cheap”. Compare the prices and make a note of the services that satisfy you in this respect.

7. Spend on Textbooks Wisely

Textbooks are one of the biggest expenses students run into. Every term you are going to need a new set of them, and some of them may cost you a pretty penny. Therefore, it is best to learn how to deal with this problem early on. Firstly, look for used textbooks to buy – they are usually readily available and cost a lot less than brand-new copies. Secondly, there is always an option of renting the textbooks you need. It is always far more affordable than getting new copies, with the added benefit of not having to look for ways to sell your textbooks off once you do not need them.

Of course, these are not the only ways to save money while you are in college. You can look for special student discounts with a variety of stores and services. You can save on food by using a meal plan. You can be on the lookout for events with an all-you-can-eat buffet to save on groceries. You can learn to cook to save on eating out. Possibilities are endless – as long as you are ready to look for them.