Fresh Tips for Saving Money in College

Monday, August 01, 2016
Student Smiling Studying Outdoors

1. Choose to take the freshman seminar course and attend orientation. 

You’ll be so glad you did! I learned so much about how to study effectively based on my learning style and it has left me earning better grades now than when I first started college. You will learn how to use the online learning system if you plan on taking distance education courses in the near future. You will learn to map out academic and career goals and how to achieve them with the aid of your professors and advisors. You will learn who to turn to for particular advice such as financial aid and better interact with your classmates through interesting discussion forums. You will learn how to properly write a college paper using scholarly resources from the college library database, one of many papers you are bound to write and cite in the near future.

My biggest challenge recently was learning how to write a paper in APA format for the first time, and had it not been for the student success course, I would’ve never gained access to tutoring on campus which helps build your writing skills. You will use all the information you learned in your freshman seminar course and have it serve as an elective that meets your graduation requirements. Take the class and enjoy it!

2. Pack your lunch

Believe it or not, the freshman fifteen really does exist and can easily creep up on you if you are not careful. From experience, if you are temporarily stuck on campus, often times the vending machines and bookstores run out of our quick meals, leaving the snacks to be costly. Chances are if you are hungry, one snack is not enough, so you will end up spending more on your snacks than on a meal. Packing your lunch before arriving on campus controls your diet, saves you lots of money, and time from waiting in lines. Plus, it’s bound to be healthier than what you’ll find in the vending machines or bookstores: chips, cookies, sodas, ice cream cones, and everything that does not provide enough nutrients to study effectively. Cooking for yourself is a fun skill you will use beyond college, anyway.   

3. Avoid working too many hours outside of class

I held several part time jobs while in college and it was extremely hard to set aside time to study effectively. My first year of college, I really struggled with juggling my class schedule as well as my jobs and my GPA plummeted. I missed out on several scholarship entries, opportunities to make more money with fewer hours, and involving myself in better internships because of the choices I made my first few semesters in college. As much as you are eager to make money, sometimes the more you make money first off, you really neglect your duties to your homework and preparing for those big exams. Ultimately, you cannot give college your undivided attention.

If you must work, take a break for a semester and work and then return. Don’t try to work a night shift and expect to make it to your 8 a.m. class without a full night’s rest and your homework done all in one nighttime cram session. You will drive recklessly to college and stress your body and brain out that you can no longer focus while the long lecture is going on in class. Chances are your grades will not be your best either.

I spoke to college seniors and they too advised that those little jobs that gave us an extra side money also left some of us to not attend class and left some fixated on working so much. Some seniors returning to college were not even attending college overall because they thought the money flow was pretty good for the time being. You may even delay your graduation date from working more than you needed to. Bad idea.

4. Learn to budget and develop your savings

I cannot tell you how much more money I would’ve saved had I learned better money management skills early on. Take time to seek out a bank that best suits your needs and set up a college credit card and bank account. Just because you have financial aid or have extra money from your job, does not mean you should go on frequent spending sprees. College expenses can really deplete your savings.

Learn to build your credit and sign up for cash back rewards so that when you swipe that credit card, you can at least get some money back on your expenses at major qualifying retailers. You will need to build a good credit score to qualify for all types of loans and other large expenses. You will need a good credit score to qualify for a student loan, an auto loan, renters’ insurance for your apartment off campus or dorm room items, and to qualify for travel rewards should you be flying home to visit.

Keep in mind if you’re involved on campus, those academic organization membership dues add up as well as student activity fees. You must set aside money for all sorts of emergencies as well as college expenses.  For instance, I bought myself a tablet during black Friday for 200 versus spending hundreds more throughout the regular sale season and even let other students borrow it. You can rent it out or trade the service of use for a meal. There are only so many computers in the library that are available, especially during finals season when they are all taken and you’re left with no technology access.

I learned to balance a checkbook and record all of my expenses so that I can create a savings plan and see where my monthly expenses go. You can get free checkbooks from your bank if they are available, or create your own spreadsheet on Microsoft Excel. If you are currently renting and buying books from your bookstore, try other vendors and online bookstores like Amazon that can provide the edition for less.

Another lesson I also learned is that when I would sell back my books to the bookstore, I would get literally next to nothing for it and I had better chances of selling it back to students on campus for at least half of what I paid for it. Go out once or twice at the end of the week after you studied. Follow your grocery checklist before all else, you are focusing on what you need to buy instead of splurging on entertainment and other miscellaneous purchases.

Sign up for free shipping from Amazon or your local grocery store, which Texas now offers. That way, you can save on gas and use online coupons with ease. In addition to using your college credit card, you will save on so many major retailers that provide student deals and also serves as a second form of ID. Use coupons and promo codes as much as you can. The dollars you save really add up and you can build your savings with it. You can now save money even more wherever you go!