• Money Matters
  • Live Well and Prosper

How to Stretch Your College Dough

If you're like most students, you'll be on a tight budget in college. But you don't have to feel like you're always on the verge of going broke. Here are some ways to spend less without sacrificing fun.

Top Money-Saving Tips for Life at College

  • Ditch the car. Use public transportation, ride-share services, or a bicycle instead of owning a car. The cost of car payments, upkeep, and insurance is a huge nonessential student expense.
  • Eat in. If you are on a meal plan, choose the most economical one and use it. If you are preparing your own meals, find an inexpensive market or food co-op and become a good cook. If friends are going out for dinner, meet them for dessert afterwards. And never pass up free food!
  • Buy textbooks on the cheap. Compare prices for used textbooks, e-textbooks, or rental textbooks before purchasing new books. Purchase early, keep them in good condition, and resell them as soon as the term is over.
  • Have fun on campus. You can enjoy movies, lectures, performances, and sports right on campus for little or no cost. Get involved in campus activities: clubs, the newspaper, sports, drama, etc. They are a great way to socialize and have fun at a low cost. Carefully evaluate high-ticket social clubs, such as sororities and fraternities.
  • Use your student I.D. When you go off campus, use your student ID as much as you can. Make a habit of asking if there is a student discount. There usually is!
  • Get (an extra?) job. Work income adds up, even if it's a few hours a week. Babysitting and tutoring are flexible and can pay well. Often there are events on campus that need additional, short-term workers.
  • Beware of spring break. Student vacations can be expensive, and also a trap for impulse spending. Consider spending your spring break close to home, picking up some hours at work, or volunteering. If you do travel, make sure it adds to your college resume or credits.
  • Learn the art of the cheap date. Make dinner at home. Go to parks and museums. Bike together. Volunteer together. Date people who appreciate your frugality.

Good Money Habits to Adopt Now

  • Be smart with your credit card. If you want to use credit, get a low-limit card. Use it only for planned purchases that you can pay for each month, or for emergencies. Never let anyone else charge purchases to your card, and pay your bill on time every month to avoid interest rate increases and fees. Use cash as much as possible.
  • Set a savings goal. Perhaps you want a new phone, or to travel over summer break. Setting some money aside each month toward your goal will not only help you achieve it, but it will motivate you to keep your spending under control.
  • Start paying off your student loan. You do not have to wait until after you graduate to start paying down your loan. Even paying less than $100 a month will help you get used to making the payments and help you get out of debt faster.
  • Be a ferocious bargain hunter for items you need. Buy clothes on sale or at discount stores and thrift stores. Join Groupon or coupon sites for discounts. Make it a goal to never pay full price.
  • Resist "impulse" purchases. Delay such purchases for a week. Buy only what you can pay off that month. Have no shame about returning things.

Information in this article is of a general nature. It is provided by COLLEGEdata for educational purposes only and may not apply to you or your situation. Please consult a financial or legal advisor before acting on such information. COLLEGEdata is a service of 1st Financial Bank USA.