Resources / Money Matters

8 Ways to Stretch Your College Dough

female student calculating

If you're like many students, you may be on a tight budget in college. Here are some ways to spend less and save more without sacrificing fun.

1. Ditch the car

Use public transportation, ride-share services, or a bicycle instead of buying or leasing a car. The cost of car payments, maintenance, insurance, and parking can be a significant student expense you should avoid if you can. 

2. “Eat in” 

If you’re 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 learn to cook for yourself or with friends. If friends are going out for dinner, meet them for dessert afterward.

3. Buy textbooks on the cheap

Compare prices for used textbooks, eTextbooks, or rental textbooks before purchasing new books. Purchase early, keep books in good condition, and resell them as soon as the term is over. Check your college’s library to see if any of your textbooks are available to borrow or use. 

4. Have fun on campus to unwind after your studies

You can enjoy movies, lectures, performances, and sports right on campus for little or no cost. Get involved in campus activities: clubs, the school newspaper, sports, drama, etc. Clubs are a great way to have fun and meet new people at a low cost. Most dorms on campus host social events or game nights. Carefully evaluate organizations that require dues you can’t afford.

5. Use your student I.D.

When you go off campus, use your student ID as much as you can. Many businesses (particularly those around campuses) will offer student discounts. Always inquire about student discounts, even if the business doesn't advertise them, just in case.

6. Get a part-time job 

Work income can be helpful, even if you’re working only a few hours a week. Babysitting, tutoring, campus maintenance jobs, catering, etc. usually have flexible hours and can pay well. Often there are events on campus that need additional, short-term workers. Ask the financial aid office if you qualify for an on-campus work-study job. These jobs often have flexible hours.

7. 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, it’s always a plus when it can expand your college resume or credits.

8. Find the right friends

Cultivate friendships with students who have similar spending habits or if not, at least respect your frugality.

Good Money Habits to Adopt Now

  • Make smart choices with your credit card. Try to use your credit card only for planned and necessary purchases that you can afford to pay off each month, or for emergencies. Look for a card with a low credit limit and pay your bill on time every month to avoid interest rate charges and late fees. Spend within your means.
  • Set a savings goal. Perhaps you want a new phone, or to travel over the 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 loansYou 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 monthly payments and gradually reduce your debt.




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