As a college student myself, I know how hard it can be to learn how to save money as a student. We often feel like there’s no way to survive on such a small budget without being cheap.
Also, putting an end to our beloved habits can look impossible. How can you leave those habits that help you keep going through the school days and, even more, through finals?!
That’s why many students end up having huge debts that they don’t know how to pay off. However, saving money while studying is not really that hard, and it can almost be compelling if you look at it as a challenge. Plus, just think about how exciting it will be to look at your savings increasing day by day.
Do you want to know how to save money as a student? Here are the best and most effective ways you can do it:
Have at least one ‘no-spend’ day each week
No-spend days are extremely tricky, but they are totally worth as soon as you get the hang of them. What you have to understand in order to make them work is that you don’t have to spend the money that you save in the other days. Instead, you have to give up all those unnecessary expenses that we make for very superficial reasons.
The goal of this habit is to stop impulsive buying as well as to find free (or at least cheaper) alternatives to things that we do daily. You might, for instance, walk (or bike) to your destinations, instead of using your car.
Another very useful benefit of no-spend days is the fact that it helps you learn how to budget as well as how to be more organized.
David of Zero Day Finance, for example, has saved $18,432 in only 6 months, cutting his monthly spending from around $4,700 a month to $3,170 a month.
Beware of how you decorate your dorm
Be careful of what you decorate your walls with: landlords can be very picky and they could charge fees for damages to the wall.
These fees can go from $5 to $200, so just be sure you take care of your living space. Nobody needs extra costs, especially if this is the reason for them.
Stop using plastic bottles
Not only plastic bottles are extremely dangerous for the environment, but they are very pricey as well.
Instead, get yourself a glass bottle like the one below: you can re-fill them up with tap water almost everywhere and they are also way better for your health.
The average price of plastic bottles is $1.35, which means you might be able to save about $225/year by using glass bottles instead. Pretty awesome, right?
You can get this glass water bottle here and it’s available in 6 other colors.
Save on electricity
Electricity plays a huge part in our annual bill and sometimes we feel like we are not using that much of it.
Well, guess what? You’re probably using only half of what you’re spending for.
Stop paying for what you’re not using
Just think about how many times you live the light on when you’re not actually in that room. How many times do you leave your tv on for hours? All these little things have a huge influence on your energy bill.
When your appliances are not in use, they still suck power if they are plugged in. According to the US Department of Energy, these appliances are adding up to 15% to your annual energy bill. Unplugging these unused items can let you save up to $220 a year.
Something you might not be thinking about
Using your laptop on a hard and flat surface rather than a soft one can make a huge difference. Soft and cushy surfaces like your bed or the carpet can block airflow and lead to overheating, which leads to a bigger energy consumption.
Start a challenge
Challenges are great because the fact that you have a certain goal and knowing how to reach it helps you find the right amount of motivation.
A challenge I really love is the $5 challenge. All you have to do is get yourself a piggy bank and start saving all of your $5 bills all year long. No excuses.
Last year I was able to save over $500 by saving all my $1 and $2 bills. So with the $5 challenge, you’ll be able to save a lot more.
Note: if you are going to do the $5 challenge, you need to use cash, only.
Save on postage costs with Amazon Prime
The Amazon’s student Prime trial gives you 6 months of free one-day delivery with no minimum spend, and thereafter 50% off the usual yearly membership fee.
I find Amazon Prime very useful for students as there are many discounted products at a very convenient price. Plus, their shipping time is amazing!
Cut out impulse purchases
Walking into stores or down avenues full of shops can drive you to buy many things that you don’t actually need. These impulse purchases, if they become a habit, can slowly chip away at your savings. Cutting impulse purchases plays a huge part in learning how to save money as a student and really become financially independent. Before buying anything, stop and think how long it will take you to save again the money you’re spending.
- When you want to buy something wait a week before deciding to buy it or not. This will keep you away from impulsive buying and will also help you stop regretting your purchases.
- Don’t buy nonreturnable items.
- Leave your debit and credit cards at home so you don’t have access to money.
- Don’t buy things just because they’re on sale. Sales are great, but only if you know you’ll really use that item. Before the beginning of sales create a wish list of the things you know you want so that you don’t end up buying things that attract you only because of their price.
- Only buy high-quality items. This does not mean you have to buy pricey things but good ones. Otherwise, that purchase will turn up to be just a waste of money.
Be smart with your books
Course textbooks are pretty expensive, but luckily there are many ways to save on them:
Buy used books
There’s no need to get your books at their full price. You can easily find cheap second-hand copies online or through your university.
The website I love the most is Textbooks.com: it’s extremely easy to navigate and offers amazing services and prices (up to 90% off). Not only you’ll have free shipping on $25+ orders, but they also have a 30-Day return policy. This will help you get your money back if you realize you won’t actually use that book.
- Chegg: Chegg offers textbook rentals with a 21-day satisfaction guarantee. So, if you aren’t happy with your textbook (or you decide to drop that class), you can ship it back to them for a full refund.
They also have a special feature that makes textbook shopping more exciting: Chegg sends a little gift to you along with your purchases.
- Campus Book Rentals: An aspect that stops many students from renting books is the fact that they have to be super careful with them. Well, that’s not the case if you rent them from Campus Book Rentals. The website encourages its renters to treat their textbooks as if they were their own. So you’re totally free to highlight as much as you want. Just keep in mind that what you give is what you get: your book will probably have markings from their previous owners.
Your school’s library probably has all the books you need. Consider using those, especially if they are small books that you’ll only need for a short period of time.
Don’t forget to check Amazon for some great deals on both new and used books.
Don’t use credit cards
If used right, credit cards can be pretty useful. However, they’re often very dangerous for your savings account, especially if you’re trying to understand how to save money as a student.
The problem with credit cards is that, when we use them, we don’t tend to notice that our money is actually going away from our account and we deceive ourselves into thinking that we’re not actually spending that much money. Using cash, we can, instead, see how our money vanishes from our wallet and how much of our budget we have left.
So, even if sometimes credit cards can be useful, students who are trying to save money should stay away from them. Plus, not having credit cards, impulsive buying will definitely decrease and you’ll also learn how to better manage your money.
Be smart with food
Food is one of the things you have to focus the most if you’re trying to understand how to save money as a student. How to save money as a student?
I noticed that most of my college friends either live out of canned and ready-made food or never eat home and eat out daily.
While eating out every day will break your bank, eating convenience food is as well very bad, but in this case only for your health.
It’s hard to be a student and find time to cook a proper meal for yourself that fits into your budget, but it’s not impossible. The “secret” is planning out your meals for the coming week. This way you’ll know the exact ingredients you need to buy. What you need to do is make a shopping list and shop strategically:
Be smart with your groceries
- Buying in bulk helps you get the most value out of each purchase. Do grocery runs with friends and buy family packs. Separate food and put the extras in the freezer for later.
- Don’t buy food on an empty stomach: you’ll end up buying things that you don’t even really like just because you’re hungry.
- Only buy what you need. This will also help you reduce wasted food at the end of the week.
- Buy supermarket value products rather than well-known brands.
- Shop at the end of the day when many items are discounted.
- Compare the cost of your groceries in different supermarkets: this will help you save up to 30% of your expenses.
Make your own coffee
If you buy one coffee per day at $3 per cup, that will end up costing you $600 over the school year. How to save money as a student?
Instead, buy coffee beans in bulk and make it yourself. Buy a travel mug and bring it with you to campus to keep your coffee warm (or cold). You will save over 80% of what you spend now. Plus your coffee will be super high quality.
Cook at home
Limiting the number of times you eat out can save you a huge amount of money.
Set a moment on Sunday and prep your meals (not only lunch but also dinner and snacks). This way you’ll save time and you won’t have to worry about it during the weekdays. The same lunch could cost you 5 times more if bought in a cafeteria.
In many campuses there are microwaves located everywhere, so really, there’s no excuse.
Do you need some healthy dinner and snacks ideas? Check out this post:
Quit the gym
Physical exercise is an important and healthy part of student’s lives, who spend their days on a chair. However, gym fees are something you want to avoid if you’re trying to learn how to save money as a student.
If you need some help with your training look on Youtube: you’ll find a bunch of amazing workouts, even by professional trainers. This way you still get your exercise and don’t have to spend $100/month.
Track your spending
Write down every purchase you make or use a budget app, which will make everything easier. The three budget apps that I love the most are Spendee, Wally, and Goodbudget. These are very visual apps: they will help you notice patterns, make you more aware of where your money is going, and help you understand what you can change. I’ve read about many people that found tracking their expenses really helpful in their progress of learning how to save money as a student.
Go to class. You’re paying for it and skipping is like throwing money out the window!
Do you have other tips on how to save money as a student? Share them in the comments down below so that everyone can benefit from them!
Thank you for reading. Have a nice rest of your day!