15 practical and useful tips to save money while in college

  • All of us have been there and have gone through the exact same journey as any college student is undergoing today. However, there are specific tips and hacks zeroed down by many college-going kids who preferred living frugally.

    Saving money is an art, and you gotta master it while you're still in college; in fact, especially when you're still in college. So, without much ado, let’s get into the 15 most practical and useful ways you can live frugally in college!

    1. Student discounts

    Eateries, libraries, theatres, theme parks, bookshops, cafes, and multiple other places offer varying amounts of student discounts. Use these benefits as much as you can and in as many places as possible.

    The trick is to carry your valid student ID on you everywhere you go. And make sure you inquire about student discounts everywhere including places like malls, public transport, and tourist sites.

    2. Pay off credit on time

    One cannot stress on this enough.  Various research studies conducted recently have shown that people above 43 years of age depicted to have the highest amount of outstanding student loan debt. Most of these loans exceeded $41,014 per person. Moreover, people between the ages of 22-32 had 14 higher student loan debt than credit card debt. This only shows how gravely intense the debt situation is. It is better if you try and steer your way clear of student loans and interest as much as possible.  

    But, if it became inevitable, you took a loan, try and pay off as soon as you can. Doing that will not only reduce the interest pile up leaving you debt free sooner but will also give you the financial liberty to venture into multiple money-making options as soon as you’re out of college.

    According to another recent research, a missed credit card payment can rob you of $27. In fact, if you miss two or more subsequent payments within 6 months, you might have to pay $38 as penalty fees in addition to the interest rate.

    Using a fixed amount of cash as an even better alternative to wiping your card every time you go out. Also, clearing your dues on time is synonymous to receiving multiple rewards from your credit card company, which brings us to our next point.

    Related: Top 7 tips to pay off student loans with Bitcoin

    3. Redeem credit card rewards

    Credit card companies redeem certain purchases in terms of reward points. Also, there are discount coupons for shopping and dining allotted to users who keep up a good credit score.

    Find out how your credit card company’s policy works, and make sure you milk every possible benefit out of it. The surest of ways is to pay off credit on time. This has the highest possibility of being rewarded with multiple discounts and coupons.

    4. Sell what you don’t need

    Clothes, books, shoes, gadgets, and useless furniture lying around the house can all be sold if you’re not making enough use of it. This technique is one of the oldest in the book. It will clear your home of unnecessarily occupied space while you make hard cash on the side.

    Remember not to sell stuff you use. Get rid of only those items that you may be throwing or no longer use daily. If possible, rent them out to people in need which will be equally profitable.

    5. Keep your eating habits in check

    Eating out very often is quite expensive, to say the least. Also, most fast food outlets are full of fatty food and sugary items which will only add to your health issues in the long term. It is also not advised to rely too much on instant food items like pasta and noodles.

    A recent study about whether junk food is really cheap, published on New York Times of September 11th 2011, has shown that eating 4 meals at McDonald's typically cost you about $28 on an average. However, if you choose to consume homemade roasted chicken, salad, and milk instead, you can wind up in as less as $4 per meal! This goes on to say that any home-cooked food is far healthier and cheaper than junk food.

    If you eat at the mess in your campus, try and carry a packet of fruit, cookies, or chips on your way out for your evening or midnight snacks. Such little and conscious efforts towards saving money will have you harvesting its multiple huge returns in the near future.   

    6. Learn cooking

    While at the topic of eating habits, it is best if you learn cooking during college years so that it can pay off in the long run too. Cooking is not only healthy but also quite inexpensive. Buy your grocery items in bulk to last you through the week or more.  

    You can even carry your own lunch of fried rice, homemade burgers, sandwiches, chicken, or tossed veggies. Also, if there is no time to learn how to cook exotic dishes, you can teach yourself basic ones from YouTube.

    This skill will come handy in killing those midnight hunger pangs when they set in. Surviving only on readymade meals in college is the biggest mistake people make which ends up burning large holes in their pockets and takes their health for a toss too.

    7. Make your own coffee

    Even if you’re buying $2 coffee every day, that’s a whopping $750 a year! Instead, you can get your personal coffee maker. If you want, you can splurge on getting a good quality coffee maker that will last you a couple of years. 

    It will not only save you plenty of money on your daily morning coffee, but you can also customize your coffee as per your liking. If you're looking to increase your productivity, this may just be the right way!

    8. Used second-hand textbooks

    Textbooks are the same whether you buy new or use an old book. As long as the book is in a good state devoid of any damage, you can pretty much make do with it. Buying new textbooks will only cost you a fortune while second-hand books are usually available at half the rates.

    Better still, get a library card to access the college library books without any cost. Use the library reading hall for study purpose so that you can learn for free.

    9. Drop your gym membership

    If your college campus allows for a free gym, you can go ahead and avail its benefits. But if you’re required to pay for the gym, look for better alternatives than that. There are multiple YouTube videos dedicated to home workouts using daily mundane items as weights.

    This is also one of the best time management tips for students as you can run errands while on your usual walk or jog. You don’t need to invest a penny in working out and buying equipment. If nothing else, you can always go running, biking, or skipping which is practically free!

    10. Ditch TV and cable

    College is not going to leave you with enough time to watch TV anyway. Instead, you can use Netflix memberships to keep updated with new movies and web series. This is not just useful but quite a practical technique as well.

    Currently, according to the latest study, the cost of viewing cable TV per month averages to about $50 while Netflix provides you content within $7.99 per month. Moreover, you can share your membership password among, at the most, 3 friends to extract its maximum benefits.

    Also, you can watch shows of your choice compared to a TV which only has limited viewing options. It will ensure that you don’t throw your time and money down the drain in the process of watching TV.

    11. Summer break recreation

    Meeting your family is essential. But, on second thoughts, you can avoid driving long hours during your both summer and spring breaks. Go home only during one of these breaks.

    You can spend your time volunteering or polishing your skills as recreation. This will not only save you hundreds of bucks but will also leave you with plenty of valuable time on your hands.  

    12. Start freelancing

    You may have landed a full-time or a part-time job for students. But freelancing will bring you multiple perks you couldn't even fathom. You can work on your set timings and as much as you like. Not only that, you can also decide your own rates.

    Copywriting, virtual assistance, ghostwriting, website designing, photography, graphic designing, transcribing, proofreading, logo designing, illustration, and packaging designing are all freelance jobs that sell like hotcakes. This will only enable you to clear your student loan sooner.

    You can reduce this burden while still in college by taking up freelancing jobs. Use Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer to get in touch in clients from across the world who are willing to pay you well for your skills and services.

    Students are making as much as $50-100 per hour just by taking up a few high paying skilled assignments like copywriting, photography, and web designing. You can price your gigs at $5-10, to begin with. This can be raised in due course of time when you establish a stronger hold over your market share.

    Also, read: Nine smart ways of making money as a college student

    13. Keep brands at bay

    College is not the time to be sporting fancy clothes, gadgets, shoes, and bags. Dress smart but minimal. Expensive brands will not help you at this stage in life. As harsh as it may sound, your professors won’t be a tad impressed, and it won't push your grades up.

    You may need them when you step foot in the professional world and need to look polished, presentable, and impeccable at your absolute best. But until then, keep brands at bay. Your wallet will thank you!

    14. Housing expenses

    Try and cut down on your housing expenses as much as you can. Living on campus in a dorm is always feasible and affordable than living off campus. Better still, you can rent a place with a couple of friends if you wish to stay off campus.

    It is a bonus if your parents allow you to live on their property while you’re still in college. If possible, opt for this alternative. It will only save money in college that would only be spent paying high rents.

    15. Work on a side hustle

    This method of saving, and earning, money is quite trendy and only relevant to the current generation. If you possess a skill, say writing, photography, painting, or calligraphy, make efforts to showcase them to others. You can use blogs and social media pages on Instagram, Facebook, Quora, and Reddit to make people aware of your talents while you’re still in college.

    Although this process doesn’t guarantee instant gratification, the long-term benefits are enormous. By the time you finish college, you will have established a strong online presence which will only give you a robust platform when you finally decide to launch something of your own. In a better scenario, you’ll land writing and painting assignments while you’re still in college!

    The most significant advantage of the Internet is that you don’t need to take time out to do this. Instead of considering this as a part-time job for students, look at it as an excellent way to freshen up your mind and channel your productivity in the right direction.

    Related article: Tips to fund college education from scholarships

    Other alternative ways of living frugally in college

    • Take your studies seriously. You may not realise it but paying attention to your classes reduces your chances of retaking exams, which is yet another expense.
    • Any coins left in your wallet at the end of the day must make its way into a piggy bank. This habit, if kept up, will have your back in the worst of times.
    • Do your laundry with a full load, groom your own self rather than visiting the salon, and steer clear of heavy tipping as much as you can.
    • Watch who you hang out with. Spending time with spenders will only make you a spend-thrift in the long run. Look for like-minded people who are willing to save money in college and nudge each other when either of you starts
    • Avoid keeping pets. They are Period. And you’re better off without having another mouth to feed or putting up with those costly veterinary bills. Instead, you can volunteer at animal shelters for free. It also doubles up as a good recreational pastime.
    • Set a weekly budget of your expenses and savings. This may sound cliché, but it’s definitely something every person must learn right at the start. Make a graph or pie chart to understand clearly where your money is going. This will help keep a close tab on your income and expenditure so that you can curb your desires and wants better.

    Summing it up

    Most people in college are in their 20s. These are the best tips to live frugally in college, below your means, and save every penny that you can. Your health is in good shape, you can function on less sleep, and you are in the best productive years of your life. Make the most of it by keeping your needs minimal.

    While you're in college, your only aim must be to get done with your degree as quick as possible. Don’t intend to live a lavish life with fancy cars, gadgets, and expensive branded clothes while you're in college. You can do things when you start earning good money later on.

    Ty and wave off your student loans while you're still in college. Because, once you graduate, life will get tougher and the interest keeps piling up, increasing the gap more every month. In many cases, people have been paying their loans for nearly a decade and longer. You don’t want to sail in the same boat as them.

    So, what are you waiting for? Implement these tips and hacks and cultivate the habit of saving right from scratch. You can pay off your student loans in time and pave the way for a brighter future free of debt. Saving early in life also opens better doors of investing and growing your money, yielding huge returns later in life.

    You may also want to check out these practical strategies for clearing up student loan.

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