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How To Save Big On A College Budget

How To Save Big On A College Budget

Money management is crucial for college students. And as tempting as splurging on your fall semester wardrobe sounds, look out for unexpected expenses to pop up. Between meals, housing, books and supplies, juggling these necessities will add up. Saving smarter will leave you room to play harder.

According to a 2022 student financial wellness survey by Trellis Research, experiencing financial difficulties while in college can also have a negative impact on academic success. The study also found that 73 percent of students experienced financial challenges while enrolled in college. To prevent this, here are five game-changing ways to cut costs and save some coins.


1. Budgeting Allows You To Take Control of Your Expenses

Kahlil Dumas, money expert and CEO of UNSTUCKKD, said, “Budgeting is not meant to restrict you, but to align your spending with what truly brings you joy.” By knowing how much money is coming in and going out of your account each month, you can determine your spending patterns and have the opportunity to reassess your bills. Signing up for subscriptions and using things like autopay, it’s easy for us to be unsure of where all of our money is going but doing our due diligence in keeping track allows us to stay aware and cut out unnecessary expenses. 

To do this, you can traditionally write your income and expenses on paper, create a Google Sheet, or use a budgeting app.  Mint is a highly recommended free budgeting app that allows you to view all your accounts in one place. It grants you access to monitor your credit score, automatically categorizes your expenses, and even includes a monthly bill tracker. Rocket Money is another useful, free budgeting app that allows you to sync multiple accounts and generates personalized spending insights.


2. Avoid Buying New Textbooks Where Possible

Obtaining college textbooks can easily become a financial burden, but opting out of purchasing mandatory supplies can have a negative impact on your academic performance – so how do we win? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, college textbook prices have risen by 7 percent between 2020 and 2023.  Buying new textbooks, specifically, is a more expensive route. However, you can save big by renting textbooks on Amazon, Chegg, and ValoreBooks. Make sure to connect with fellow students as well, because you may be able to borrow a book from someone who previously aced the same class. While I was in college, there were plenty of instances where I asked to borrow a book and surprisingly, it led to an outstanding study partnership. In addition to saving coins, borrowing books from other students just might score you new friendships and study habits.  

Renting also has advantages because it allows you to access the most recent edition of your textbook, in case an updated version becomes available. Since they need to be returned, you will avoid a pile of books once the semester is over – hooray for no strings. Alternatively, you have the option to purchase textbooks from other students and resell them once the semester ends.


3. Set aside cash for an Emergency Fund

Life happens and when it does, you should be prepared. Emergencies could include car repairs, flights back home, or unexpected medical expenses. I understand how tough it can be to save when you already have a limited budget, but here are some ways to make it happen.  You can put a few dollars a week towards your emergency fund and then even more as your income increases. “Set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account, even if it is just $5. Starting now will bring awareness to savings, and you will naturally save more as you earn more,” said Dumas. There are tons of money challenges on the internet that you can follow. Some encourage you to use savings accounts, and others even offer a cash envelope method – both are proven to be effective. You’d be surprised how fast money can add up when you are consistent with saving. Even starting a side hustle can boost your cash flow to contribute to your savings and provide the flexibility to increase your budget.

Also, consider opening a high-yield savings account to grow your emergency fund. From my own experience, I’ve learned that high-yield savings accounts change the game because they have higher-interest rates compared to standard savings accounts. Thanks to daily interest earnings, your money starts working for you. If I had known this secret hack as a student, I’d deposit any spare cash into my emergency fund to help it flourish. Here are a few high-yield savings accounts you can look into: 

  • UFB Direct offers a high-yield Savings Account with a 5.25 percent interest rate. There is no minimum fee to open the account.
  • Bird Savings offers a high-yield Savings Account with a 4.88 percent interest rate. There is a $100 minimum fee to open the account.
  • Laurel Road offers a high-yield Savings Account with a 4.88 percent interest rate. There is no minimum fee to open the account. 


4. Use Your Student ID For Financial Benefits

Your student ID is a badge of honor to many brands and retailers, both on and off campus. Showing your student ID, or verifying your student email address, can grant you access to tons of exclusive deals while shopping. This can make saving easier and shopping more exciting – and who doesn’t love to save big? Brands like Apple, Nike, and Microsoft Office offer discounts online and in-store.

From nights in with your favorite shows on Hulu and Peacock, to your favorite takeout meals delivered through Doordash, you can use your student discount to indulge at a fraction of the regular price. Seeking out and taking advantage of these discount opportunities can help stretch your budget further, and spend more on the things you love.


5. You Deserve Rewards For Spending Money Too – Here’s How You Get Them

Joining loyalty and rewards programs is a savings hack for savvy shoppers. They allow everyday shoppers to get discounts, freebies and perks on brands that you regularly shop at. Cut costs as a coffee addict by signing up for Starbucks Rewards and protect your pockets during your next Target run by joining Target Circle. I love signing up for rewards because they make purchasing items from my favorite places more affordable. My Starbucks Rewards membership has encouraged me to explore the menu more because I can save on drink customizations and earn stars as I spend. Consumer loyalty has granted me perks, so it’s been a win-win! Being rewarded for shopping at the places you love also puts money back into your wallet for even more purchases.

Earning rewards is also possible by using cash back apps. Over time, these rewards can accumulate into substantial savings. Here are some cash back apps you can check out to save money on your future purchases: 

Although it’s not typically at the top of our minds as college students, being financially responsible can make your college journey so much more rewarding. Having a proactive approach to managing your finances doesn’t just ease financial burdens, but also equips you with essential skills that will stay with you beyond college. 

Keeping track of spending, opting for used textbooks, building an emergency fund, taking advantage of student discounts, and utilizing loyalty and rewards programs will help pave the path to a brighter financial future. Now, I hope you take the fall semester by storm knowing that you have the tools to cut costs and save big!

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