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5 Tricks To Save Money As A Broke College Student

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5 Tricks To Save Money As A Broke College Student

Unless you’re a genius and scored a full ride to college, odds are, you’re a college student making the most of a limited budget. But you can only eat ramen for so long; how can you save money when you’re still in school? 

Feel free to splurge on the occasional avocado toast—these 5 money-saving tips will move the needle and help you save more money while you’re in college. 

1 – Watch your book costsWatch your book costs

College textbooks cost an average of $1,240 a year. Yikes! While you have no choice but to buy the book for class, there are so many ways to save on textbooks, including:

  • Rent from the campus bookstore: Depending on the rental terms, renting could be a better option to save money. Keep in mind that you need to keep the book in pristine condition, so always buy heavy-duty book covers if you go the rental route. Don’t highlight or write in the book, either!
  • Buy used: I bought nearly all of my textbooks used on Amazon (bonus: I didn’t even have to leave my dorm room). Make sure you compare these prices with what’s available in the bookstore; generally you’ll get a better deal online, but always compare prices!
  • Borrow from friends: Do you have an upper-class friend who took this class last year? Or a pal who took it last semester? Most people are more than happy to lend you the book for the semester. Just remember to give it back in good condition.
  • Selling back your old textbooks: Let me be clear that you’ll rarely get back the money you put into buying books. However, selling back your old textbooks helps you make some of your money back and gives you more moolah for next semester’s books. Try secondhand bookstores near campus or Amazon to make a little bit of your money back.

2 – Pay your bills on time

Pay your bills on time

Hey, I get it. School is hectic enough on its own; managing work and social obligations makes things even more hectic. 

But college is a precursor to the real world, which means boring #adulting stuff like paying bills. Problem is, if you miss your bill due date by even just a few hours, you’ll be on the hook for fines and fees.

And some of these aren’t pretty. One time I overdrafted my checking account and had to pay $50! These fees add up, especially when you’re on a college budget. 

I set reminders in the calendar on my phone to pay bills early. If your bills have an auto-pay feature, turn that sucker on! Some places even give you discounts for putting your payments on auto.

Fines and fees are hurting you financially, so never let a bank or creditor get the best of you.

3 – Slash unnecessary bills

Slash unnecessary bills

You’re probably keeping expenses pretty low already, but let’s be honest: we all spend money on things we probably could live without. What’s unnecessary in your budget? 

Open your bank account and look at your charges from the past 2-3 months. Was there anything you could live without? Any surprise charges? 

For example, I love shows on both Hulu and Netflix, but during college, I only had one subscription at a time to save money. I also ditched my Verizon internet service for a usage-based service through Google Fi. 

This might take a little detective work and soul-searching, but slashing unnecessary expenses can give your budget some much-needed breathing room.

4 – Be smart when you go out

Be smart when you go out

Socializing is part of the college experience! But going out usually involves spending money, even during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

Fortunately, all of your college friends are probably broke, too. Here are some smart ways for all of you to save money when you want to let off some steam:

  • Go to the park: Do you have any cool, local parks in your area? Heck, even a walk across campus can become a social event. Walk with your friends, eat a snack, and social distance to have fun on a budget.
  • Potlucks: Psh, who says potlucks are for old ladies? We held plenty of them in my college days. Bonus: the food was way better than what we were eating at the college cafeteria.
  • Bota Box and movies: Fortunately, boxed wine is socially acceptable in college. Bota Box is a little pricier than Franzia, but you can’t beat the superior taste. Share a few glasses with your buddies while you watch something on Netflix. If you’re in a budget bind, ask people to chip in a few bucks for the wine. Just be sure you’re not breaking any rules with bringing alcohol on campus first, and you should be good to go!
  • Window shop: I used to go to the “rich people’s” mall with my friends and stroll through Neiman Marcus for funsies. Since everything is so expensive, I couldn’t afford to buy anything anyway! 
  • Game night: My friends and I played many rounds of a Settlers of Catan game that we purchased at a local Goodwill. Whether it’s a board game, puzzle, or charades, game night is a great way to have fun without spending a ton of money. 
  • Go to Costco: This is a weird suggestion, but hear me out. Costco sells their huge hot dogs and sodas for just $1.50. If someone in your friend group has a Costco membership, use that bad boy to score some cheap, filling food. You can even fill up on food samples if your Costco offers them.

5 – Use your student discount

Use your student discount

Did you know that your student ID can save you boatloads of money? I’m sad that I didn’t put mine to good use until my junior year of college! Here are just a few ways you can save money with a student discount:

  • Amazon Prime: Did you know that students get a discounted Prime membership? This is great if you’re using Amazon to buy and sell books, too.
  • Museums: I was shocked when I realized my student ID got me free admission to nearly all of the museums in town. Since museum admission is $10 a pop, this can save you a ton of money. Sure, museums aren’t as fun as the club, but this gets you away from campus to enjoy a little culture, so why not?
  • Some restaurants: This usually applies to restaurants near campus, but many places will slash $1 – $5 off your tab if you flash your ID first. 

The bottom line

Money can get a little tight when you’re going to school. Fortunately, you don’t have to live on instant ramen for 4 years.

Make the most of your time in school and save money with these 5 hacks. Remember, you won’t be a broke college student forever. Lay the foundation for healthy money habits now to graduate into frugal post-grad life.

Contributor’s opinions are their own. Always do your own due diligence before investing.

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