College is an exciting time, but financially, it can be difficult to stay responsible. Living on campus means spending money on food, beverages and nights out with your friends, which can be problematic if you’re trying to save up money for your post-grad years. However, it’s very possible to not only manage your finances responsibly in college, but also to save up money for the future. Here are ten essential money-saving tips for college students:
1. Find the Right Bank for You
It’s important to find a bank that suits your student financial situation. Look for banks that offer student accounts that reimburse you for out-of-network ATM fees or have low minimum daily balance requirements, or open an account with a bank that has ATMs near your campus.
2. Use Mobile Banking
It’s much easier to be responsible with your money when your account balances and statements are just a click away. Be sure to download your bank’s mobile app (nearly all banks have one,) and check your balances frequently.
3. Build Credit Responsibly
Building credit is essential to secure loans if you need them later in life, so use your credit card as much as possible. At the same time, be sure to monitor your card balances carefully; overcharging your card or being late on payments can seriously hurt your credit.
4. Don’t Overspend on Books
Many campus bookstores charge higher than the market price for textbooks, so a good way to save money is to get your books elsewhere. Online retailers like Amazon usually offer books for lower prices, or you can be especially thrifty and buy used textbooks on eBay or similar sites
5. Eat Free
One of the best ways to save money is to take advantage of any food you can get free or discounted as a student. Know your school’s meal plan; if it’s free to eat at the school cafeteria, eat there most days and limit money spent on restaurants or take-out. When you do go out, look for local businesses that offer student discounts, and also keep an eye out for student events that offer free meals.
6. Keep a Strict Budget
Even if you think you’re financially responsible, there’s no reason not to make a budget. Track all expenses on your smartphone and set goals for your weekly or monthly spending. Identifying what you spend the most on can help you reduce your overall spending.
7. Use the Envelope System
The ‘Envelope system’ is a method of setting a budget for the week and placing the money you’ll allow yourself for different expenses in marked envelopes. Calculate how much you’ll need each week on gas, food, etc., label each envelope, and if an envelope runs out, don’t spend more in that category until the next week.
8. Apply for a Job On-Campus
Even if you aren’t receiving financial aid, there are often employment opportunities right on campus. Contact your school’s student employment office to see what jobs may be available to earn yourself some regular income, but do it as soon as the semester starts; many campus positions fill up quickly.
9. Avoid Unnecessary Fees
You’d be surprised at how much money you can save just by avoiding any fees. Avoid ATM fees, for example, by starting an account with a local bank, or find the nearest ATM for your current bank and use it exclusively. You’ll also want to pay off credit card balances or other bills promptly to avoid late fees.
10. Don’t Drive
If you have a car on campus, you’ll want to drive it as little as possible to avoid spending extra on gas. If your college has a ride-sharing option, or rental options such as ZipCars, take advantage of it, or use public transportation in your area if available.
This article was contributed by guest author Hayden Sewart.