A couple years ago, my university gym announced it would only be open for about six hours a day with restrictions. I had afternoon classes and could not make it during the open hours, so I had to get an off-campus gym membership. When I returned to my university gym the following school year, I forgot to cancel my other membership. Every month I was charged for the off-campus membership, even though I had not been there in months. The amount of money I spent on a gym membership I was not even using could have been used to buy a new purse or outfit. I realized that I needed to carefully watch where my hard-earned money was being spent.
It is no secret today that inflation is sending prices soaring for everyday goods and services. There is a video circulating around Instagram and TikTok that says, “I like staying home because every time I go outside, I spend $100.” Although I laughed while watching it, I quickly realized that I do not want to wastefully spend money every day during this economic recession. As college students, we already empty our wallets when paying for tuition and housing each semester, so it is important to save money where we can. Here are some practical ways I have found that college students can save money.
#1 – Budgeting
When it comes to saving money, equally important is knowing where you are spending your money. I recommend printing out your credit card statement or recording your purchases for a month to track your spending. See where and what you are spending money on. Then create a budget based on trends while accounting for your personal needs. You can purchase a physical budgeting book or create a budgeting spreadsheet. You can also take advantage of helpful apps like Mint, Quicken, or EveryDollar to help you track your spending. Some banks also provide free online budgeting tools.
Sometimes saving money is as simple as avoiding unnecessary costs by keeping a tighter eye on finances.
#2 – Student Discounts
As a college student, you have access to a multitude of student discounts. Spotify slashes the price of premium from $9.99 a month to just $4.99 a month when you confirm your student email. Hulu also offers a discount, where you can watch movies and tv shows for $1.99 a month with your school email. Amazon Prime gives students a free membership for six months and then half off the price of a yearly membership with access to Amazon music, movies, and eBooks.
I also use discount apps like UNIDAYS. The UNIDAYS discounts have saved me an extra 15% off at places including Aerie, Dr. Martens, Fenty Beauty, and Tarte Cosmetics, simply for being a student.
#3 – Textbooks
Aside from tuition and housing payments, textbooks are one of college students’ most expensive purchases at the beginning of every semester. Buying textbooks from the bookstore can be beneficial if you need an access code or require a specific book for your class. To avoid outrageous bookstore prices, look for used books from secondhand websites. I find textbooks on Thriftbooks, VitalSource, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace. I have also rented a textbook through the Amazon Prime Textbook Rentals service. Renting textbooks is a great way to save money if you do not want to get stuck with trying to sell your textbooks at the end of the semester. Many colleges have textbook buy/sell/trade groups, too, where you can post your books for sale or look for other students selling the textbooks you need.
#4 – Scholarships
Oftentimes, students believe they can only earn scholarships for academics when applying to college. You would be surprised at how many opportunities there are for students in college to earn additional scholarships. Many universities have a section of their website dedicated to university scholarships for specific majors or on-campus involvement. There are often scholarships available in your community as well. Try checking your workplace, church, and former K-12 school district. Network of enlightened Women has both an essay contest and Gentleman’s Showcase event, where students can earn scholarship money. Any amount of scholarship money helps!
It can be easy to forget about the automatically scheduled payments drawing from our accounts. Make sure to cancel subscriptions that you are not using, such as streaming services or, in my case, gym memberships. People always say “it’s the little things,” and the little things can add up quickly. If you are living on-campus with a meal plan, try to use your dining hall swipes and spend your on-campus dining dollars before leaving campus to buy food. Food and drinks can get expensive, and you already paid a hefty sum for your meal plan.
Becoming more financially savvy in saving and budgeting does not happen overnight—but everyone can work toward setting financial goals and sticking to them. Spending money wisely and cutting costs gives you the freedom to stress less and enjoy college. Find what budgeting system works best for you. I hope these tips encourage you to take advantage of offers unique to college students and make an effort to save money.
Erika Head is a NeW Chapter Leader and the NeW Communications Intern this fall.