April 26, 2020
The great American lyricist and song writer, Paul Simon, wrote a hit called 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. It appeared on his album, Still Crazy after All These Years.
I was reminded of that song when I saw an article on the Campus Grotto site entitled College Budgeting 101: How to Save Money as a College Student. What's the Paul Simon connection?
Well, a quick scan of the article reveal 69 ways to save money, if you're a college student. That's 19 more ways than those available to leave your lover, so to speak. So, I thought I would share some (not all 69) with you today.
The various “ways" fall into different categories, starting with “Food & Drink," an especially important area for active collegians. Then come “Household Expenses," “Textbooks," “Transportation," “Entertainment," “College Expenses," and, finally, “Money Tips."
Example of Student Spending
I tried to think of some area that wasn't covered by these seven buckets, but the only thing I could come up with is “Romance." Making a romantic connection in college is something that happens frequently. On further thought, I imagined that romance might be covered either under Entertainment or College Expenses … or. both. We'll see.
As I scanned the seven financial areas, images of my own college days (I always want to type “daze") flashed through my head. Food & Drink stimulated memories of late-night Hilltop Sub Shop steak sandwiches and frat parties, although I was a so-called “GDI" (see the Urban Dictionary for that abbreviation).
Household Expenses reminded me of needing some occasional new clothes for a date or new tennis racquet strings for my next team match. Textbooks caused annoying surges in spending because there always seemed to be one more book needed after I thought the term's reading requirements were settled.
Transportation demanded bus tickets to travel to other campuses when I visited friends. Entertainment, obviously, took me to the movies and other places when I couldn't find time to study. All the foregoing was what I consider College Expenses because I was spending money while I was at college. I definitely could have used some Money Tips.
– If you have a meal plan, actually use it. If you don't eat on campus all the time, remove your meal plan or go with a lower-priced option.
– Don't get soda when you go out to eat. Opt for the healthier choice of water.
– Find events on campus that offer free food for attending. Follow those “Free Pizza" signs!
– Shop at Walmart, Dollar Stores, and thrift shops.
– Shop used. Not everything you buy has to be new. Really. Dorm life can be rough on a lot of your possessions, so buying things used can give you peace of mind in several ways, namely that you saved money. Second-hand stores often have good merchandise—even Goodwill can carry some really nice clothes. Pawn shops or used media stores can offer a wide-selection of used games and DVDs that you can buy for a lot less than if they were new.
– Buy generic brand items.
– Buy textbooks online. Also consider renting, buying in digital form, or getting the international edition of the textbook for additional savings.
– Buy used textbooks. This is probably the most popular way to save money as a college student. Amazon is probably your best bet as far as getting the best deal from a reputable online seller who can ship it out to you as soon as possible. (Sign up for a free 6-month trial of Amazon Prime Student to get free two-day shipping.)
– Use audiobooks from Audible.com and study on the go. Take advantage of their two free audiobooks offer by doing a free trial of their service.
– Don't bring a car. They are a huge expense and cost a lot in insurance and gas. Instead, use services like ZipCar and Uber.
– Ride your bike. Except for commuter students, no one needs a car on campus for daily use. You'll get your exercise and be able to easily maneuver through the campus on wheels.
– Keep an eye out for free activities on campus. Most college campuses have free entertainment almost every night of the week. For example: some colleges have a weekly movie night that is free to all students.
– Borrow movies from the library. The library has a large collection of movies for students to check out.
– Take a look at your college bill. Certain fees are optional. If you won't be using your college's fitness center, remove the fee.
– Don't buy anything from the school's bookstore. Some of the prices they charge are outrageous.
– Do not use student loans for anything that is not school related. It's tempting to rack up your credit and loans, knowing you'll eventually pay it back. However, you have no idea how the economy will look when you graduate and you don't want to be in massive debt while job searching.
– Research your school for scholarships. This means taking a look at the website, contacting the admissions office, scholarship office, and faculty to see what's available. Use every resource you have to get the big scholarships while keeping your eyes open for smaller, but still substantial ones. Look for scholarships in the area of your major. Most professional organizations will have scholarships to encourage students to stay in that field.
– Take advantage of student services. There are plenty of free programs that assist you while going to school. From health care to transportation, there are many different ways to save money.
– Only buy what you need. Don't buy on impulse.
– If you do decide to go with a credit card, get a student-friendly credit card. Just don't run up credit card bills for trivial things. It's very easy to rack up credit card debt.
– Keep track of everything you spend. It really helps to know what you have coming in and going out each month so you are left with a better picture of the amount of disposable income you have. Use Mint.com to manage your finances.
– Go with a prepaid cell phone. This is helpful for knowing exactly what your cell phone bill will be each month. There are providers that enable you to bring your own phone and pay $45/month for unlimited talk, text and data.
– Not only should you try to save money, but you should also try to make money in college. Get a campus job. There are several jobs that have very little responsibility, believe it or not, and many times you can do your homework during this time. There are typically many jobs available on campus and most are pretty flexible with your class schedule.
The above are just a few of the 69 great ideas for you to conserve your cash while you are at college. Learning to manage a budget should be part of every college student's curriculum.
Sure, Mom and Dad can help, but think of how much more responsible you'll be if you can create a program of sensible spending that will take some of the financial pressure of of your parents. Of course, you don't want to get a reputation for being cheap, but your careful controls over spending could earn you a reputation for being a “spending advisor." Being an on-campus resource for students who are having a hard time with their money matters could turn into a source of cash for you. There are those who would be willing to pay for your economic acumen.
If you're looking for a good place to learn some tricks of the careful-spending trade, Campus Grotto's “69 Ways" is a great place to start.
Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.