how to save money for college

The 10 Dos and Dont’s to Saving Money in College

Did you know September is “College Savings Month”? It seems like an oxymoron, right? Who can focus on saving money in college anyway? It is almost laughable considering tuition increases an average of 8% every year, which means the cost of college doubles every nine years.

But we are here to tell you: “Saving money is possible in college.” Yes, really.

Take it from a company whose sole purpose is moving people beyond debtcollege does not have to come with a lifetime supply of Pepto Bismol and headache medication. You can commit to saving money while planning or attending college.

If you are disciplined and committed, there are several Dos and Don’ts when it comes to money that every college student or parent should write down. Bookmark this page. You’re going to need it.

First, the DON’Ts of Saving Money in College

Saving money in college is possible but not like this.
Source: Getty Images

DON’T forget your student ID

Whether you live in a “college town” or a city with a couple of colleges to consider, discounts are available at places to help any student saving money.

  • Are you going to a restaurant or coffee shop to cram? Flash the ID to buy more than an appetizer.
  • Do you need clothes (because you haven’t done laundry in a month)? Big brands and thrift stores offer discounts.
  • Are you standing in another three-hour line at the Apple genius bar? Yes, even Apple knocks a little off the price for students.

So, never leave home or the dorm without it.

DON’T overdraft your checking account

If you are concerned about saving money in college, protect the money you have when you overdraft your checking account. The fees will put you in debt faster than you can fail an exam on quantum analytics. Pay attention to what you have in your account and stop spending money you don’t have.

DON’T buy new textbooks

Yes, it makes sense to buy a used textbook because those are the ones that are already marked up. The catch is you don’t if the one who marked it up never paid attention in class. The reason you buy—or even RENT—a used textbook is it is much cheaper. You can even find them at the library or Amazon. Second-hand books are first-hand savings.

DON’T shop for groceries when hungry

Have you ever been told not to “impulse buy”? It would be best if you bought groceries when planning what to eat. If you only go to the grocery store when you’re hungry, all you will find is Ramen noodles and Twinkies. With all that unnecessary food, how are saving money? Do better for budget and your health.  

DON’T neglect savings opportunities

Sharing is caring. If you are focused on saving money, it’s also a little daring. Have you ever considered asking a friend to split an order of fajitas? What about splitting the cost of groceries with your roommate? (Incidentally, if you live at home, there’s a perk—free food.) How about spending time looking for coupons? Even if it’s a few cents at a time, saving money is always a good thing.

Now, the DOs for Saving Money in College

Saving money in college is possible, especially if you follow these tips.
Source: iStock

DO limit subscriptions

You still want the comforts of home. However, can you afford it? If you have been banned from streaming passwords, consider what you need. Hulu or Netflix (not both)? XBOX or PS5 (or neither)? Spotify or Pandora (both have freemium plans)? Wherever you need to be entertained, do it frugally. You don’t have that much free time anyway.

DO buy in bulk

Remember when you made fun of trips to the grocery warehouse and buying cases of chips large enough to feed a preseason football team? It’s your turn. Find Sam’s Club or Costco at once. You’ll find how miraculous it feels when you only have to shop for snacks once every three months. And toiletries in bulk? Amazing how a package of 24 rolls in your closet helps stress levels.  

DO visit the library

So, you’re not in fifth grade anymore. If you went back to that day, you might remember how much free stuff is in those hallowed halls. There are books and computers to use, videos to borrow, printers to lean on, and even random tutorials. And they are all free. If you are saving money in college, become a bookworm and make the library your spot on campus.

DO get a job

Why? Because you need money. And if you are too busy making money, you’re not spending it (as much). Campus jobs are always available and usually, come with benefits like free gear or the occasional sporting event ticket. If you live in a college town, you know when students are cramming for an exam but still need to eat, they opt to order Doordash or Grubhub. So, why not be the person who delivers? Just be sure you still have enough time to study.

DO make your coffee (or tea)

For the love of the famed Ethiopian goat herder Kaldi circa 850 AD, make your coffee! Do the math. If those fancy green and white cups cost an average of $5 each day, that’s $100 each month. Buy your beans, creamer, tea bags and whatever else, and make your coffee or tea. Put it in a tumbler and stay alert in class while keeping cash in your pocket.

(And the same goes for tea for those of you who need this on a daily basis. From Chai to Sweet, Matcha to Green, you’ll save many coins making your own.)

There are many more tips on saving money in college and ways not to spend it. The secret to surviving college financially is not about finding tips to save but having the discipline to do it. And yes, you can do it!