How to Save Money in College

Recently, I wrote an article about saving money. While the tips I gave in that article were mainly good for those who have just graduated from college, I decided that I should write about savings techniques for many of us. That is, those who are still in college. We scrimp. We save. No matter what we do, it always seems like we can’t save any money for anything we want or need. This may seem true, but I assure you that at least one of these tips will be helpful.

Shop at Dollar Stores

Trust me, you won’t find everything you need at the dollar store. But you will find shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. If you think this won’t save you much money, think again. If you like Axe or Old Spice shampoo, conditioner, or body wash, Walmart will charge you about $4 per bottle. That’s $12 every single time you need to get more of each item. If you bought the generic brands at a dollar store, you would spend only $3 for all three items.

This example is applicable to a lot of things around your apartment. Toothpaste, dish soap, hand soap, dishwasher rinse aid, laundry detergent, and many other things can be found at dollar stores. If you go to dollar stores to purchase most of these items, you will spend $25 on almost everything you need for a while. What are the savings? $50 to $75 every time you buy these items collectively.


I know that this sounds a little cliche, but it’s definitely helpful. You hear that every little bit helps. These days, coupons don’t really do much. However, if you look on Pinterest and other Facebook groups such as Yes! We Coupon, you will find more coupons that will help out a lot. There will be times when this isn’t true, but it’s worth a look.

Buying in Bulk

Do you have a Sam’s Club or Costco nearby? Maybe there’s another wholesale store nearby. Whatever you have around, try buying some items in bulk. While food may not be much cheaper at these places, personal items will be. You can usually get great deals on shampoo and toothpaste. Always double check the prices with your local stores to make sure that they aren’t ripping you off.

Coin Jar

Use cash as much as possible and keep the change in a jar. If you’re able to, keep more than just coins in this jar. For example, if you bought something that was $15 and you used a $20 bill, put the remaining $5 in the jar. This is tough, but if you’re able to do it, you’re going to have a lot of money leftover.

Whatever is in the jar by the end of the week should be deposited to a savings account after you have set aside money you’ll need for the week. You will also find that you will do what you can to minimize the amount of money you put in the jar; doing this will help you spend less money over time in the long run.

Tip Jar

If you earn a tipped wage, then you’re going to want to read this. I’ve worked as a delivery driver for over a month now and I feel like I’ve developed a pretty good way to manage my tips. First off, the reason for a tip jar is to reduce the temptation that comes from thinking, “Wow! I just earned $30 in tips tonight. I’m eating out at someplace fancy!” Believe it or not, this is something that we’ve all felt. When you get your check and realize that it’s not enough to cover everything, you freak out and wonder, “How is this even a good paying job?” In order to get away from that feeling, here’s a great tip.

Take all your tip money and put it in a jar when you’re at home. The idea here is to save it and not to use it unless it’s an emergency. If you’re a driver and are paid mileage in the same night, keep a separate jar for that. Of course, use your mileage money for your car expenses. Chances are that you’ll be paid more than you will use in gas. If this is the case, don’t go spending that money right away. Whatever is leftover at the end of the week should be deposited directly into your bank account.

One little side note about leftover mileage: It would be very smart of you to think about when you’re going to need an oil change. If you know that you’re going to need one in a week or two, don’t put the leftover amount from your mileage jar into your account. Leave a minimum of the oil change and then you’re prepared. I’ve been doing this for a couple weeks and I’ve never lacked the money for gas or anything I needed for my car since.

Keep Some Financial Aid

Don’t budget yet! This might sound dumb, but the budgeting really should be delayed as soon as you get your financial aid. I hope that most readers will understand that I’m not talking about a long delay. Instead, I’m referring to taking a minute to make a goal of how much of your financial aid you’d like to store away in savings. Again, this may sound ridiculous. But I promise you that it works better than it sounds.

Let’s say that I received $6,000 in financial aid for the semester. Obviously, I’m going to want to save as much as I can. So I make a goal to save $2,500 and keep it in a savings account just in case. If my tuition costs $1,875 and then books are $125, I will only have $500 left to spend on anything else. Now start your budgeting. Efficient budgeting is the key to save money. It’s nowhere near easy, but it’s definitely worth it.

Minimize Expenses

This might sound like the most obvious way to help save money, but it’s amazing to see what you can do. 90 percent of minimizing expenses is done while you budget. In other words, it’s more of a preventative action than a spur of the moment action. A big part of minimizing expenses is also evaluating the costs against the benefits. Economists do this for almost every decision they make because of how effective it is.

If you’re thinking of switching cell phone carriers, buying a newer car, or buying new books instead of used books, you need to think about these questions: Is it really worth it? Is it worth spending more money on a different phone, a car payment you didn’t have before, or new books when many used books are just like new books? If you found a way to save $500 per month, would you want to do it?

When All Else Fails…

There are times when you just need to work more than one job. If you’re on a summer break, it would be a good idea for you to work long hours at more than one job. If you worked two jobs that gave you 60 hours per week, you would make a lot of money. Granted, it won’t be overtime pay, but you would potentially double, if not triple your income each week.

At the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, doing this for a summer, which is usually three months, would bring in $5,220 before taxes. Even if you kept only $4,000 of what you made over the summer, you could save it and potentially not have to work while you were in school. Alternatively, you could work a part-time job in school and end up with a lot more money in the end.

Just a Friendly Reminder

There is never any “proven” or “guaranteed” way to save money. I don’t care what anybody says. There just isn’t one way that works for everybody. You should develop a system that works for you. These tips will get you started, but only you will follow something you make yourself. Keeping this in mind, don’t forget that it’s just as important to keep up on your bills. Have fun with the different ways to save money.

If you have any other tips that help college students (that I haven’t mentioned), feel free to tell me in the comments below.


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