As a college student, it probably feels at times like it is your lot in life to remain perpetually overworked and underpaid. It seems like there's nothing left after you've bought your books for the semester, and the most that you can expect to earn from part-time work is just a few thousand dollars for the entire school year.
You'd like to have a bit of walking around money that you can use when hanging out with your friends, and you might even have bills such as monthly car payments to worry about. The way to ensure that you can have the best possible experience in college isn't by racking up credit card debt – it's by learning to live frugally and stretching the money that you have.
Follow these 10 tips, and you can't go wrong.
1. Eat The Cafeteria Food
At many colleges, cafeteria food is included in the cost for room and board. If you – or your parents – are paying for on-campus housing, that means you're also paying for three cafeteria meals a day. Why would you pay to eat out when there's food available that's already paid for?
When you do eat out with friends, do so on days when it'll really be worth it because you're going to have a great time. Eat at restaurants during happy hour whenever possible; you'll enjoy great discounts on food and drinks.
2. Consider Lower-Cost Living Options
Depending on where you go to school, the dorms might not be the least expensive housing option available to you. Consider renting a group apartment with friends instead. Splitting the rent and utilities among several people can leave you with an extremely small monthly bill. The one potential issue with living in an apartment during college is that the apartments closest to campus may fill up quickly.
You might need to put yourself on a reservation list well before the school year starts. If you can't get an apartment within walking distance of your classes, you might need to commute – and that can add to your monthly expenses. If you decide to try living in an apartment, remember that with sound planning, cooking your own food is always cheaper than eating out.
3. Quit JUULing
We get it; there is nothing quite like a burst of nicotine from a sweet, sweet mango JUUL pod. Your JUUL habit, however, is costing you an incredible amount of money. If you really want to keep money in your bank account, your best bet is to stop using nicotine altogether. If you want to continue vaping, though, do yourself a huge favor and pick up a vape pen with a refillable tank.
Buying bottled e-liquid rather than pre-filled pods can save you hundreds of dollars per month. Marketing executive Alice Foster of UK online vape shop OK Vape says, "We love walking our customers through the process of switching from closed-system to open-system vaping devices. Filling your own tanks means that you can choose from hundreds of different e-liquids rather than the few flavors available for one vaping system."
4. Stop Buying Expensive Coffee
Are you in the habit of grabbing a drink from the local coffee shop every morning? The profit margin on coffee is incredibly high. A $3-a-day coffee habit – if you're buying the cheap stuff, which you probably aren't – works out to hundreds of dollars over the course of the school year.
A kettle and pour-over coffee carafe cost almost nothing in comparison, and you can get the same quality as a coffee shop simply by buying good beans, grinding the beans before brewing and using the right water temperature. Similarly, you're wasting your money if you drink bottled water; buy a water filter pitcher instead.
5. Capitalize On Student Discounts
Across the world, there are innumerable retailers who understand that college students are perpetually short on cash and want your business anyway. Take advantage of that by shopping at the places that offer the best student discounts. Some popular companies offering student discounts include:
- Banana Republic
- J. Crew
- Sam's Club
Many of the clothing stores, markets and restaurants – even businesses that are part of chains – near your college campus may offer student discounts. Sometimes, though, the discounts may not be advertised. Don't be nervous about asking.
6. Get Your Clothes From Thrift Shops
If you're on a tight budget and have a flair for style, don't limit your clothing options to what's available at the local malls. Every major college campus has at least one thrift shop or vintage clothing store. At such places, you can find like-new clothes for next to nothing. Macklemore wasn't joking when he wrote "Thrift Shop."
7. Consider A Different School
If you really want to be frugal about your education, you should think seriously about whether attending an expensive university is the right choice for you. If you're the one responsible for paying for your own education, do you really want to spend the next decade after college paying back your student loan – or would you rather finish college free of debt and with a degree in your hand?
Only you can decide which school is right for you. When you begin your career, though, you may find that prospective employers care more about your experience and personal narrative than where you earned your degree.
8. Don't Pay Top Dollar For Books
When you need to buy your books for the semester, the absolute worst thing that you can do is buy your books brand new from the campus bookstore. No matter how well you care for them, your investment will lose its value more quickly than a new BMW. For that matter, don't buy your books on campus at all.
Look for bargains on Amazon and eBay. Consider renting your books rather than buying them.
9. Consider Selling Your Car
When you're in college, owning a car isn't always the best financial decision. If you don't own the car outright, you're making monthly payments on it. If you don't have a car loan, you're still paying for insurance, gas and maintenance. Sure, having a car makes some aspects of your life more convenient. If walking or taking the bus can help you get your student loan paid off more quickly, though, isn't that the better choice?
10. Attend Every Class
College is rife with temptation, and one temptation every student encounters is that of skipping class. At any time of the day, you can find something on campus that seems more fun than attending class. Skipping class, though, is just about the worst thing that you can do with your money. You've already paid your tuition; skipping class is the same as flushing that money down the toilet. Put your education first; you'll still have plenty of time for fun.