How To Save Money in College

Traci Williams

Student calculating how to save money in college

For many students, college marks their first time being in charge of their own finances. Starting off on the right financial path will better prepare you for life once you receive your diploma. Your future self will have more security, less stress and, hopefully, no student loans to worry about.

And the best part? You don’t have to eat ramen noodles every day to save money. Here are tips to help you start building a comfortable savings account now, and say “no” to debt while you’re in college.

12 Ways To Save Money in College

Saving Money on Housing

As you enter college you first need to think about where you’re going to live. There are plenty of options as a college student, but it’s best to keep it budget friendly.

1. Compare costs between living on and off campus.

Campus housing is a nice convenience for classes and campus life; likewise, it may be the most cost-effective option. However, living off campus may be more expensive if you must factor in transportation and utilities. Be sure to look at all the options in the area to see what’s most affordable.

2. Be realistic with how much space you need.

When you’re trying to save money, you need to be honest and realistic with your living accommodations. Perhaps you need to start small and move into something a little bigger each year once you have money in your savings account. An example is moving from dorms to apartments.

Saving Money on Food

Wherever you live, you need to eat, right? It may not be ramen noodles every night or expensive coffee every morning, but you do have choices and it’s best to be wise and plan ahead.

3. Meal plan for off-campus living.

Plan your meals ahead of time and make a list of what you need for the grocery store. Track your anticipated spending and only buy what’s on your list. Hundreds of meal planning tips are available online, and many are specifically designed with a budget in mind.

When you get to the grocery store, compare name brands with a generic version. Oftentimes, the most expensive items will be placed on the shelves at eye level. Generic items usually have the same ingredients as the name brand but are sold at a reduced price.

4. Meal plans available through school.

Depending on your school, meal plan costs will vary, GCU is no exception. Look into each option and be realistic when choosing which one you will use. If you don’t have one, you can get a lower one and try the meal planning tips. However, if you know you’d like to snack sometimes, getting a higher meal plan might be worth it.

5. Create a budget for eating out…and stick with it.

Going out to eat with your friends is fun, so it’s ok to do so occasionally. The best way to avoid impulse dining is to create a monthly budget for eating out and keep track of all your expenses (even on the little things, like lattes). Once the budget is spent, you’ll need to either say “no” or come up with other creative, free solutions to bond with your friends.

Saving Money on Tuition and Supplies

College isn’t cheap, but tuition doesn’t have to be intimidating if you do your research and look for ways to save and reduce costs.

6. Apply for scholarships.

Many schools offer generous scholarship opportunities to help make college more affordable. Remember, the goal is to save money and avoid student loan debt after graduation. Scholarships will help you with this goal!

7. Buy used books.

In this day of Amazon and other online retailers, buying used and inexpensive textbooks can be easy and a lot less expensive than going to the campus bookstore. If you need a textbook, GCU provides an eBook copy for use. It’s likely you won’t need the books after the semester is over and it will help you save money. Though if you need a physical copy, consider printing off chapters as needed.

8. Stay focused on your studies.

Every semester is an added expense. If it fits with your schedule and degree program, enroll in summer courses or take more credits per semester. This may help reduce the length of time you’re in college.

Bonus Tips on How To Save Money in College

It may sound self-explanatory, but unnecessary spending is one of the biggest roadblocks to saving money. Be wary of impulse purchases, especially when the money can be better spent elsewhere. And no matter what, always try to spend less than you earn.

9. Search for discounts and coupons.

Many places offer student discounts that can help make a dent in your spending. Bring your student ID card to museums, theaters and restaurants. If you’re uncertain about whether a discount is available, there’s no harm in asking. Also, be sure to use Groupon and other discount apps wherever you shop.

10. Make money on the side.

While you’re in school, you can add money to your savings faster by getting a part-time or side job. This can include babysitting, dog-walking, selling stuff on eBay or Facebook Marketplace, or even a part-time, entry-level job in your degree field through your university.

11. Don’t own a car.

Owning a car means spending money on gas, insurance, parking and unexpected repairs. Save that money for other needs and wants you have and, instead, ride your bike, take public transportation, Uber or Lyft when you need to go short distances.

12. Start paying off interest now.

If you do have to take out a student loan to help pay for college, make payments whenever you can while in school. Even just a small amount each month will make a big difference and reduce your loan payoff time after graduation.

Set Goals To Save Money

Having specific financial goals in mind can make saving easier. Every inessential purchase can be seen as a small setback to your next trip or a dip into your savings fund for a new car. Take a look at your income and set a monthly savings goal, then stick to it as much as possible. Your future self will thank you when you’re finally able to cross something big off your bucket list or put a down payment on a house.

To learn more about joining the tight-knit community at Grand Canyon University and our degree programs, click the Request Info button at the top of this page and get started on your journey to find your purpose. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.