College can be expensive. Books, late-night pizza, supplies, travel, and room décor are just a few typical expenses you’ll probably want to plan for in your college budget. And that’s on top of tuition, room and board, and any academic supplies you might need.
If you’re looking for ways to get started earning and saving money in college, check out this list below.
1. Set a Short-Term Goal
Financial goal setting is critical to any successful savings plan, and now is the perfect time to put that lesson into practice. Think about a special expense you’ll want to spend money on over the coming months. Maybe it’s holiday presents, spring break, or study abroad. Planning early so you have time to save for a big expense makes the process easier to manage.
The benefits of starting early are notable. First and foremost, the earlier you start saving, the easier it will be. You can chip away at your goal slowly, and you’ll be less likely to notice the effects of having less to spend. Secondly, you’ll become accustomed quickly to always paying yourself first. When you have a concrete “want,” you’ll be more likely to stay motivated as you save, and that can help when you establish bigger goals later.
2. Find Part-Time Employment During the School Year
A few hours a week of part-time employment can go a long way toward helping you achieve your financial goals. The money you save from your summer job helps, but without employment during the school year as well, you may find yourself with a quickly dwindling balance in your savings or checking account. Extra income can help you cover unexpected expenses, preserving your summer earnings longer.
To find work, college job boards are helpful resources, but don’t limit your search there. If you love coffee, see if you can pick up a shift or two at the local coffee shop. If you’re a lifeguard, see if the local community pool needs help. Just keep in mind that if you’re serious about saving what you make, you’ll want to choose somewhere that won’t tempt you to spend your earnings, like your favorite retail store.
3. Automate Your Savings
If your employer offers direct deposit, take advantage. Then, you can set up automatic payments into a separate free checking or savings account. One of the benefits of automated savings is you don’t have to remember to transfer the money into the account — and, even better, you don’t see it. That makes it much easier to avoid spending it. Try starting with putting half of your paycheck into a separate savings account and using the other half to cover your monthly budget. If you need to adjust, you can, but try to save as much as possible first.
4. Embrace Thriftiness
There’s comfort in knowing that you’re not alone and that many college students are working hard to save money. You and your friends can help each other succeed by adopting healthy money management habits together.
If you’re tempted to go out to dinner on the weekends, stay in and have a potluck or cook something with others. If you live off campus, find out if there’s a food co-op in your neighborhood.
If you have a big event coming up on campus, try shopping at a second-hand store rather than buying something brand new for a one-time use. For day-to-day clothing, host a clothing swap party.
5. Book Travel Strategically
Many college students find themselves traveling during peak holiday periods to get home for winter or summer break when prices are at their highest. Tickets that normally cost $99 one way could instead ding your wallet for $399 or more. Sign up for airline newsletters and alerts, and act quickly when they announce a fare sale. Book travel on the days outside of peak travel periods, or on days other than Fridays and Sundays, and you could save big on your next flight.
Car rentals are another option if you need to travel and don’t have your own vehicle. Some rental services will allow drivers as young as 18 for an additional fee, but in general, the older you are, the less expensive it will be. Check your credit card terms and conditions to see if your benefits include car rental insurance. If so, you can decline it at the rental counter and save money. If you have a friend headed the same direction, you can split the gas costs for even more savings.
6. Sell Unused Belongings
Once you arrive home after a few months at college, you’re likely to have things you don’t need anymore. Old game consoles, portable speakers, televisions, and even clothes are just a few of the things that may have value. Sell them and add this money to your savings account.
7. Set a Long-Term Goal
In addition to setting short-term goals, it’s time to think long term. This could include chipping away at your student loan balance early, saving up to relocate to a new area, buying a new car, or getting a head start on retirement. When it comes to saving, it’s never too early.
Writing down your goals is shown to help you achieve them. Write down your long-term goals or create a vision board and place it somewhere you’ll see each day. Remembering what’s most important to you in the long run could help you reduce frivolous spending today.
Want to learn how PSECU can help you manage your finances and save money? Check out our banking options for college students.