Updated on June 28, 2021
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 Short- and Long-Term Goals
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. It’s important to save for these purchases early on so that you can comfortably afford them when the time comes.
There are many benefits to saving ahead of time for a planned expense. First and foremost, the earlier you start saving, the easier it’ll be to achieve your goal. If you save a little over a longer period of time, you’ll be less likely to notice the effects of having less to spend. This will help you quickly become accustomed to paying yourself first. When you have a concrete “want,” you’ll be more likely to stay motivated to save, which can give you confidence to establish bigger saving goals in the future.
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.
2. Find Part-Time Employment During the School Year
A few hours a week of part-time work can go a long way toward helping you achieve your financial goals. The money you save from a summer job can help, but without income during the school year, you may find yourself with a dwindling account balance. Extra income can help you cover unexpected expenses, preserving your summer earnings.
Many colleges have job boards where you can find on-campus employment, like resident assistants, IT support staff, or peer tutors. 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 movie buff, consider working at a local theater on evenings and weekends. Just keep in mind that if you’re serious about saving what you earn, you’ll want to choose a job 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 of it. You can set up automatic payments to be transferred into your 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, which makes it much easier to avoid spending it. Start slow by 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. Some colleges host clothing drives to help students build a professional wardrobe. See if this is offered on your campus, and if not, volunteer to organize one.
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. Sign up for airline newsletters and alerts, and act quickly when they announce a fare sale. Book tickets 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. 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, carpooling will allow you to 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. Take Advantage of On-Campus Options
Many schools offer a variety of resources for their students. You may find services like counseling, fitness centers, and tutoring services for free or at a discounted price. Using these on-campus options could help you save money on co-pays or monthly memberships.
Colleges frequently host concerts, comedy shows, sporting events, plays, and trips. Tickets may be free or offered at a reduced rate for students. Attending these events over other, more expensive options allows you to have fun while sticking to your budget and gives you a chance to meet people on campus who have the same interests as you.
Want to learn how PSECU can help you manage your finances and save money? Check out our banking options for college students.