How to save money in college

With the sky high amounts that so many of us owe in student loans, being frugal is increasingly important. It can sometimes be hard to save money while you’re in college, but I’ve rounded up my best tips for today’s blog post. Without further ado, check out my 8 best money-saving suggestions for college students!

*Please note: This advice comes from my own experience and because of that is geared toward people from an upper middle class background similar to mine. I’m not an expert on this subject and can only speak from my own experience.*

Sky high student loans mean that every penny counts in college. Check out these 8 great tips on how to save money as a student! | HOW TO SAVE MONEY IN COLLEGE | HONEYBEEJOYOUS

1. Create a budget and track your spending.

This is probably the most obvious piece of financial advice someone could give, but there’s a reason for that. Budgeting works! Even if your income fluctuates from month to month, it’s a good idea to set yourself rough guidelines for how much you’re going to set aside to save, how much you’re going to use for food, how much will go to rent, how much you’ll keep as spending money, etc. Budgeting can be super helpful no matter your financial situation! Regular readers of Honeybee Joyous will already know how much I love goals (if you’re new here, you can read about my goal setting process here, here, here, and in my free ebook here), and making a budget is really just setting goals for your finances.

Even more important than budgeting, at least for me, is tracking my spending. I try to keep up with a financial tracker I keep in my catch-all notebook, where I write down each transaction I make. I log where I spent the money, how much I spent, and what my updated checking account balance is. Writing down each and every transaction I make as I make it really helps to reinforce the fact that every purchase is money gone from my account. Starting to do this has really helped me curb unnecessary spending. I also do a monthly check-in, where I write down my checking and savings account balances, how much money I made that month, how much money I spent that month, and the balance on my meal plan. Seeing all of that information laid out in front of me every month helps me stay on track with my goals.

2. Don’t knock the clearance rack.

Couponing isn’t just for those crazy people you see on TLC, it can be a great way to save money! It’s pretty much impossible to avoid spending money entirely, so you can try to make sure that when you are spending, you’re not overspending. Shopping the clearance rack and/or using coupons is also great because it allows you to still spend money on “just for fun” or “treat yourself” items. It’s no fun to only buy necessities, but you don’t want your nonessential purchases to break the bank. Try making a rule for yourself that you’ll never buy non-essential items at full price. (Just be careful you don’t fall into the trap of buying something just because it’s on sale!)

When you go into a store, always go in with a list in hand. This will help you prevent yourself from making impulse purchases. Walk to the clearance rack before you look at anything else. If you find what you need there, you won’t even need to tempt yourself by looking in the rest of the store. Keep an eye on all those stores’ email lists you’re probably subscribed to — sometimes that’s where you can find the best deals! Also take a look at the website Retail Me Not, it’s great for finding coupons (both to use in store and online!) to your favorite stores and they even have an app for your phone. I also love the browser extension Honey for online shopping. It goes through tons of coupon websites to get you the best deal at your online checkout. If all else fails, when you’re checking out at the store, ask the cashier if they have any coupons. The worst that could happen is they say no. Oftentimes, though, cashiers might be able to work some magic for you and pull a coupon out of thin air. Regardless, it never hurts to ask!

3. Take advantage of your school’s freebies.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to look into what your school can do to help you save money! Maybe the financial aid office or career center offers a budgeting seminar. Local businesses probably give a student discount. Instead of spending $15 for popcorn and a movie ticket this weekend, try going to one of the free events on your campus. My school even has a partnership with our local public transportation system and we can ride the buses for free with our student ID. Talk about saving on gas money!

4. Don’t forget about your meal plan.

If your school is anything like mine, the dining hall food probably isn’t great. However, students who live on campus at my institution are required to purchase a meal plan that comes with meal swipes and “dining dollars.” It’s easy to spend tons of money every semester on eating the better food off campus, but the meal plan is prepaid and none of swipes or dining dollars roll over from semester to semester. Using every last drop of your meal plan money is one of the easiest ways to save!

5. Collaborate with fellow students.

Pretty much everybody is in the same boat when it comes to trying to save money in college. Because of this, your school’s student body might already have some systems in place to help each other out. My biggest tip here is to find the popular Facebook groups for students at your school. My campus has a really robust Facebook group community. One of my favorites is a clothing swap/selling group where people sell their old clothes for really cheap. This is a great way to spice up your wardrobe or maybe find that perfect pair of fall boots you’ve been looking for on a tight budget. There’s also a textbook selling group and I know that one can be a real lifesaver since textbook prices are so outrageous. Your school probably also has a ridesharing Facebook group. Pitching in for gas in a car full of five people is a way cheaper way to get home for break than taking the train, so I would definitely recommend trying to carpool as much as possible! If you’re a freshman, be sure to talk to upperclassmen about how they save money, because they probably have some super useful tips applicable to your specific school.

6. Create a “do not touch” rule for your savings account. (And hold yourself to it!)

If you only implement one tip from this post, let it be this one. Creating this rule for myself was by far the best thing I have ever done for my finances. I am blessed with amazing parents who set me up with a savings account when I was young and my parents and grandparents added money to it through the years as I was growing up. All of the money from my RA paycheck goes into my savings account, as does most of the money I’ve made at summer jobs, but my smaller paychecks from my childcare job and substitute teaching over winter break go into my checking. The fact that I always have three or four jobs going on at once makes this a little easier to do, but I have a hard and fast rule: Money can go into my savings account, but it can’t come out.

Of course, money can come out for emergencies, but an emergency would be a big medical bill or to pay my graduate school tuition next year, not reeeeeally wanting mozzarella sticks. Since I don’t let myself transfer money from savings to checking, I’m a lot less willing to allow my checking account balance to dip significantly, which really helps me curb any unnecessary spending.

7. If your parents offer to pay for something, let them.

Let me just preface this tip by saying that I’m talking about things your parents can afford. If you’re putting yourself through school because your parents are struggling to put food on the table for your siblings back home, this tip is not meant for you, but you really rock and I can’t imagine doing what you’re doing!

That being said, if your parents can and want to pay for your textbooks or buy your next round of groceries when they come to visit, let them do it. It will make them happy and it makes financial sense for you. Even better — and I guarantee this will make your parents proud! — take the money you would have spent on whatever they bought for you and transfer it into your savings account (which you’re not going to touch).

8. Learn how to say no to spending money!

This is probably the most difficult tip on this list. When all of your friends are eating off campus every weekend, spending money on social activities, going out to bars, and still somehow managing to afford college, it can be scary to say that you can’t afford something. Even if you can afford it, that doesn’t mean you should spend the money. It’s important to remember that if your friends are good friends, they won’t judge you for wanting to save your money, no matter your reasoning.

However, you still might not want to say “I don’t have the money for that.” Instead, try suggesting a cheaper or free alternative to whatever expensive activity you’re turning down! Another good idea is to have a concrete goal you cite. It’s easy for someone who doesn’t understand your financial situation to say “It’s not that expensive!” if you tell them you don’t have the money. However, it’s a lot harder to argue against you if you say “I don’t want to eat out tonight. I’m trying to save money to buy a car.”


{Saving money is so important but it can definitely be hard, especially in college. What do you do to save money? Tell me in a comment down below!}


32 thoughts on “How to save money in college

  1. I fully agree with the letting your parents help out if they can! I had this one friend in college that was bound and determined to do it all on his own and he would never let his mom help, it put a lot of unneeded strain on him for sure!

    xoxo, SS

    Southern and Style

  2. I shop bargains even though I graduated years ago. Newlywed life is almost as much of a struggle managing money wise as being in school!

  3. Having a meal plan was a big one for me! (My parents actually required me to get one because they knew if they gave me food money I would just spend it on clothes. Haha.)

    Packing snacks also saved me a ton of money! Buying snacks at work and from on campus stores usually had a pretty high markup, so I packed a ton of snacks every day.

    XO, SS || Seersucker Sass

    1. Haha that was smart of your parents, sounds like they know you well! And yes I definitely love to pack snacks. There’s a microwave in my school’s library so I know if I’m going to be there for several hours I’ll pack a soup or easy mac instead of spending a ton of money at the coffee shop there.

  4. I am so happy we don’t have to pay student loans here in Austria. It really makes a difference! But I have to say, it’s always good to save some money in college 🙂

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