College students not only have to figure out how to cover the cost of books and tuition, but they need to somehow survive on a pittance.
Many end up dropping out because they just can’t deal with being broke much of the time and having to watch friends who have full-time jobs flash the cash.
Not you, though. With smart planning and determination, you can make it through to graduation. Yes, you can.
There are 10 heavy duty savings tips to help you think differently about finances and make it through college with money to spare!
You Can Cash in on Move-Out Day!
The end of spring signals an exodus of students from college campuses everywhere.
Some are off to jobs, some to further schooling, and some will return in the fall. But all of them will have a problem to deal with: too much stuff.
Here’s how you can not only get your own furniture and supplies for free, but even set yourself up to earn money from your efforts when fall rolls around.Cash in on Move-Out day!
- Plan ahead. Most of the action will occur during finals week and the week after.
- You’re not limited to your school. Check the schedules of neighboring colleges too. Maximize the opportunity.
- Determine your route. Map out areas that house abundant student populations.
- Get to know the maintenance people at those properties. Ask them about move-out time and whether it would be okay for you to help dispose of items left behind. Most will be overjoyed to get some assistance. They know the area is going to look like a train wreck after finals week and dumpsters won’t hold it all.
- Set up your hauling equipment. You may be wise to rent a U-Haul truck or trailer. Generally speaking, the quicker you can collect throw-away items and the more you can get per load, the more you’ll profit. Crunch the numbers. Be advised that some storage companies offer a free truck with a storage rental. See step #7 for more tips on storage.
- Arrange help in advance. The number of extra hands needed will depend on the size of your truck and/or trailer. You may even want to run two or more crews – especially if you’re planning on collecting enough to store and sell later.
- Arrange storage in advance. If you try to sort and distribute the items while you’re collecting them, you’re going to severely cut into your optimum collection time. Load it, haul it, and store it. Sort it later. If you don’t see specials being advertised, it often pays to ASK. You can even play companies against one another. Many are willing to meet or beat quotes from competitors.
- Get your packing supplies together. Start early to collect boxes and bubble wrap. Break them down flat, sort them by size, and get plenty of strapping tape. Compare prices on necessary supplies at local stores and online. You’ll want sturdy tape dispensers and good quality tape. You’re not looking for furniture only, but for table settings, appliances, and décor. You can even collect leftover detergent, paper goods, and such. You may also need an appliance dolly.
- Visit local thrift stores to get an idea of how much used items are selling for. Let your imagination go wild. Can you collect $1,000 worth of goods? Even more? It’s entirely possible. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure.
- Starting a few weeks before finals, get the word out that you’re willing to haul and dispose of stuff for free. Many students know they have to clear out their belongings and won’t be able to take it all. They’ll be overjoyed to arrange for you and your helpers to come pick up the overflow and haul it off. You can start setting appointments early. Get creative about where to tack up your notices (with tear-off phone numbers). Use social media and forums for free online advertising.
Once you’ve collected a storage unit full of goods, you can begin selling right away. Much of what you gather is in demand by non-students. Everyone needs a sofa, television, or bicycle. Take advantage of Craigslist and local bulletin boards.
When fall rolls around, be sure to get ads up early to let students know you can help them with special prices and a delivery service for their must-have items.
Check Local Banks for Cash Giveaways
Banks love to see college students open accounts. They know that once trust is built and excellent customer service provided, you could end up being a customer for life – one with a rapidly expanding income after graduation.
You may have already built that special relationship with your hometown bank, but don’t let that stop you from looking around to see what the banks in your new locale are offering.
It’s perfectly fine to have more than one account, especially if your new account comes with benefits.
Here are some of the specials we’ve seen banks offer students:
Deposit a certain amount and get hundreds of dollars added to that account (free) once you’ve maintained it for a certain period.
No monthly charge for student checking and savings accounts and no minimum balance to get the deal
Free paper checks, free money orders, free cashier’s checks, free debit card and other standard banking services
Make sure you understand all requirements and stipulations before signing. Some of the offers may seem too good to be true, but banks really do sometimes pay you to do business with them. Why miss out?
Eat for Free On Campus
There’s a well-known maxim event organizers are keenly in tune with: “Feed them and they will come.” You may hate fine art, but what if that Friday night showing includes free wine, cheese, and hors d'oeuvres? Would that perk up your interest a bit?
Just about every meeting, special event, or other gathering you see advertised on or near campus is going to include some form of food. It may be pizza and soft drinks, sandwiches and chips, or just soup and bread… but it’s food, and it’s free!Here are some pointers on how to uncover and take advantage of those special occasions:
- Pay attention to the zillions of posters you see around campus. Get in the habit of scanning them all for event announcements. You may love heavy metal music, but if the local blues club is putting on a free buffet, you may want to expand your musical exposure. Avoid the trap of only reading posters that appeal to your personal tastes.
- Check your school’s roster of clubs and club meetings for topics of interest. Of course, the primary reason for attending should be to join others in a common cause, but there’s nothing wrong with getting fed while you’re participating.
- Scan school publications and websites weekly to find out what’s happening. Most will have a special section for meetings and events. To find out in advance who’s serving what, just ask. One more time: event organizers know food is a big drawing card, and they love to play it.
We’re not advising you to become an expert on scavenging food or to barge into social gatherings without concern for others. The point is there’s free food available all over campus. Why not eat it?
The Easiest Way to Resist Temptation and Stay Out of Trouble
There’s an old truism that’s tough to refute: “If you don’t want a haircut, stay out of the barber’s chair.” If you’ll sit with that saying for a bit, then look around at the troubles people face, you’ll see how true that old saying really is.Here are some ideas on how you can “stay out of the barber’s chair.” The potential applications are too many to number, but these should get you thinking:
- If you don’t want to overspend on groceries, never shop when you’re hungry. Eat before you go to the store. The same applies to other purchases. Check how “hungry” you are before going window shopping.
- If you don’t want to waste money on traffic tickets, obey the speed limit and rules of the road. If you’re going to be late, be late. Get pulled over by the police, and you’ll be even later. You’ll also liable to end up with considerably less money.
- If you don’t want to wake up with a hangover, don’t get drunk the night before. Drinking too much booze is not only hard on the wallet, it makes everything else in your life more difficult in the end.
- If you don’t want poor grades, be attentive in class and do your homework. Have you heard students complain about the instructor being too tough, assignments too long, or material too hard to understand? For the most part, those obstacles can be overcome with focus and effort. The sure way to lose control of your own life is to blame your shortcomings on others.
- If you don’t want to gain weight and lose energy, watch what you eat. It’s easy to think we’re superhuman when we’re young – that we can eat what we want, when we want, and get away with it forever. The truth is you really are what you eat. Junk in. Junk out. Take care of yourself. There’s only one you. Here’s something truly amazing: carrots cost less than candy bars.
If one of your goals is to finish college and work at a profession you love, then you’re going to face choices daily. Some will lead you away from your goals, others will lead you towards them. Choose wisely. Time won’t wait forever.
Where to Find the Cheapest Entertainment in Town
Campus events aren’t only excellent places to find free food, they can actually be entertaining. At home, you may have turned to the local movie theatre for Friday night fun.
Paying five bucks for a bag popcorn, though, may not bode well for your college budget.Here are some of the ways the students we’ve spoken with have saved money and still enjoyed free time:
- You’re not likely to attend an event you don’t know about. Find out where information on local happenings is posted and check those sources weekly. You can fill your schedule with free or low-cost events easily, if you’ll get in the habit of looking there first.
- Ask about season pass availability for special events. Your standing as a student may not get you everywhere you want to go for free, but it can often make you eligible for rock bottom pricing. Do this early on. Specially priced tickets can sell out quickly.
- Volunteer to help at the events you want to attend, but can’t afford. Volunteers can end up with benefits paid ticket holders miss out on. From special meals to celebrity access and prime views of the action, being a volunteer is satisfying in more ways than one.
There’s absolutely no reason why the entertainment budget for a college student should be excessive. Colleges and college towns are buzzing with activity. Look and you shall find.
Get Free Food at Work
If event volunteers are sometimes eligible for free food and special benefits, employees are almost always privy to special treatment.
You have to work anyway, why not make your work part of your meal plan? Fast-food restaurants are always a good bet for earning money while also getting access to free or discounted food, but there are other places too.Here are some thought-starters:
- Convenience stores have openings regularly, and their deli or prepared food sections are apt to be part of the job benefits. Always be sure you know the rules concerning employee food consumption, though. Don’t risk getting busted for theft on the job.
- Bring up meals and food access during the job interview. If the store needs help badly, you may be able to swing a special deal. Just be sure to get the agreement in writing.
- On-campus eateries need help too. From campus food service to staff restaurants, job openings are abundant. Here again, bring up the food issue before you agree to take the job. You may not want to put yourself in an environment where there’s food everywhere, but you can’t touch a bite.
Most businesses that serve food are happy to share the bounty with workers. Whether you get food free or discounted, know the rules and follow them.
Don’t lose your job over a donut. That actually happened to one of the students we interviewed.
Here’s another tip: food left over at closing time must go somewhere; why not take it home with you? Ditto on verifying the correct procedure, though. Ask about it, be clear on what’s allowed, and follow the directions.
Avoid the Biggest Rip-off of All
You can buy the cheeseburger off the value menu for a buck. The fries are a buck. The drink is a buck. One of those just ripped you big, though, and if you don’t watch your intake of it, your pockets are going to feel the pain.
Here’s what we mean.
For most drinks you buy, the markup is intense. Standard costing on a 20-oz soft drink looks like this:
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1Cost of the ingredients: 12 cents
1 1 1 1 1 1 1Cost of the cup: 7 cents
1 1Cost of the straw: 1.5 cents
1Cost of the straw: 1 cent
Even if you get the deal price on the dollar menu, the markup is still more than 75% of the end price.
It’s that way for almost every drink you buy.
That beer you pay the bar $3.75 for cost the owner 85 cents and includes about 25 cents worth of ingredients, depending on the brand.
We’re not knocking free enterprise here, but we are urging you to consider not contributing so much to the economy while you’re still in school.
Water is still available for free, and you can make drinks at home for pennies. That coffee, for instance, you pay several dollars for at the store costs maybe a dime to brew, even if you use the good stuff.Here’s how to make iced tea and save yourself a wad of cash on drinks:
- Buy bulk tea or pitcher-sized bags of boxed tea. Get several varieties and experiment with mixing them up for taste.
- Buy a half-gallon or gallon-sized glass jar. Check the thrift stores, or ask food service if they have an empty you can get. It’s better to get a plain jar than to opt for one with a spigot in the side. They tend to leak and are difficult to keep clean.
- Heat 4-8 cups of water in a suitably sized pot. When it’s just reaching boiling point, drop your tea in (use a tea infuser for loose-leaf tea) and turn the heat off. The amount of tea to add depends on the size of your jar and how strong you like your tea. Start with about an ounce of dried tea per gallon of water and adjust from there.
- Let the bags soak and the tea cool for about five minutes, then remove the bags or infuser. Purists say you should never squeeze the bags to get more tea out. You be the judge.
- This step is critical. If you like your tea sweetened, add the sweetener as soon as you remove the bags. The liquid will still be fairly hot, meaning your honey or other sweetener will mix better.
- Fill your glass jug about half full with cold, pure water. Be sure to leave room for the tea you’ve just brewed. Then pour the tea in and finish filling to the top.
- Put some ice in a glass, add your creation, and enjoy. Store the container in the fridge. You’ve just saved yourself a ton of money on store-bought drinks. Take it in your water bottle to class. Take it to McDonalds and skip the fountain drink. You’ll be money ahead, and healthier to boot.
Notice the ice is added to the drinking glass, not to the jug. That enables you to hold more tea in your storage container and add ice as needed. Once it’s good and cool from being refrigerated, you may opt for no ice at all.
Drop the Biggest Drain to Your Budget
This one is tough to accept, but the fact is most college students can get along just fine without a car.
Add up the real cost of keeping our own private transportation waiting at the curb, and you’ll see why going sans car in school is a really good idea.Consider the facts:
- Auto insurance for people under 25 is astronomical, and you can’t go without it.
- Gasoline prices fluctuate constantly. At the high end, you can’t afford to start the engine. At the low end, you may have to take out a loan to get the gas to drive home. Seriously, gas is expensive.
- Students with cars become the de facto bus drivers for students without cars. Skip the hassle. Avoid the pleading. Don’t take a car to school.
- Cars don’t only require fuel and insurance, they need oil changes, new tires, brake jobs, and more. Price out the cost of a fuel system cleaning or transmission flush, and those are common maintenance tasks. If you end up with a major mechanical problem, you may be walking anyway.
- When you don’t drive a car, you aren’t eligible for traffic tickets. Driving 45 mph in a 25 mph zone can not only put a huge ding in our wallet, but may boost your already high insurance rates through the roof. And you don’t have to try very hard to get ticketed. Oftentimes, you simply don’t see that speed limit sign and end up paying the consequences.
Parking can be tough to find (and may require a permit fee), accidents take more young lives than any other threat, you can end up wasting time going places you really don’t want to go – think about it a bit, and you may decide you really don’t need that car.
Big Savings are Right There in Your Pocket
We’ve touched on this earlier, but it’s worth being elevated to major point status. Your student identification card is your ticket to savings galore.
Those savings aren’t limited to on-campus deals either, many local businesses love to cater to college students. All you need to do is show your ID card to get special discounts.
Those savings aren’t limited to on-campus deals either, many local businesses love to cater to college students. All you need to do is show your ID card to get special discounts.
Okay, there is one other necessary ingredient: you need to know about the discount. Here’s a secret: cashiers won’t normally won’t ask at the register whether or not you’re a student. You need to ask them about the availability of a discount. It’s simple. Here’s what to say, “Hey, do you guys offer a student discount?” Always, always, always ask. You’ll be amazed at how often the answer is “You bet we do.” You may get just 10 or 15 percent off, but those savings add up over time.
Here’s another tip: keep an eye out for coupons. You might think Aunt Nelda is nuts for pouring over the Sunday paper with scissors in hand, but she’s saving dollars by doing it. If you’re buying something online, especially, always search for digital coupons before you buy. It’s well worth the little bit of time it takes to check, and there are times when you can save BIG with that quick search.
You can even earn money on Coupon Chief by sharing news about the coupons you’ve found elsewhere.
Here’s How to Know Where Your Money Goes
One student we interviewed lived just down the street from an ice cream shop. Most nights, last call for ice cream was .
Invariably, the student would need to take a break from the books at about , and what better way to do that than to take a brief walk and grab a cone?
Often he would invite a friend or two along and pick up the tab for them too. After all, ice cream isn’t all that expensive.
This student took a personal finance class, though, and part of the coursework was to track all expenditures for one month. When the smoke had cleared and the totals were staring at him, he remembers one thing about that exercise especially well: he had spent over $100 at the ice cream shop. And it was winter term!
You should do the same. No, not eat ice cream every day, but track what you spend for a month. Face the reality.Here’s how to take your financial snapshot:
- Keep it simple. You don’t need to micro analyze your spending. We’re just looking for a clear picture of your overall situation.
- Determine when you will begin and when you will stop. Typically, a calendar month works just fine.
- Determine how you will track what you spend. A simple approach is to use a debit card or credit card for everything. That gives you an online trail. For out-of-pocket expenses, carry a small notebook or a few index cards with you and note any cash expenditures on them.
- Determine how you will collect and sort your transactions. Banks offer downloadable statements. Most also allow you to sort online and pull down a specific date range. Bring everything into one spreadsheet or bookkeeping program. You’ll need to add your cash transactions in by hand.
- Set up your categories and subcategories. It’s helpful to get somewhat granular here, but don’t knock yourself out. The Food category, for instance, could include subcategories for food purchased at the grocery store, from restaurants, from campus food service, and from miscellaneous sources (that’s how the ice cream shop expenditures were captured and noted). The exact methodology you employ will be determined by how much latitude you have in setting up the reports pulled from your bank or credit card companies and whether you use an official bookkeeping program or design your own spreadsheet. Either will work, just remember to keep it simple. The easier it is to do, the more likely you are to stick with the plan.
- Record your spending during the period without trying to change anything. You want a true picture. Any changes needed will be duly noted and enlisted later. For now, you only want to get at the truth of the matter: how much are you spending and where is it going?
- Once your tracking period has ended, pull down the data, clean it up and confirm it, then be prepared to get your eyes opened a bit wider. If you’ve never taken a financial snapshot, you’re sure to be in for some surprises.
Here’s one more saying that’s been passed down through generations: “Watch your dimes and your dollars will take care of themselves.”
Most of us will listen up when the discussion is about hundreds or thousands of dollars, but our interest dwindles when the amount seems piddling.
One of our students told a story about waking up in her dorm room to see her roommate unwadding a small pile of dollar bills. They had been laying on our student’s desk.
Noticing she had awakened, the roommate looked sternly at her and said, “Do you know money will take you anyplace you want to go – and you treat it like this?”
It was an impactful lesson in respect. Those who take good care of a little may soon find themselves in possession of a lot.
11 Top Ways Students Can Have More Money This School Year – Wrapping it Up
The college years are intense. You may never have to work that hard and sleep so little again in life… and you’ll surely have more money.
By injecting a little humor into the situation and rolling with the reality of things, you’ll do fine.
If you’ve benefitted from these 10 ideas, why not pass them on to others? You may even stir up a conversation and get people sharing how they are creatively navigating the financial side of college life.