Hack your cash: 7 money-saving tips for undergrads

You likely grew up with your parents telling you to put away 10% of each paycheck into savings. That’s easy for some people, but when you’re living paycheck to paycheck or drowning in debt, you might consider adopting these other money-saving hacks along with stashing your cash:

1. Avoid getting a credit card

It’s a great idea to get a student credit card to start building your credit, but if you’re one for overspending, it’s probably not the right time for one. By having a credit card on hand, you’re more likely to spend money you don’t have, which will then result in late fees and interest rates, only putting you further into debt. You don’t want to add another $3,000 to your already growing debt, which is the average credit card debt that 2013 graduates had.

2. Take full advantage of your student ID

Many restaurants, stores, movie theaters, computer software companies and gyms offer student discount rates for those who can provide a student ID. Check out the student newspaper for lists of local businesses that are offering these discounts, sometimes they may be for a limited time only. For a more comprehensive list of organizations that offer discounts to students check out this site.

3. Reconsider spring break

It’s tempting to throw your savings into a beach vacation when the rest of your friends are headed to Florida or Mexico. But before you get too excited, take a serious look at your bank account (and your debt) and consider if you can afford the trip. If you’re a typical college student, then you probably can’t, however if you can scrounge up enough for a budget spring break, don’t forget to look for student discounts on flights and hotel rooms.

Always keep in mind, you can still have fun close to home. Check on campus to see if there are any activities going on during spring break. Take a “staycation” and explore the tourist locations in your city that you haven’t seen before. If you really need to “get out” and experience something new, spend a few nights in a nearby city or campus you haven’t visited or fully explored yet.

4. Supplement college life with online classes

Going to school online can help you save a lot of money. Some ways include:

  • You spend less on commuting
  • Your school supplies are often cheaper (since textbooks are based online)
  • The classes are usually cheaper

But you don’t have to sacrifice the college experience to save money. For example, if you’re going to school to get your criminal justice degree, you can take online classes along with regular classes. Not only are they typically cheaper, but that can free up areas of your day better suited for your work schedule.

5. Skip the coffeehouse

It’s no secret that students are big coffee drinkers, but when you head to the on-campus coffee shop each morning to help wake up before your 8 a.m. class, you’ll end up spending a good $1,000 or more each year on coffee alone. Can you really afford that?

But you also can’t afford to give up your coffee, you say? Invest in a coffee maker and a travel mug and make your own coffee every morning. By brewing coffee at home, you could save about $3.15 per cup. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, that’s $200 worth of savings over a single semester if you’re drinking coffee every day you have class.

6. Let your smart phone keep you in budget

You’ve likely heard countless times that you can save money by creating a budget, but that simple task isn’t enough. To be effective, you have to be able to track and stick to your budget. Budgeting apps make that simple.

Consider downloading the Onbudget app. This isn’t your typical budgeting app. Instead, you transfer money to a prepaid card that helps you track your spending habits and avoid going over budget. Since the card information syncs with the app, you don’t have to worry about manually entering transactions. Plus, it’s free, making it a great option for busy college students like you.

7. Stop paying for entertainment

Instead of going to the movies or paying for other forms of entertainment, stick to the free options on campus. If your school has a campus theatre, skip the regular show times and wait for the film to come to campus. Your school might also offer live comedy and music shows, social gatherings, and parties or get-together opportunities in the dorms that typically also have free food and drinks there as well.

With a combination of these simple money saving hacks, you could find yourself saving hundreds if not thousands over the course of your college career. Have a useful college money saving idea? Leave it in the comments sections below:

About the author:  JT Ripton is a freelance writer out of Tampa, FL, who lives for TED talks and loves being inspired by all of the incredible people out there who motivate him to be a better person in all facets of life.


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