College is an exhilarating experience, but it comes with its fair share of challenges, especially when managing your finances. From textbooks to social activities, expenses can add up quickly. However, with the right money strategies in place, you can thrive during your college years and set yourself up for future financial success.
As a student-athlete, I’ll give you my guide on the best ways to save money as a college student so that you can maximize your college experience on a minimal budget.
The cornerstone of financial survival in college is creating a budget. Start by listing your essential expenses, like tuition, housing, utilities and everyday living costs. Once you’ve accounted for the necessities, allocate a reasonable amount for discretionary spending—like social activities—keeping in mind that every dollar saved is a dollar earned.
Consider using budgeting apps or spreadsheets to track your expenses, and identify areas where you can cut back. Personally, I notice I spend way too much money on ordering takeout instead of using the meal plan my family and I already paid for. It’s also important to set aside an emergency fund for unplanned college expenses, such as class materials, club fees or even campus parking tickets. Life can throw new obstacles your way at any moment, and I’m continuously learning how important it is to have extra money in case of emergencies.
Smart Shopping for Everyday Items
Everyday expenses can quickly accumulate, but you can keep costs in check with savvy shopping strategies. I like to take advantage of discount codes from my favorite social influencers when possible. Saving an extra 20% here and there can make a big difference. You can also find places offering student discounts from various retailers, especially on clothing, electronics, and software. Look for sales and buy in bulk when possible.
Before you head to college, spend some time deciding how you’ll maintain your budget and cover expenses. Most college students use a debit card linked to a checking account, but there are other options that can help your money work harder for you. Explore credit-building cards for college students that also offer cashback rewards on purchases with no interest or late fees. These student cards, like the Ambition Mastercard® by College Ave, are great financial tools to save money now while building a positive credit history1 for your future.
Saving on Textbooks
Textbooks are a notorious budget-buster for college students. Instead of buying brand-new books, I like to explore cost-effective alternatives such as used books, e-books, or rentals. Additionally, I recommend checking if your school’s library has a copy of the required textbooks or working with classmates to share costs.
Housing costs can be a significant portion of your college expenses. If possible, explore cost-effective living arrangements, such as shared apartments or on-campus housing. Consider purchasing used furniture or décor to furnish your living space. The money saved on housing can be redirected toward other essential expenses or even contribute to your savings.
College is a time to make new friends and create lasting memories, but a lot of social activities can quickly drain your wallet. Look for free or low-cost events, join clubs or organizations with shared interests, and explore student discounts at local businesses. Limit the amount of food you order for gatherings, and whether you’re in a dorm or an apartment, stick to buying most of your snacks from the grocery store to save on those hefty delivery prices.
Advice for Athletes
For student-athletes, balancing academic and athletic commitments is a unique challenge. Establishing a routine that accommodates both is key. Getting your work done before the weekend should always be a priority. I like to finish assignments, complete readings, and study for upcoming exams before I go on the road to reduce any stress that could impact athletic performance.
But there’s more that needs to be planned as a student-athlete than just your academic responsibilities. From mapping out my monthly expenses to determining my wants vs. needs list, I consider my budget with every decision I make. Be sure to take advantage of any free support services offered by your university. As an athlete, I have access to everything I need to succeed on the ice, from hockey equipment to free tutoring with my peers, and more. These little things go a long way in terms of helping me save money.
College on a Budget
Thriving in college is not only about acing exams and making friends. It’s also about managing your finances wisely to set yourself up for an easier post-grad transition. From budgeting basics to smart shopping to effective time management, these strategies can help you navigate the college frontier successfully. Remember, the goal is to make your money work harder now to build a good foundation for the future.