Back in college, I had been very keen on saving the money I earned from my job. I’ve followed the money saving tips and tricks when I was in college and so can you. For those who have been following this blog, you’ll recall that I was a working student who had to support my own education.
I faced my share of financial hardships, and there were several situations that made me realize the value of frugality and hard work. I also realized that these two virtues should work in tandem or both of them would be wasted. While it is true that money can only be earned through hard work, it would all go to waste unless you’re financially disciplined enough to live a frugal lifestyle.
Conversely, of course, it is impossible to save anything when you’re not working enough to earn some extra.
During this time, I found and cultivated several habits that one could regularly do to plug the various “money leaks” that plague students and professionals alike. In this extensive list, I will be sharing these plus a lot more than I learned over the years!
Everyone wants to save, but not everyone knows the opportunities where they can do so. Let me help you out with that:
1. Live in a room sharing instead of a condo
Condos seem to be the go-to place when renting out places near your school and/or work, probably because they are highly visible and “guarantee” a higher standard of living. Unfortunately, the urban sprawl has rendered most condos to be nothing more than glorified sharing room in an apartment — yet they get to keep the expensive price tag. So why not live in a room sharing instead? I did, and they were much lighter on the wallet. They are everywhere, and with just a little effort you can find one that matches the level of condo living for about half the price!
There is a lot cheaper than a room sharing, it is called “bed space.” If you don’t have enough budget for a room sharing why not take a bed space and you can surely save a lot.
2. Use public transport instead of the taxi
Taxis are convenient, but also took up a huge amount of my budget. Instead of taking a cab all the way to my destination, I took buses and other forms of mass transport instead! I evaded traffic by starting my journey before the buildups start, and I also experimented to find which routes to my destination are faster. Some routes may seem a little roundabout, but they may be faster when traffic is factored in. At worst, you can cut your cab costs by riding up only to the point where traffic ends and taking public transport from there.
3. Prepare your own food
Taking lunch out may be interesting, but meals can get pretty over-priced. On the other side of the spectrum, cheap meals would leave you asking about the quality of the food you eat. One of the best money saving tips I learned was preparing my own food instead — raw food is much more affordable. I used to cook my food in bigger batches that I then reheated, and it went a long way towards my meal budget!
4. Know when the grocery trumps market prices (and vice versa)
Meat, vegetables, and other fresh produce are generally cheaper in markets, but canned goods and other items are cheaper in groceries. I took time to study which items I should buy from where so I can save. After all, most markets and supermarkets stand within walking distance of each other nowadays.
5. Avoid big-name brands for simple things
Too many students and employees buy from a well-known coffee shop (you know what I mean) and other big-name brands just so they can look cool! This is despite the fact that they can get the same caffeine rush for about 1/10th of the price. I found cheaper alternatives for just about all the big-name stuff that I buy, coffee included. I thanked myself later when I can actually buy those brands without burning through my budget!
6. Get rid of vices
Most of the items in this list require you to up your willpower to save, and this one is most notorious. How much do you spend drinking or smoking in a given week? What if that amount goes to more important expenses, or your savings instead? It’s not easy to drop everything at once, but it is possible to work little by little to eliminate these unneeded expenses. You’ll be doing both your wallet and your health a lifetime of favors.
7. Learn to unplug
This is especially significant when you’re paying your own electric bills. Around 25% of your monthly charges may be spent on “phantom power”, or the electricity spent on appliances that are plugged in when not in use! I learned to unplug everything when not in use (all except the refrigerator) and saw for myself how much my bill went down.
8. Use mobile plans when calling your parents
If you’re not yet in the habit of signing up for call and text plans, now’s the time. It took just a little time to study which network offers the best plans for my needs. I then signed up for these plans every month, fixing my prepaid load consumption to manageable rates. Per-minute charges are much more expensive in comparison!
9. Cut unneeded subscriptions
In the same vein, I took stock of the things I was subscribed to — prepaid load, internet, cable, etc. You may be subscribed to a lot of these, but are you really using all of them? Maybe you can downgrade instead and get the same level of service as your usage. The month-on-month savings can pile up significantly.
10. When buying, always write lists
Lists are excellent ways to keep things in mind. When shopping, I wrote down only what I needed so I don’t end up hunting through aisles and buying unnecessary stuff. When gearing up for big purchases, I wrote down the specs of my ideal product so I don’t get lured in by sales talk.
11. Implement the 30-day rule
Speaking of money saving tips for big purchases, I used the 30-day rule to stop impulsive buying. This means waiting for a month to see if I really wanted or needed that item — if not, instant savings!
12. Learn to repair stuff
The Internet has tutorials on repairing just about everything (from appliances to clothes), and it really beats paying for someone else to do it, or worse, buying new stuff.
13. Learn where to hunt for deals
The Internet is also a treasure trove of amazing deals! I learned where the coupons and the discounts can be found. There are cashback and rebates available even for simple things like bill payments and prepaid loads.
14. When taking a vacation, book plane tickets online
Getting on a plane back to the province may be expensive, but I managed to shave some off the price by booking online. This not only seals lower-priced fares (including seat sales!) but also let me take advantage of cashback offers from online merchants. You can try booking through Ebates. Sign up with Ebates now. You receive a $10 cash back everytime you purchase on Ebates.
15. Party at your place instead of outside
No need to sacrifice your social life for savings if you can invite friends over to your place instead of going someplace to hang out. I used to come up with our own food and entertainment and bonded without digging into my savings.
16. Yard sales, flea markets, etc
You’d probably find lots of these places around, including those little stalls that sell odds and ends at a rock-bottom price. When in need of something, I headed to these places first instead of the mall. I often found exactly what’s needed (or a suitable alternative) without spending too much.
17. Find a good way to cope with stress
Are you the type who stress-buys, or are more inclined to make “small” purchases when stressed? Then it’s time to find a better and more efficient way to cope with stress to plug this money leak!
18. Sign up for rewards programs. If you have services that you frequently use, then look for a rewards program you can sign up for. I did, and these often gave me freebies, savings, or rebates. Don’t go signing up for a new service just for the rewards, though.
19. Give the gift of self
Christmas isn’t the only time you give gifts, and cumulatively it can be pretty expensive. But instead of heading to the store, instead, I put together things I already have lying around for a more thoughtful gift. Alternatively, I sometimes opted to give the gift of labor and volunteer to help make the occasion more special instead.
20. Mark the holidays
Most of the biggest sales happen after holidays (just like Christmas) so it makes sense to wait for around two days before snagging the deals. For seasonal stuff, I sometimes bought some extra and reserved them for next year’s holiday.
21. Try generic
Going generic is one of the best money saving tips for medicines, but meds are not the only things you can go generic on. Even home products and similar items have generic counterparts.
22. Go for the 10-second rule
We’ve tackled the 30-day rule for big purchases — the small-stuff equivalent is the 10-second rule. Before putting anything in my cart, I took at least 10 seconds to ask myself again what the product is for and how often I will use it.
23. Sell out unneeded items
You might have a pair of pants that no longer fit or some old but still good clothes you don’t even wear. I used to put them up for sale online or to second-hand shops to earn some extra.
24. Never skip breakfast
Working students have full days and get hungry pretty easily, but I staved off my appetite by eating breakfast regularly. This prevents early lunches and excessive snacking which may cost you dollars.
25. Spice up leftovers
Speaking of snacks, a little creativity can transform yesterday’s leftovers into today’s grab-and-go meals.
26. Dress in combination
When buying clothes, I found those that pair well with the ones I currently own. This way, they won’t grow old quickly and I ended up with more wardrobe options at minimal cost.
27. Buy in bulk
Another time-honored buying technique we take for granted in today’s retail society is buying in bulk. Bulk items are cheaper, but of course, I buy them only when I know I will use them all up.
28. Get a part-time job
There are lots of (legit) ways to make money while sitting in front of your computer or laptop. This can range from freelancing to doing commissioned works. I took advantage of this fact to earn a little extra during my free time. There may also be student-friendly jobs in brick-and-mortar places around your home and school — if you take these, don’t forget to ask about employee benefits!
Blogging is an affordable part-time job that you can start with. It has a cheaper investment and location freedom. You might want to ask, “what is location freedom?’ It means you can do blogging where ever you are at. Like this blog, I can open this where ever I am as long as there is internet access.
You can read this article “How to start a blog or website.” It is a step-by-step guide on how to create your blog.
29. Go back to paper
Plowing through bandwidth? Go low tech. I took to reading as an incredibly fun and fruitful hobby for a much lower cost.
30. Keep financial records
Aside from a written budget, I also kept records of where my money coming and going. You can use a good old-fashioned ledger notebook, a spreadsheet, or a free app. This kept me aware of my expenses and cash flow.
31. Put savings first
Instead of treating savings as leftovers from my spending, I took away a chunk of my money as savings as soon as I received my earnings. This forced me to cut back on unnecessary stuff while filling up my savings account!
32 Don’t buy books — go to the library instead
Instead of buying books that I won’t be using all the time anyway, I headed to the library for all my reading needs. Books can be very expensive, but unless it’s a workbook there’s no rule that says you must own a copy.
33. Wash your own clothes
I set aside fixed times every week to wash my own clothes instead of going to the dry cleaner’s. It saved me considerably since I didn’t have to pay for the service. Plus, I made sure my clothes are well taken care of!
34. Negotiate fees
You may incur fees for any number of reason, but often it’s possible to get them waived if you’re persistent enough. Sometimes I have had to use the old “I want your supervisor” trick if the fee is significant enough and if I have good enough reason for having it waived.
35. Create spending barriers
Does your willpower need a little help? I planned concrete steps to push myself away from expenses. This ranged from changing my daily route to avoid common spending traps, to bring only a little more than exact cash every day. These behaviors would greatly complement the money saving tips we had discussed.
36. Use School ID for discounts
I took my School ID everywhere, so I can use that 20% discount whenever possible! From transport fares to entrance fees, these discounts can go a really long way.
37. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Other people may have just what you need to get out of a pickle without spending too much. If in a pinch, I didn’t hesitate to ask for help. Of course, I also made sure this help is always repaid in kind and in a timely manner.
These 37 tips should get you going and get you through tough times. All it needs is a willingness to make necessary sacrifices, and a clear vision of the future you want to achieve!
How do you save money as a student? Do you have additional tips and tricks that you can share?