3 Steps for Outrageous Savings in College

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I have a good amount of friends who are headed back to universities across America this month so I came up with my three  money-saving tips for college students.

The savings I managed to come up with blew me away. I actually looked at the total and thought no one is going to believe that number, but it shows how much money can be easily wasted if you don’t pay attention to where it goes.

These are tips that can easily be implemented in your life and the savings that follow will allow you to stop worrying about buying the new Madden or a dinner at a nice restaurant.  Hopefully you can take these tips and plug the money holes before it’s too late.

Here is my money saving list:

1) Avoid the cafeteria and buy groceries

My school was on trimesters (three, eleven-week trimesters a year) and each term cost $889 to eat on campus, or $2,667 a year. I had a meal plan for three years and my senior year finally wised up to the savings I was missing.

By shopping at the discount grocery store, Aldi, I spent only $25 on groceries per week. I’ll admit that I went out because I didn’t want to cook everyday, but I only spent around $25 every week going out. Also, based on the complaints I heard EVERYDAY about cafeteria food, I assume  people who have meal plans go out just as much, if not much more, than I did. For the sake of the numbers, I’ll add $25 a week to the school meal plan total. My total for food every term came out to roughly $550. Compare this to eating at school for $1164 a term!

School Meal Plan               Buying Groceries

$1,164/term                                        $550/term

$3,492/year                                         $1,650/year

4 years: $13,968                                4 years: $6,600

Total Savings: $7,368

This is the graph I wish I would have seen before I stepped foot on campus my freshman year. With so many students leaving college with piles of debt, it becomes even more important for students to take advantage of these savings. This money could be used towards student loans, car payments, or a house payment instead of stuffing yourself with more buffet style food.

2) Buy Textbooks Online and Use the Library

Saving money on textbooks became a bit of a unconventional hobby in college for me. It was a big-ticket item that I quickly learned people were wasting thousands of dollars on. By avoiding the bookstore’s outrageous prices, I saved over $2000 on textbooks in college.

I used methods like purchasing from online book sellers, buying the edition down, and utilizing the school’s interlibrary loan system. These were simple methods that allowed me to save loads of cash in college, and I was able to leave school with minimal debt.

I noticed a lot of people in college complain about not having money, but these were the same people who were spending $200 on a Marketing book they were only going to read three times.

I wrote an e-book about the 8 steps I used to save money on textbooks in college and you can read it here. It includes specific sites I used, descriptions of my methods, and spreadsheets to keep your savings organized. I also wrote about my two favorite textbook saving tips in a guest-post that ran last month at the Frugal Dad. That can be read here.

Total Savings: $2,000

3) Open an Online Savings Account and Put Away $10/week

This is something I wish someone would have made me do the second I started college. I didn’t discover online savings accounts until last year and the thought of missed interest accumulation keeps me up at night! Not really, but it still irks me that not enough people do this.

The best part about online savings accounts is they actually pay interest. Due to the recession, interest rates are pretty low right now, (ING is at 1.4%) but ING has been as high as 4% in the past. These are as good or better than CD rates and your money is easily accessible, compared to a CD which charges you for getting to your money before your maturation date. Putting away just $10/week is not oppressive to your social life and is something a majority of college students can easily do without. Your post-college self will be appreciative of your effort.

Online savings accounts are great because after you link your checking account you can set up automatic transfers. Just schedule $10 per week to be transferred and forget about it. I mentioned in the post Get the Money Snowball Rolling, that starting is the hardest part. By opening an online savings account at ING, FNBO, HSBC, or anywhere that will give you interest, you’ll be ahead of 98% of the people your age. Total Savings: $2,189 *Based on a 2.5% interest rate over 4 years* Utilizing these three savings tips can save you $11,557 over your college career.

By paying attention to the big savings, you can stop stressing over the price of your morning coffee or the price of going out with your friends this weekend. You can finally afford to spend on those little desires because you now have an extra $11,557 in your checking account. College is a time for personal growth in all areas of your life, but it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your financial future for these experiences.

Set these three steps in motion and get on living.

Photo: Dimitry B.

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