Tips and tricks to saving money in college

Samantha Durham, Opinion Editor

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College brings about many eye opening experiences for the majority of those that attend. For many it is the reality of becoming an adult; knowing how to do laundry, filing your own taxes and buying your own groceries. Most of us know the struggle of getting adjusted to being responsible for ourselves and our own money. An important life skill is learning how to make that money last for as long as possible. I want to share some of my tricks for saving money in college and hopefully you will find yourself stressing less about your bank statement.

1. Shop the sales

Shopping the sales has saved me tons of money in the past few months and I never realized what a difference it made until I tried it. This goes for clothes, food and anything else you can think of because every penny helps. Buying clothes off the clearance rack doesn’t make it less than the rest of the clothes in the store and it will save you several dollars in the long run. I went to the store for groceries and shopped strictly the items on sale and found that I saved more than I spent. This is a great way to keep money in your account along with having clothes on your back and food in your stomach.

2. Don’t fall victim to credit cards

Credit cards can be a beautiful thing for a lot of different reasons if you use them responsibly. Paying off items on your credit card can help you build credit which is important for receiving loans, buying a car or leasing a new apartment. However, they can be dangerous if you aren’t careful. Don’t put too much on your credit card because everything adds up. Slowly, you find you have more on it than you should and if you can’t pay it off you start incurring interest. Why would you want to pay more than you spent? My advice is only put things on your credit card that you know you could pay off right then. You never want to put too much on yourself and then stress later trying to pay it all back.

3. Coupons, coupons, coupons

I might sound like a crazy couponer by saying this but it really does help you out. The internet has hundreds of coupons for things that are great to have such as make up, tampons, deodorant, razors, medicine and so much more. I have saved hundreds of dollars by using coupons when I shop. The key to being successful with couponing is to first, never buy things you don’t need simply because you have a coupon. I know it can be tempting because of the savings but at the end of the day you still have to spend something and why spend anything if you aren’t going to use it in the long run. The second best thing to do when it comes to couponing is to shop the sales with coupons. This is one of the best ways to make your 50 dollar grocery bill go to 30 dollars.

My suggestion is go online and find the coupons you want and then research the products you are looking for. I typically compare prices from Wal-Mart and Harris Teeter to find the best deal along with the coupon. If an item is on sale and you have a coupon for it then that is almost like saving double the money. I did this with frozen meatballs once and spent about 5.00 dollars for 4 bags that lasted me forever. There is no shame in finding the best bargain; we all work hard for our money and should be able to get the most out of it.

Also, if you want to save on ink and paper you can also download apps to your phone to help you coupon. I prefer the paper option but the apps work equally as well. Target has an app called Cartwheel that allows you to download digital coupons to your phone and redeem them at check out, as if they were in your hand. Just make sure that you know the coupon policies for the stores you shop most frequently. Some places have different rules than others and you want to be sure you follow them in order to make the couponing easy and worth the time.

4. Compare prices

I touched on this a little bit in tip number 3 but it is so important that I wanted to bring it up again. Comparing prices from store to store can save you a lot of money. Some places have higher prices on the same product than other stores. I have found this is typically the case when it comes to Wal-Mart versus food stores like Lowes or Harris Teeter. Toiletry items such as feminine products, tooth paste, shampoo along with laundry detergent and toilet paper can often be a few dollars more at a food store than at places like Wal-Mart. I never buy toiletries from food stores unless they are on sale and I have a coupon which usually makes them less than Wal-Mart’s prices.

You can compare prices by looking online and by looking through various sale ads that most stores send out in the newspaper (you can also look for coupons in there). However, make sure you are comparing the correct items. Some stores have different varieties of a brand. My best example is tampons. I feel like there are thousands of options when it comes to tampons whether they are scented or unscented, name brand or store brand, 16 count or 48 count; the options feel endless. Just make sure when you compare prices online that the products are exactly the same, otherwise you might find a “great deal” that isn’t exactly what you expected.

5. Use student discounts

A luxury of being a student is that many places have student discounts if you show a student ID. However, most places don’t advertise that they offer student discounts therefore you have to ask. Don’t be afraid to ask because more often times than not you will be surprised what places do offer student discounts. Sometimes it is 10% off of your purchase or special sales for students. It is a great benefit to being in college so take advantage of it.

6. Plan your shopping trip

A huge part of saving money is planning. I never go grocery shopping without a list because it keeps me on track. It stops me from wandering around trying to decide what I need and then buying either things I already have or things I don’t need. Lists also help keep you from impulse buying. Write out what you need and stick to it. Meal planning is also great when it comes to this. I very seldom eat on campus so meal planning for me is a great way to keep myself from buying too much and going to the store 12 times a week.

7. Share meals

I do this a lot when I go out. Eating out can get quite expensive and you can really break the bank if you don’t watch what you spend. My tip is to share meals with your friends. My boyfriend and I do this all the time when we go out. We will find an item on the menu we both like and split it. It saves you from spending more than you need to and helps your friend save some too. If you don’t like this idea my second tip when it comes to eating out is to take the leftovers home with you. Don’t just stick them in your fridge and forget about them; eat them on your lunch break at work or for dinner the next night. This will make the money you spent going out last you longer.

8. Drive less

Not everyone owns a car but if you do try to not drive all over town so often. Sometimes that can be hard when you have errands to run or work to get to but if you try to not drive as often you won’t have to spend so much on gas. A good way to work on this is to ride with a friend. For example, if you are all going to a movie take turns driving and carpool. This is a great way for you to save on gas. Another good tip is to take the bus or ride your bike. I lived close to campus last school year and I walked almost every day and it really helped when it came to buying gas.

9. Sell old stuff

I think this is something that most college students do already but it can be quite helpful when it comes to bringing in some extra cash. Selling stuff you don’t need any more can help you get more out of the stuff you buy. I do this with textbooks and clothes all the time. Textbooks are pretty easy to get rid of if you look in the right place. You can sell them on Facebook through Facebook Market Place or in student groups. You can also post them to Craiglist and other websites to make use of the books you’ll most likely never touch again. As far as clothes go, I usually bag up all the clothes I don’t want any more and head over to Plato’s Closet. It is hit or miss if they will buy your clothes from you but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Last time I went they bought 50 dollars worth of clothing and I donated the rest. Another good idea is to post clothes in good condition online to sell. That has become more and more popular; I have never tried it but I know several people who do and make a lot of money back by doing so.

10. Time yourself

This is more of a tip for those that live off campus and have to pay for water and electricity but it is still a good thing to know for when you do move into your own place. Timing when you wash clothes, run the dish washer or even take a shower can save you a lot of money every month if you work on it. Electricity and water can add up faster when you use them at “peak times” during the day. For example, I run my washer and dryer in the middle of the day when everyone in my complex is at work simply because less people are using the electricity and water. If you think about it, the machines that provide you with electricity and water have to work harder when more people use them meaning your bill starts adding up. I try to run my dishwasher opposite of when I run my washer and dryer but in the middle of the day as well. Mornings are peak times for dish washers as well as evenings after dinner. Peak times for dryers and washing machines are in the evenings and on the weekends.

I try to plan when I have time during the day to wash clothes and dishes that way I can save myself a little bit of money here and there. It can be hard sometimes, especially when you have a busy schedule but it will really help you out when it comes to paying your bills.

Finally, I am sure you have all heard this from your parents but turn off lights when you aren’t using them and unplug devices when you don’t need them. Even though you aren’t using the device electricity still runs to it when it is plugged in causing you to add more to your bill. My tip is to unplug things you don’t need all the time when they aren’t in use and to turn off fans when you leave the house (unless it is super hot).

Those are just a few ways you can save yourself money this school year. We all have more important things to focus on than stressing about money. If you really pay attention to what you spend and how you spend it you will start to find the methods that are best for you and your situation. It never hurts to try and save a little here and there because before you know it those savings add up and you end up with more than you expected which is always a great feeling.