College is often referred to as “the best years of your life.” And this can be true for a multitude of reasons. Higher education not only comes with new learning experiences, but also more independence, off-campus adventures, and tons of opportunities for networking and forging life-long friendships.
Your everyday costs – living space, food, transportation, entertainment, etc. – can vary quite a bit depending on the choices you make. Finding creative ways to reduce those costs can go a long way toward making your college years less stressful and more rewarding.
So, let’s get started and save some cash!
Textbooks are pricey!
Before you shell out $200 to buy a new copy, see if the school offers rentals. You might pay less upfront if you return the book in good condition at the end of the semester. Or if the book hasn’t changed since last year, snag a used version.
Another option is to see if the school offers an eBook version of the same text. Depending on the textbook, you could save up to 40-50% by purchasing a digital copy.
Watch Those Food BillsRestaurants, snack bars, and DoorDash are hard on your checkbook. If you waive the campus meal plan, or if you live off campus, there are still plenty of ways to save money on your food bill.
Cook at home. If you don’t know how, that’s OK! There are tons of great instructional videos on YouTube and other websites to help you learn the basics. You don’t have to be a trained chef to make tasty, nutritious meals on a budget.
Save some extra change by getting shelf-stable items in bulk. And use savvy meal planning to lower the cost of your daily needs. A large casserole may only cost a few dollars to make and provide you with meals for several days.
Limit Expensive TreatsWhile budgeting is good, you can’t completely deny yourself the occasional treat or comfort. It’s OK to enjoy a coffee date with friends, a nice meal out, or other small (affordable) celebrations.
However, if you overindulge, you may find yourself with empty pockets before the next payday. Build these self-care treats into your monthly expenses and stick to your limits.
Communal LivingMost people in college share a dorm or apartment with one or more roommates. No shame in that! One of the advantages of multiple people under one roof, along with built-in friends, is pooling your resources. Communal living can help you lower rent, utilities, groceries, and other monthly costs.
Pro Tip: A quick, easy way to split bills with roommates is Zelle. In just a few taps in your Starion Bank mobile app, you can send and receive money without fussing over splitting checks or counting out change.
Cheaper TransportationDepending on your location, there may be suitable walking and biking trails that will take you almost anywhere you need to go. Public transportation like buses can be inexpensive and convenient. And don’t forget carpooling! Sharing rides with friends, roommates and classmates cuts down transportation costs, too.
These methods can not only virtually erase fuel and maintenance costs, but also help shield you from those unexpected gas price spikes or breakdowns that always seem to happen at the worst possible time.
Freebies and Student DiscountsDid you know your student ID might be good for more than just campus coffee shops and football games? Many of the stores and services around town may offer discounts to college students.
Whenever you venture into a new restaurant or business, ask if they offer a student discount. You will probably need to show your campus ID, but it’s worth it for the chance to get a cut rate on internet service, meals, and a host of other services and amenities.
Find the FreebiesCampus pizza nights and other school occasions are a great opportunity to snag a free meal and a night out. Watch the calendar for special gatherings like game nights, socials, or holiday parties and score another day in the week without a grocery bill.
Outside of campus, you can find loads of free resources online and at your local library. As a student, you may qualify for free software or subscription services. Libraries often give you no-cost access to ebooks, digital entertainment, expensive research periodicals, and more.
Cancel Unused Cable and StreamingDo you really need every popular streaming service or the fanciest cable package? Nope.
Monthly subscriptions for streaming services have consistently risen over the last few years. That could quickly balloon to a hefty sum every month if you're paying for several services at once. Instead, downsize and stick to the basics. Currently binging a favorite Netflix series? Cancel everything else, and when you’re done, switch it up. You can unsubscribe from one service and pick up another so that you’re only paying for content you actively watch.
If you have cable or satellite, look into getting the lowest tier package that still has most of the shows you like. Keep in mind that sports and premium entertainment packages are the most expensive, so limit those as much as you can.
Be Careful with CreditTry to avoid impulse purchases and subsequently paying the minimum balance for months or years. If you want to use a credit card, the better practice is to only buy what you can pay off in full each month. Like groceries, for example. Use cash back and points features to your advantage. Your budget and credit rating will thank you later.
Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) apps may seem convenient because they can split the payments of an expensive item into four or more smaller monthly payments. But it’s still credit, and too many purchases will quickly hit you with sticker shock. Which is all too often followed by debt.
Set Up Autopay and AlertsWith Starion Bank online and mobile banking, it’s easy to make a couple quick account changes that could save you from exceeding your limits and draining your funds.
First, use automatic bill payments. Every month, you know that the basics are covered, and you never need to worry about missing a payment or getting slammed with late fees.
Second, set up alerts to keep yourself in check. You can set a limit on your checking account, and if your balance goes under, you’ll get an alert in real time. This is an easy way to stay on financial track and avoid surprise overdraft charges.
Help is One Click AwayWhile the tips we outlined may not save big bucks individually, combining several (or all) of them can make a significant difference in your monthly expenses and really add up over the lifetime of your college years.
Starion online and mobile banking can help you do even more to set a sustainable budget and enjoy all college has to offer. Check out our easy how-to videos and get your next semester started on the right financial track.