by Maja Majewski

How to Save Money at College with Simple

College is expensive—and not just because of the rising costs of tuition. Learn how to save money in college with these banking and budgeting tips.
Woman with Book A college student reads a book.

Textbooks, laptops, transportation, food, coffee, and more: There are a lot of expenses related to going to college beyond just tuition and room and board. When you’re in college, your job is to learn—but unfortunately, that’s not a job you get paid to do. The cost of living while in school can add up to thousands of dollars over the course of your academic career.

Here are some ways you can use your Simple account to help you budget and save while you’re in school, so you graduate with a degree and good financial habits!

1. Choose the right bank account for you.

Most banks offer some sort of student checking account, which is usually free to open and doesn’t have a minimum balance. These are nice perks—but before you sign up and get your free t-shirt, take a few moments to think about what else you might want to get out of your checking account while you’re in school.

If you’d like help with budgeting and saving, consider opening an online bank account with Simple. A Simple checking account is free to open and has no minimum balance requirements—and you get banking and budgeting tools to help you make the most of your money!

Learn more about how to choose a bank account in this post.

2. Set up a budget!

If you want to make the most of your limited funds as a student, you’ll need a budget. Before your eyes glaze over, know this: Having a budget could be the difference between being able to travel next summer, and having to stay home. If you’re accountable to your spending, check your transaction history regularly, and don’t overspend, you’ll have more money left over to do the things you want to do.

For more on budgeting with Simple, head on over to this post.

3. Get accountable about spending with Expenses

What are your monthly expenses? If you’re living in a dorm or other campus housing, you might not have water bills, heating bills, or other utility bills. If you have a meal plan, you might not have grocery bills. Instead, your recent transactions might include a burrito at Chipotle, monthly dues for clubs you’re in, or books from the campus bookstore.

But just because your spending habits might not align with a lot of the budgeting guides you find online, that doesn’t mean you don’t have expenses you can track each month!

To keep your budget on track, you’ll want to figure out what your biggest spending categories are—and then figure out how much you can actually afford on each of them. Here are some examples of expense categories you might have in college:

  • Room and board or rent (if you live off campus)
  • Meal plan or groceries
  • Textbooks and school supplies
  • Cell phone and data plan
  • Laptop
  • Transportation (to and from home, plus around campus and around town)
  • Parking (if you have a car)
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Greek life (dues and other costs)
  • Entertainment (TV, streaming services, etc.)
  • Going out

Simple Expenses can help you keep track of how much you’re spending on each of these categories—and how much you have left to spend in any given month. Start by figuring out how much you can afford to spend on each of them, then set them up as Expenses. We’ll set aside the amount you need each month, so you know it isn’t Safe-to-Spend®.

Learn more about keeping track of your expenses with Simple in this post.

4. Don’t get schooled by textbook costs.

Buying textbooks in the digital age is a frustrating experience—especially since you rarely use them after you’re done with each course, but they’re usually required. Students spend an average of $1,200-$1,500 on textbooks each year that they’re in school.

This can be frustrating, as it’s a huge expense that seems unavoidable. However, there’s an alternative; you can rent your college textbooks instead of buying them. Have a look in your campus bookstore to see if you can rent the books you need from there. Be sure to check Amazon and other online retailers to see if you can score a better deal.

You can also see if there’s a digital version of the book available to rent online. If you’re not someone who needs a physical book to do your best learning—this can be a great way to save while still getting all the information you need.

5. Take advantage of student discounts (especially on big purchases).

As long as you have a student ID or access to your .edu email account—take advantage of student discounts! These discounts are designed to ease the already large financial burden faced by many college students.

Apple offers a $200 education discount on new laptops to students. Using your student ID, you can get 20-30% off of printing and shipping services at FedEx. AT&T, T-Mobile, and other cell phone carriers offer discounts for students. If you need Adobe Creative Services for school, you can get student pricing.

Student discounts are everywhere—you just have to look for them!

Many clothing stores (like J. Crew and Madewell) offer 15% off full-price merchandise if you show your student ID. Chipotle offers free drinks to students who show their IDs. Select Krogers offer 5% off of food purchases for students. Many gyms and yoga studios offer reduced rates for college students.

These discounts add up! But it’s up to you to take advantage of them—so do your homework, especially if you’re making a bigger purchase like a laptop or a cell phone plan.

6. Make the most of your meal plan (and free food)!

If there’s one thing that’s abundant on many college campuses, it’s free food. Informational session about a new club? Free pizza! Football team won a big game? Nachos for all!

Whether you have a meal plan or you buy food on your own, take advantage of opportunities to get free food where you can. And if your meal plan allows you to buy non-perishable foods instead of hot meals, stock up on granola bars and other snacks for meals when you don’t use your meal plan.

There’s no shame in attending an informational session or campus event just for the free grub. Those little savings can add up quickly!

7. Get a part-time gig.

Getting a job during college will help you with expenses, but a lot of students struggle to find well-paid part-time jobs that don’t interfere with their class schedules. However, there are countless ways to earn money that won’t require you to skip class to clock in.

Most college campuses offer student employment at the library, cafeteria, school gym, and other campus amenities. But you might be able to earn more, and have more control over your schedule, if you find your own employment off campus.

If you’re an animal lover, consider becoming a dog walker! You can join a service like Rover or Wag, which will allow you to meet nearby pet parents without having to do a lot of your own marketing.

Maybe you are marketing-savvy, and have a way with writing clever social media captions or taking beautiful photos. Many small businesses are desperate to have someone just like you to help them create content, but don’t have the budget to pay a full-time employee. Enter: Eager college student!

You could also put your education to use by becoming a tutor in your field! If you’re better-than-average at a particular subject, you can help other students ace their classes. Maybe you aced the ACT or SAT—see if there are opportunities to tutor high school students to help you make some extra cash.

If you’re over 21 and own your own car, you also could drive for a ridesharing service like Lyft or Uber. If you’re crafty, you can set up a shop on Etsy and sell your creations. Whatever you choose, make sure that it’s worth your time, and not taking away from your school work. If you can learn a new skill while you’re at it, that’s even better!

8. Get money-saving apps on your phone

If you’re already paying for a phone and a phone contract, you may as well use it to save money. You can download free apps that help you save money or earn cash back on certain items that you buy all of the time. There are apps that offer vouchers to help you save money, and price comparison apps that help you to make sure you are getting the best possible deal.

Here is a list of some of these apps and how to use them to save!

9. Sharing is caring!

One of the biggest benefits of college is the fact that you are living in close proximity to so many other like-minded people, all of whom are in the same boat: You’re all looking for ways to save money! See if you can use the economies of scale to your advantage. If someone has a Costco membership, go shopping together so you can buy in bulk and split the savings on the things you both need, like paper towels or protein bars.

Interested in getting started with Simple? Apply now!
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Disclaimer: Hey! Welcome to our disclaimer. Here’s what you need to know to safely consume this blog post: Any outbound links in this post will take you away from Simple.com, to external sites in the wilds of the internet; neither Simple nor our partner bank, BBVA USA, endorse any linked-to websites; and we didn’t pay/barter with/bribe anyone to appear in this post. And as much as we wish we could control the cost of things, any prices in this article are just estimates. Actual prices are up to retailers, manufacturers, and other people who’ve been granted magical powers over digits and dollar signs.