College-inspired hacks to save you big money
If you’re a college student, you need to be stretching your dollars bills to the limit. But, so does everyone else. Your college years are not the only time to practice financial responsibility before being catapulted into a lucrative career– they should be where you build habits. And if you didn’t build those habits then? Well, there’s no time like right now to start.
Hack your way through life by saving and making a little extra bread. Flex that financial prowess the right way and chances are you’ll be well on the way to financial security before you know it. These are the best college/life hacks to get you through any situation.
1. First rule of college hackery: Buy everything in bulk
If you have fellow Costco-loving friends, it would benefit you to pitch in and buy a Costco or Sam’s Club card to purchase in bulk, then split the price. Not only can you save by buying necessities like toiletries or paper towels, but also purchases of food and alcohol. Liquor stores and regular grocery stores are disgustingly overpriced.
An insider tip, you don’t need a Costco card to buy alcohol. That’s right, just go to the door and say “I’m buying alcohol” to pass right on through. Not only can bottles and 32 packs of beer be as much as 10% to 20% cheaper but their Kirkland brand is high-quality libations. Rumor has it their Kirkland vodka is Grey Goose or at least was made in the same area as Grey Goose. Don’t believe me? Do a taste test and decide for yourself.
2. Fewer burritos, more meal prep = savings for your wallet and waistline
Busy people tend to be on the go all the time and need a quick fix for food. This can be extremely daunting to your bank account when you’re buying an $8 burrito every two days. Instead of emptying your bank account, buy food in bulk and set aside a day for meal prep.
Not sure where to get started? There are many websites where you can find inspiration to create tasty, healthy and filling pre-made meals. Check out @buzzfeedtasty, @tastyglobal and @proper_tasty on Instagram to get your creative meal prep juices flowing. Then, make your shopping list, buy in bulk, get to cooking and divvy up portions for the week. You’ll stay properly nourished and on budget.
3. Don’t go to the laundromat, phone a friend
Those weekly laundromat quarters add up and can cost you as much as an extra $20 per week. Instead of wasting that money, find a friend or family member with a washer and dryer and offer to give them a donation for letting you use their equipment. To save more, use generic detergents or find out how to make your own at home.
If you’re in a pinch, go old-fashioned and hand wash your clothing, then air-dry. Another good investment is to go green and buy a foot peddled washing machine like the Yirego Drumi that will save you an excess of dollars in the long run. Not to mention you’ll save on electricity and water!
4. Choose roommates wisely
Find a good group of people you trust and are comfortable splitting rent with. Learning to coexist with these humans may be a struggle at times but you will save loads on rent. Make sure to plan group expenditures with these individuals and buy house amenities in bulk to maximize savings.
Not only does living with roommates cut down on your rent but you have a readily available support group for outings or emergencies. Plus, roommates definitely make things more interesting. Not sure you want to have roommates full-time? You can try subletting a room or renting out space on a vacation rental site (especially during peak seasons or events), just make sure to check in with your landlord first.
5. Cut this habit, score $840
College students and working professionals alike are in constant need of caffeine and are easily baited into franchise coffee shops around campus. Don’t fall for it. Those $3-4 cups add up to a heavy lump sum. Instead of purchasing at a business and following the basic fad… make your own coffee at home and pack it to go.
One pound bags of ground coffee beans go for as little as $3 and can make upwards of 45 – 8 oz cups. For caffeine fiends, this practice saves you around $60-70 per month. That is money better spent on a coveted concert ticket or a fancy night out on the town.
6. Go local on leg day
Don’t be lured in by the beefy 24 Hour and L.A Fitness guys. Some schools or insurance companies offer free gym memberships for students, some professionals, military, seniors, or veterans. Others charge for gym memberships but at a heavily discounted price, much lower than standard gym memberships. Don’t expect to pay more than $15.
Many people in love with physical fitness offer boot camps, yoga classes, surfing get-togethers or intramural sports. Often, yoga instructors and other fitness professionals-in-training are required to offer free community classes in order to meet their certification requirements. Check the bulletin boards near the gym to find some workout buddies who won’t charge you to break a sweat.
7. Have a ‘green’ party: charge cover and recycle the booze
Life is an endless party, and with the right mindset, a lucrative venture. If you decide to host a festivity at your dwelling, advertise well beforehand and charge a cover. Are kegs involved? Advertise all you can drink for an extra price at the door. Make sure to have a trusted doorman who takes cash or Venmo payments before entry.
Do not be dismayed by the morning after mess, those remnants are actually a blessing in disguise! Recycle the pile of glass and cans to make an extra 20 to 50 bucks at your local recycling center. Imagine what the earnings would be after a Project X type party. Cha-Ching.
8. Get festive: Shop early for the holidays
The holidays can sneak up on us after a grueling semester. Next thing you know, you’re in a mad rush to purchase gifts for everyone last minute. A better course of action is to find deals well in advance and then you can spread gift-giving costs over time. Plus, truthfully, holiday deals are a scam.
Festively wrap everything you buy and store it away in your closet or wardrobe. You might even be able to score deals on gift wrap if you buy it far enough in advance. While everyone’s running around like a chicken with its head off, you’ll be lounging on the sofa drinking a cool Rumchata.
9. Stream it all
We are the streaming generation that doesn’t like to pay for anything. Cable is overrated and is easy to cut from the budget. Buy a Roku or find streaming links on Reddit and use a free VPN app to stay private. Use your friends’ logins or pitch in to purchase one shared Netflix subscription. Amazon also offers free Prime Video for 6 months with an active student email.
Looking to watch the game or that long-awaited MMA fight? Go to the local bar and watch it for free. You will enjoy the company and feed off the excitement of other sports fans. Just make sure not to splurge on too many beers — unless, of course, it’s happy hour.
10. Coupon like a champ
Make sure to use any coupons found in the newspaper, online, or in free local weekly magazines. Also look for free cover or entry offers for your weekend entertainment. Make sure to grab a rewards card at any grocery or pharmacy stores you shop at and keep receipts for exponential savings.
Stack, stack, and stack some more savings. Stacking your coupons with sales, rewards, and rebate offers will give you the biggest savings. Mark your calendar for upcoming seasonal sales or promotions. If couponing isn’t exactly relaxing for you, visit The Krazy Coupon Lady to have all that work done for you.
11. Scoot, skate, skip the car
Get around on a motorized scooter, skateboard, or a bike. For those of you who live far from work or campus, use public transportation or buy an Uber pass to save on rides to your two most commuted destinations. A monthly bus or Uber pass can be as cheap as $20.
You might be surprised to learn that a motorized or electric scooter does not require a driver’s license and can go over 30 miles per hour with a 60 mile per gallon tank. You can basically squeeze those things anywhere, so forget about parking permits and get yourself a lock.
Never pay full price if you don’t have to. Thrift clothing stores and consignment shops are great for saving upwards of 90% at times on anything you need. A comfy couch, plates for the kitchen, a new pair of jeans. You’re bound to find something that’s trendy and in great shape, if you know where to look.
Thrift shops are everywhere; simply Google where one is near you and then find out when they have 50% off already ridiculously cheap prices. If you are an excellent deal finder or have an eye for vintage, resell your unique finds on apps like OfferUp or LetGo to make a pretty penny.
13. Download a budgeting app
Now there are many of these apps available, but my personal favorites are MoneyLion and Mint. These apps help you stay on top of your credit score and have easy budgeting functions, as well as in-depth information on the best credit cards, savings or checking accounts, and loans for you.
Maintaining awareness and staying on top of your finances is essential in your early years. After you show dedication to the MoneyLion app for 30 days, you are eligible to receive a $500 loan with only a 5.99% interest rate. That rate is unheard of. But to be clear, taking out a loan should only be done as a last resort.
14. Switch your service provider and use Wi-Fi
Everyone nowadays uses copious amounts of data on social media, texting, and listening to music. Those data charges can add up if you don’t have an unlimited data plan. Instead of paying that extra bill for going over your limit, use public Wi-Fi or walk into a coffee shop or bar.
Switching from a major carrier to a wireless service reseller can save you thousands of dollars a year. Your bill could drop from $125 to $35 just by switching from AT&T to Cricket. Since AT&T owns Cricket your coverage stays exactly the same. That’s a lot of savings for a simple change.
15. Get a credit card to build credit
Your younger years are a vital time to start building credit, but it’s never too late to improve your score! The sooner you do, the sooner you can use that credit to reach your goals. Find one credit card with a 0% APR for 18 months or longer and make sure to ask your creditor for 0% on purchases for as long as possible. Read the fine print!
Be wise and don’t use more than 30% of your limit making sure to pay off your statement far in advance from the billing due date every month. Your credit will benefit greatly from those early payments. Stick to one credit card and don’t fall into the trap of thinking of a credit card as free money.
16. Build a rainy day fund
You’ll thank yourself one day for building a reserve fund. There are many catastrophes or unexpected expenditures that happen in life. Save 10% of what you earn and hold it in a high yield saving account or index fund that continuously grows your savings. Make sure to google the ins and outs first.
Apps, like Acorns, are also a great way to save money without noticing. They use the change amount or ‘acorns” of your credit card purchases and automatically invest them in over 7,000 low volatility stocks and bonds. This way all those pinched pennies can earn you dividends without requiring much effort on your part.
17. Join AAA
Your wild 4-year experience is bound to put your beater car through a wild ride. AAA costs around $100 dollars a year but will save you much more in the long haul. AAA is a lifesaver. They’ll bring you gas, tow your vehicle, retrieve keys locked in the car for free and give discounts on vehicle repairs and battery delivery service.
While this can be a responsible choice for just about any car owner, it is especially wise if you know your car is prone to problems and have not quite saved enough for that new reliable whip yet. The added assurance that it provides also makes it worth the price.
18. File your taxes for free
If you are not making over $66,000 a year, then it’s your lucky day because you qualify for free tax filing software that works for both state and federal taxes. Visit the IRS website for a list of free software options to make filing your taxes a breeze this year.
For future reference, the final filing of taxes is free for everyone even if your gross income is over $66,000. You will have to pay for more in-depth services and may want to call in a CPA or financial planner if you plan to itemize. Visit the IRS “free file” page to learn more.
19. Get discounts shopping online
Here’s a way to cheat the system. When purchasing items online, instead of checking out immediately after adding something to your shopping cart… wait a while. Check back about a day later and be delightfully surprised to find out you’ve received a 10%-30% discount on your item.
This is usually done on newer sites looking to build a loyal following and create more traffic. Inclusively, keep on the lookout for promo codes that may get you an extra 15% to 20%. Generic codes like “Code 15” or “Code 25” work out more often then you think. Spot a chat box? Ask a representative for further promo codes, you might get lucky.
20. Purchase a car for less
New or used car dealerships are usually trying to outdo their competition. Get a quote at one for the lowest price the company is willing to offer, then present that quote to the next dealership. Do this a few times and chances are you will find a real buy.
Timing is everything. Plan your car buying excursion wisely and purchase your ride at the end of the month. Car salespeople have a monthly quota for the number of cars they should be selling each month and are more likely to give out a bargain when they’re strapped for time.
21. Downgrade on technological gadget purchases
Looking to buy a new technological gadget? Ipad, Iphone, Xbox, Kindle, etc. Always buy the version of the device that was released before the newest edition. Chances are the technology of the newest version is only slightly better and you’ll save big bucks using something only marginally outdated. If you are a fan of Apple products, September is the time to buy.
For the most part, these gadgets are just like a car, as soon as you drive it off the lot it depreciates considerably. Don’t fall victim by being a diehard fan of a brand; updates are constant and your wallet does not always refill quite as quickly.
22. Use the free health services at your college
Health care can be expensive, but if you are a college student it doesn’t have to be. If you are enrolled in at least 12 units, most colleges will offer free health services. This includes access to free checkups, blood work, x-rays, MRI’s and a myriad of other crucial health services.
Student health centers will even forgo the copay when signing in. Health care service providers are usually located on campus and don’t require an appointment to come in. Are you sexually active? You can stay on top of your sexual health and grab a few free condoms on the way out.
23. Free software
Many colleges and universities have a large list of software that is offered at no cost to their students. Visit your IT department website to find out which ones you can have access to as a student at their school. Why do companies love to give free software to students?
Introducing their software during a time when you’re least able to pay and most likely to form your usage habits is a great marketing technique on their behalf. When you parlay into the professional world, you will be more likely to use (and pay for) their products. Just keep that in mind when they try to charge you in the future.
24. Get a free student checking account
Banks make hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on regular checking accounts as a result of fees. However, many banks offer free checking accounts intended specifically for students. Among them are US Bank, Bank of America and Chase Bank (which even offers a $100 bonus). After all, you will need a secure place to store all the money you are saving.
If you’re technologically savvy and fine with online banking, this might be the best route to go. Sometimes an online bank will pay higher interest rates, have lower fees and require low or no minimum account balances. Look at Ally Bank, Discover Bank, and Barclays Online Savings Account for possible reimbursements and zero monthly fee offers.
25. Become a resident adviser
Now this one won’t make you too popular with your fellow college mates, but it looks good on a resume and might just get you a discount on rooming. Pros of being an RA: you’ll get your own private room, the pay is good, and the hours can be great. Plus, you don’t have to deal with the hassle (and cost) of commuting to a job off campus.
The only cons with this gig are that you will have to deal with first year students and their issues with partying, homesickness, figuring life out, adulting, etc. Also, Resident Advisers are required to return to campus early on most nights and are held to higher standards than other students.
26. Apply for scholarships
Let’s be honest, scholarships are basically free money. You can get scholarships from $500 to $50,000 for just about anything, including being medically diagnosed with dwarfism, being a natural redhead, or simply knowing a lot about a lot and applying for the Common Knowledge Challenge Scholarship. If you fit into a particular niche, chances are there is someone willing to award you a scholarship for it. The trick is in knowing where to look and in putting in the effort to apply.
Look online for interesting or odd scholarships you may qualify for and make sure to check your major’s homepage for scholarships for your specific degree. Sometimes the competition is insanely minimal, and you will have a good chance of being awarded without much effort. In this case, it really does pay to do your research.
27. Tutor in subjects you’re passionate about
Being smart and having the adept ability to teach others can put some extra cash in your pocket. Tutors can receive upwards of $20-30 per hour. Really good at what you do? Don’t work under the school’s system and set up your own tutoring business. This added level of entrepreneurship will allow you to set your own rates and control your hours.
Tutoring can fall within many spectrums. You could be a math tutor, an acting tutor, or a WordPress tutor; whatever you’re best at. There’s always someone willing to pay for the knowledge that will further their own personal goals. Who knows? Maybe your specific expertise is exactly what someone needs.
28. Use your student ID
Your student ID is basically the grown-up, real-world version of the golden ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Students receive discounts everywhere simply for being a student. From suits at JC Penny to food at Pizza Hut or Subway, students can receive around 10% to 50% off just by flashing their student I.D.
Grocery stores, restaurants, book & newspaper stands, clothing retailers, tech companies, subscription services, insurance, and transportation are all areas in which student discounts can be applied. Amazon Student even offers 6 months free of Amazon Prime — complete with two-day shipping and media streaming services — for students with a valid student email.
29. Get auto insurance discounts for good grades
Getting good grades doesn’t only get you a degree (or a coveted spot on the family refrigerator), it can also get you discounts. Many auto insurance companies are willing to give a 5 to 15 percent discount to students with a B average or higher. Send your auto insurer a copy of your exceptional transcript and you’ll qualify for exceptional savings.
Statistics show that students who get good grades are less likely to get into a car accident, so car insurance companies see them as lower risk and, in turn, offer savings on their rates. Some insurance companies may even continue the discount for a year after the student finishes school. Milk it while you can!
30. Don’t buy new textbooks
Buying new textbooks is a bad move. Instead, opt out and buy used textbooks from online retailers like eBay, Amazon or Bookbyte. This can cut costs by more than half at times. Many colleges also afford students the opportunity to rent books out for the semester for a fraction of the price.
Digital eBooks are also a more affordable and practical option, making it easier to walk around campus without feeling like you’ve got a sack of bricks in your backpack. Of course, feel free to disregard this tip if sporting a massive, heavy backpack is part of your training regimen for that Mt. Kilimanjaro hike you’ve been planning.