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6 Ways To Save Money As A College Student

Hands holding a phone.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

As a college sophomore now, my freshman year of college was full of financial burdens and slip-ups. I worked my first job at 15 and have been employed until 18 and had saved over $5,000.

I was a lenient spender, rarely went out, and worked as much as possible. I was proud of myself and my ability to save money that not even adults were saving in the period.   

Growing up, I was a financially stable child, always collecting coins and holding onto all my birthday money. The money I received from relatives, friends or even my parents were saved.

Seeing my brother and sister spend their money impulsively influenced me to continue to improve my saving habits so that I would never have to rely on anybody for what I wanted. My saving habits through my adolescence into my young adulthood, however, could not prepare me for the temptations of college. 

You may be shocked to hear how much I spent my first four months of college. By November, I had blown through all the money I had spent years saving and the $1,000 HERF fund the school had sent us.

By December, I had racked up almost $900 in credit card expenses, which caused me to work the entire winter break to pay it back. By spending my money on food servicing apps, Ubers, party tickets, and whatever else I wanted, all of my savings were gone.

I was in financial depression, spending my money impulsively to satisfy my compulsions. When the New Year came, one of my biggest goals was to reteach myself about financial independence and proper saving methods. 

Now in July, three weeks before I return to the Xavier University of Louisiana, I have gained so much insight into becoming a financially set adult. With couponing, cash back on savings, and proper budgeting, I have saved over four figures in just two months.

Now, will these techniques make you filthy rich? Probably not. But, they will help to ensure you do not make the same mistakes I did and set you up for financial stability into adulthood.

To properly start your financial independence, you must first build your savings. Use these tips to get a head start.

Track using budgeting apps

One of the quickest ways to lose track of your spending is to not track it at all. We may think we know how much we are spending, but it is much easier to swipe a card and discard that receipt.

By using apps like EveryDollar, I am able to put all my spendings into one place as well as set monthly budgets and track my income. 

Pay yourself

A main reason why I was able to save money so easily is because I paid myself first. Now, most people will tell you to save 10% of your check. However, as a college student (or a high school student preparing for college) 10% is not enough.

Let’s say you get  have a summer job June to July with weekly pay. You make an average $350 ( $8.75 / hour ), and you save $100 minimum per check. You save $400 a month, and by August, you have $800 saved. This is MINIMUM $100 a week.

When you pay yourself first, you learn to reduce spending in other areas, which can lead to increased savings. 

12 Ways To Save Money In College

Own credit cards

I know that credit cards can be scary but with proper management, credit cards are a great way to build your credit. With credit cards, you can spend up to your limit and pay them back within the month.

The benefit of a credit card is that you decide when and how much you want to pay within the appropriate statement period. Credit cards also offer benefits, such as cash back or reward points for shopping at restaurants or stores.

Most importantly, make sure you do not spend outside of your means or you can end up with major credit card debt and decreased savings. A great beginner credit card is the Apple Card, which is interest free with a possible beginning limit of $1,000. If you are under 18, talk about becoming an authorized user under your parents. 

Download couponing/cash back apps

Unbeknownst to some, companies will pay you simply for spending the money you already are spending. They will give you points or cash back for spending at select retail businesses or gas stations.

Some companies will reward you points for your receipts, which you can quickly transfer into gift cards from Amazon, DoorDash, or even VISA. Some of my favorites are listed below, where you can use my referral code when you sign up!! These are only for those over the age of 18.

  1. Drop: Rewards points when you link a debit or credit card and spend at stores such as Kroger, Apple, Nike, and Amazon. It even gives you coupon codes for select retail stores. You can also download or play games within the app to earn points. Points can be redeemed in increments of 25,000 for gift cards to Amazon, DoorDash, Uber, Saks, and more! Referral code for 5,000 points on sign up: vk7f8
  2. Receipt Pal: Rewards 100 points for every four valid receipts (print or digital) you submit. Shopping surveys are optional within the app for additional points. Points are redeemable for Amazon or VISA gift cards. 
  3. Receipt Hog: Rewards points and sweepstake entries for every valid receipt (print) you submit. Shopping surveys are optional within the app for additional points. Points are redeemable for Amazon gift cards, VISA gift cards, or PayPal. Referral code for 250 points and five slot spins: tuss5027
  4. Fetch Rewards: Rewards you points and sweepstake entries for every valid receipt (print) you submit. You can also shop select items in grocery stores for additional points. Points are redeemable for Amazon gift cards, VISA gift cards, charity donations, or more. Referral code for a bonus of 2,000 points (if registered by August 4th, ): DRJJT
  5. Upside: Rewards cash back when you upload purchase gas at select gas stations or eat at restaurants and upload receipts. Referral code to receive an extra 15¢ / gal and $5 after first receipt upload: HARPER2936.
  6. Grocery Store/Pharmacy Rewards App: Most grocery stores have apps where you can sign up for a free or paid membership to download coupons and free items from their store. Kroger is a great option with free sign-up and various digital coupons for departments in the store. CVS Pharmacy has a $5 monthly fee, but they give you $10 credit! Find stores convenient to your location and sign up for their rewards programs. 

Make your hobby a business

If you are good at something, why not get paid for it? Whether its hair, nails, makeup, accessories, clothes etc, it is always great to start pursuing your hobby as a business.

I have a niche for graphic design and content creation, which has allowed me to compose this article for you via Niche! I also am launching my content promotional business August 2022, She Is Booked And Busy, which focuses on promotional and content branding for Woman Black Owned businesses.   There are always companies looking to support your passions; you just have to put in the work to help them find you!

Stop spending

Of course, the most basic direction would be to stop spending! Sometimes, you do not need that new hairstyle or even those new pair of shoes.

It is hard not indulge as a teenager or young adult surrounded by online shops, TikTok, and Amazon. But, looking at the bigger picture, you should only spend when necessary (gas, groceries, emergencies), and have a little spending spree for celebrations. 

With any sort of independence, the journey will not be easy. There will be times where you are not working, funds are low, and the bills are due.

Always remember that there is always somewhere to make an extra dollar and that it is not the end of the world!

Author: Harper Cooper

Hi! My name is Harper. I am a rising sophomore at Xavier University of Louisiana, majoring in Biology on a Pre Med track. I live in Atlanta, GA and I enjoy live music, reading, writing, and lifting. I am the founder of Black Women Do STEAM, an organization focused on uplifting and promoting Black Women in the STEAM field. I am also a mental health advocate, with aspirations to open up a sexual and mental health clinic.