How I Save Money as a Broke College Student

How I Save Money as a Broke College Student (Photo: Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash)

I would like to think that I’m pretty savvy when it comes to money, budgeting and saving — considering I’m a college student in one of the priciest cities in the United States: San Francisco. Once I moved out of the house and into the college dorms, I realized just how expensive it is to grow up. It took a couple of overdrafts to learn that I can’t just splurge on things I couldn’t afford. Here are some of my biggest money-saving tricks that have helped me and will hopefully help you too.

  1. Budget, budget, budget

Trust me, I know, when you hear the term budgeting it seems strict, boring, and like you’ll have no money to spend on things you actually want. But, if you do it right, that won’t be the case. I like to use an app called EveryDollar and it helps you customize and calculate your personal monthly budget on a simple platform. 

The first thing you need to do is analyze your income. How much do you make monthly? Once you have that number, now you can start building your budget. This is where you have to think of your priorities. What are your fixed expenses? These are things like rent,  phone bill, utilities, insurance, etc. Once you figure that out, you also want to think about things that aren’t necessarily a fixed amount, like groceries, medication, household items, personal care items, etc.

Once you take care of your needs, you'll have some extra money to do whatever you want with it. 

  1. Track your spending!

This goes hand in hand with budgeting. Once you come up with your budget you need to make sure to check your bank account regularly and monitor how much money you’re spending and on what. This is so you don’t go over your budget and get overdraft fees.

  1. Save!!!

Everyone has a different way they like to save money. Personally, I have a pretty organized and easy way I like to save. First, I have not one, but two savings accounts. The first one, I use for all my big and future expenses like a house or car. My second savings account is for less long-term expenses like a small vacation.

Now, where does all that money I save come from? What I like to do is whenever I get paid, I put away 10% of my check to my long-term savings account and another 10% goes to my short-term savings account. My bank also has a feature that for each transaction I make with my debit card, they automatically transfer $1 to my long-term savings account. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but trust me it adds up.

  1. Cook at home!

I know this can seem a bit obvious, but trust me cooking at home will save you tons of money. I get it, I love takeout and getting my food delivered at home, but that can get really expensive, really fast. Taking that trip to the grocery store and stocking up on food can really make your wallet grow. During COVID, not being able to eat out has really made a difference and I’m noticing I’m saving more by eating at home.

Don’t worry if you feel like you’re not the best chef, you can learn! There are thousands of recipes you can find online.

  1. Always keep an eye out for coupons and discounts!

There are many ways you can find coupons and discounts for things you need. The first thing I do is have two browser extensions, Honey and Rakuten, that automatically search for coupons when I’m shopping online. And if the app can’t find coupons, you can usually get cashback for your purchases. And for the stores I shop regularly, I am signed up for their rewards programs so that I can get special offers and save up points. 

  1. Buy secondhand!

Whether it’s textbooks, furniture or clothes, you can most likely find what you’re looking for used and for a cheaper price. For textbooks, I always try to rent my textbooks since I will probably not use them after the semester ends. If you do have to purchase a book, there are a ton of websites where you can sell your textbooks back for some spare cash. 

As for furniture, there are great places like Facebook Marketplace where people sell their used stuff for a fraction of the price, sometimes even free! For clothes, I’m sure you’ve heard of some online thrift stores like ThredUp, Poshmark, and Depop. And there’s always real thrift stores as well!

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