College is a great investment, but can definitely be expensive. With tuition increasing a substantial amount almost every single year and all of the other costs of attending college, the amount can be very intimidating and make you wonder how it’s possible to go without adding debt to your life.

I worked full-time all throughout college and was horrible with saving it because of all of the little things that added up. I was living in the moment and didn’t think of ways that I should be saving money.

College can be so expensive for so many reasons: tuition (of course), car expenses, food, entertainment, keeping up with the latest electronic and fashion trends and everything else. You might be trying to keep up with your friends and spend similar amounts to them in order to have fun. You most likely aren’t working a whole ton and I had many friends who never worked while in college. They would work in the summer time and save as much as they possibly could.

Here are some ideas on how to save money while in college:

1. Don’t spend all your money on clothes

I spent a TON of money on clothes every WEEK. And sometimes every day. I also bought many clothing items that looked very similar to things that I already had. What a waste of money! No one really cares all too much that you are wearing a new article of clothing everyday. Buy staples and classics so that you don’t have to constantly buy new items because they “go out of style.”

Set a certain limit for how much you want to spend on clothes in one month or in one year. Try shopping at thrift stores and stores that sell gently worn clothing that is only a couple of months old as well. There are a lot of options out there to spend less on clothing.

2. Eat at home or in your dorm as often as you can

I do realize that not all dorms have kitchens or means for you to cook, but if in your living situation you do, then cook often! We rented a house for a little over a year in college (before we bought our house) and did not eat in as often as we should have. I’m constantly thinking back and thinking of all of the nights where we ate out and how much money that I could have saved. Probably thousands upon thousands!

If you do go out to eat, try going during lunch time instead of dinner time inn order to save a little more money. Also, order water instead of a soda or beer.

3. Drink and have fun cheaply

In college, of course everyone wants to go out. However, buying rounds of drinks and going out dancing every single night can definitely put a huge dent in your wallet. A $40 night, three times a week adds up quickly, especially if you are not working or you only working part-time and don’t make enough money.

4. Try not to have a car payment!

This is another factor in saving money while in college that I failed at. I bought a brand new car at the age of 18 which gave me a $400 car payment every month. Yes, this car took me to my job every day and then also to my classes but I definitely could have saved a lot of money by buying a cheaper car with cash and not having a car payment.

Search for reliable older cars. Make sure to have someone else check out the car with you if you are unsure of what you are looking at. And try not to buy out of your price range!

How did you save money in college?



Michelle Schroeder is the founder of Making Sense of Cents and Diversified Finances, a personal finance and lifestyle blog about budgeting, traveling, life, and student loans. Read further on her story and life.