Posted March 3, 2016

17 ways to be a wise college spender

Paying for college is pricey enough. Here are some key ways to save money when in school.

An owl with a commencement cap above the words smart college spending.
By following these 17 tips, students can save money by being smarter spenders.

If you’re a soon-to-be or current college student, chances are you’ve been fed the ramen jokes ad nauseum. But since when did living on a college student budget translate to surviving solely on bricks of dried noodles? There are plenty of ways to cut costs when you’re in school, and this week Owl About the Money brings you some tricks of the trade that don’t include those mysterious chicken seasoning packets. With the help of our experts from Student Financial Services and the Bursar’s Office, we’ve gathered 17 ways to be a smart spender in college.

  1. Use the right ATM.
    Those $2.50 fees at another bank’s ATM can add up pretty quickly (not to mention the fact that you’re likely also being charged by your bank, too). If your bank’s machine isn’t in sight, try stopping at a store to buy something—if even just a pack of gum—to get cash back. You’ll have more money in your bank account and fresher breath to boot.

  2. Make coffee instead of buying it.
    Ditch the $5 lattes. The coffee maker is your friend.

  3. Rent textbooks.
    If you can, rent your textbooks and simply return ’em when you’re done. Alternatively, look for e-books which are usually up to half the cost of paper textbooks. The downside? You can’t sell back e-books.

  4. Find the “free” scene.
    Eat up at Free Food and Fun Fridays at the Student Center. Crawl around Old City’s arts scene for First Friday every month. Visit the Philadelphia Art Museum on Wednesday nights to pay what you wish for admission (OK, so not free, but pretty darn close to it). Visit Philly can help guide you in finding other events worth checking out.

  5. Bring your own.
    We’re talking to you, 21+ students. Bring your own bottle of wine to a BYOB eatery and your bill will suddenly become much more palatable.

  6. Dine at the right time.
    We all like exploring Philly’s dynamic food scene, but wait to visit the pricier joints until Restaurant Week. Also, lunch specials—need we say more?

  7. Limit transportation costs.
    Like many things in life, buying transit fare in bulk just makes sense. Buying a set of two tokens is cheaper than paying for each ride in cash (one trip with cash = $2.25; two tokens = $3.60). So if you ride the Broad Street Line two times each day for five days, you can save $4.50 just by buying tokens. Simple math, folks.

  8. Bike!
    It’s healthy for you, the environment and your piggy bank.

  9. Go to consignment shops.
    You’ll score cooler finds than at any mall and at a much friendlier price.

  10. Sign up for store savings cards and rewards programs.
    You don’t have to sign your life away to get a store savings card. You can get better deals and save significant money, especially on your weekly trips to the grocery store.

  11. Make a budget.
    Figure out your income and your expenses, make a budget and stick to it.

  12. Flash that Owl Card.
    Student discounts abound. Keep an eye out for savings at movie theaters, restaurants and shops. Don’t see one? Ask.

  13. Get roommates.
    You’ll almost always pay less if you're sharing space with another human being.

  14. Pay student loan interest while in school to limit interest capitalization.
    Heck, use your work study money.

  15. Don’t go overboard with credit cards.
    A credit card can help build up your credit, or it can do exactly the opposite. Choose the former.

  16. Compare banks and credit unions.
    Credit unions are like banks and sometimes, our experts say, they can offer better banking deals for students. Compare your options.

  17. Fly in 4.
    Whether you’ve made the Fly in 4 agreement or not, make it a personal pledge to reach commencement in four years. One extra year of paying tuition can equate to some pretty big purchases. Among them: 14 round-trip tickets to Dubai. Trade the Bell Tower for a view of the Burj Khalifa.

Related stories:
Work study: Five things to know
Loan literacy: Six tips to borrow wisely
Scholarships: Fantastic bucks and where to find them
Grants: Where they come from and how they help
Five things to know about the FAFSA
Owl about the money: A guide to being financially savvy in college