As part of Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012), you might think that saving is something to do in your late 20’s or early 30’s. But the truth is that saving – whether it be for retirement, medical emergencies, at the supermarket, or cutting back on your electricity bill – will make a big difference the earlier you start.
The good news is that saving is something that you can gradually develop. Even as a college student, there are things you can immediately do to start saving money.
Below are six tips to help students get started.
1. Save on Groceries
As a student, housing and food is probably your biggest expense (other than tuition). According to an article by Lexington Law, the average student will spend $16,566 on housing and $8,993 on groceries during their four years of college.
The tip here is to be organized. Compare prices and download a budgeting app like Mint.com. Mobile apps like this help you keep track of monthly food spend (along with other life expenses).
2. Save on Utilities
Sure, you know about turning off the lights before going to class. But did you know that when you have appliances plugged in (even if you’re not using them!) they are still using energy? Unplug all unnecessary appliances such as chargers, blenders, smart TVs, vacuums, cell phones, and stereos when you’re not using them.
You can also reduce your refrigerator’s energy use. Set your refrigerator to 45-degrees and the freezer at 0-degrees. Not only is it not eco-friendly, but keeping your fridge colder than it should be is literally throwing money away.
Summer cooling and winter heating is also a major utility expense. It’s important to cut back where you can. If you and your roommates are gone all day at school, work, or vacation, remember to turn off the heating/cooling. If you need a window ac unit, try to buy an Energy Star Rated model.
FYI: The Energy Star label was created by the U.S. EPA so consumers can identify which appliances offer the best home energy efficiency.
3. Limit Your Credit Card Debt
Unless your parents provide a weekly allowance or you work 25 hours (or more each week), try your best to keep credit card spending to a minimum. The interest on a credit card is higher than practically any other form of credit, and you don’t want to graduate with student loans and $15,000 in credit card debt.
Owing a lot of money also limits your options after you graduate. For instance it’ll be harder to get a home mortgage loan or car loan with a bad credit score.
4. Renters Insurance Might Be Worth It
Insurance isn’t a top-of-mind sort of expense, especially for a college student. But for students with high-value items in their home, protecting possessions from theft, accidents, or disaster, a basic renters insurance policy might be worth it.
You can check online rates quickly. For college students it can be as cheap as $15/month.
5. Keep Track of Your Spending
As mentioned before, a mobile app is super useful when it comes to budgeting your expenses. You can tag certain expenses such as “entertainment” or “food” to get a visual chart of your spending habits.
There’s no shortage of budgeting apps, but I think the three below are the best finance apps for college students.
- Mint App – best budgeting app overall (owned by Intuit)
- Clarity Money – budget and savings app (by Marcus, Goldman Sachs)
- PocketGuard – helps keep you from overspending
6. Look for Student Discounts
A lot of companies offer deals and discounts in effort to help students save money.
The UW-Whitewater 4U Program offers up to 10-20% off on school-related products, such as:
- Dell laptops
- Adobe software
- Microsoft products
Alumni and students also qualify for UWW family discounts. There is a wide range of discounts for travel (i.e. hotels and car rentals), health benefits, home and auto insurance, etc.
Forging smart financial habits now will make life easier in the long run. You shouldn’t wait to start saving – it will help you steer clear of life’s financial pitfalls.
Overall, remember that every little bit counts when it comes to saving money and that saving doesn’t mean you can’t do the fun things you did in the past. Keep your mind open when it comes to money!
About the author:
Ryan Kalscheuer is a UW-W alumnus. After graduation he moved to NYC and worked for a number of advertising agencies and content websites. He is currently working as a paid search specialist and own his own network of blogs.