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Saving Money in College 101

By Kaitlin Hurtado

College can be both the best and worst of times. For many, it's the beginning of an amazing journey of independence and new beginnings. It's also a time where everything comes with an expense, from buying textbooks for classes to making sure you pay rent every month. Many students carry a financial burden through their college years on top of all the other stressors the time can bring. There's often the joke of "Will I finish college? Or will college finish me?" Look on the upside instead, while you can't dodge a lot of mandatory costs like tuition, you can still do plenty of things to be saving money.

Whether you're looking into starting your first year or nearing the end of your college journey, it's never too late to start saving money to help alleviate some of the stress that comes with finances.

Photo: Pexels

Secure a form of income

Even when you have financial aid or some funds saved up from your summer job, it's a great idea to still have a source of income as you progress through college. There are plenty of part-time jobs on campus, from office assistants to dining jobs, that will allow you to beef up your resume while also helping you build up your bank account. These jobs are good for those that don't want to stray too far off campus, and they also usually limit hours because of their workers' status as students. Meaning, you are a student first and foremost so you won't be working over 40 hours every week.

You can also look for remote work. Some companies will hire "brand ambassadors" for their brands on different campuses so that the individual campus becomes more aware of their brand. This can mean boothing at school events, campaigning to hand out goodies to students around campus, or even building up a social media presence for the brand among the campus community. If this doesn't sound like something you would do, but you still want more control over your own schedule, try pursuing a side gig or monetizing your hobby. For example, if you love getting crafty and making your own jewelry....why not turn it into a side business where you work your own hours and make money?

Make a budget and track spending

Before you even think of saving money, it's best to actually know what your budget is and what spending you can expect. Some people truly have no idea what it is that they are spending all their money on until they take a minute to look at their expenses. A good exercise is to sift through your bank statement and track where you are spending and how much you are spending. Is your budget toward eating out versus groceries/eating in doubled? Or, are you spending way more money than necessary on subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and so on?

Once you know where your money is going, it will be a lot more easy to see where it is you can afford to skimp out on spending or where you need to channel more money into. For example, building up your grocery budget to be more efficient can cause a serious cut to the money you spend eating takeout. Or, hosting movie and game nights among your friend groups can save you the money of going bar-hopping, weekly movie tickets, and Ubers.

When buying something, don't buy the first option 

There always seems to be something you need to buy in college. When it comes to school -- there's textbooks, school supplies, technology. When it comes to your apartment or living situation -- furniture, decor, household supplies. Rather than think of what you can't afford, think of what you can afford and shop around. Your campus bookstore isn't your only option when it comes to buying your course textbooks and other supplies needed for school supplies...and often, it's the most expensive because it is the most convenient. For example, Textsurf can help you save money on textbooks. The site compares different prices from sellers, taking all the hard work out of the process for you and helping you save money when you need it the most.

Likewise, buying something new isn't always the best idea. When it comes to textbooks and furniture, look to your campus community for some help. Other students take to online marketplaces like those on Facebook to sell their textbooks after courses are done or furniture after their leases end. Some secondhand purchases can be next to brand new, so don't be afraid to shop around.

As you can see above, there's no right or wrong way to be saving money in college. It can mean securing income so that you aren't exactly losing out as you spend, or it can mean being smarter about what you buy and how you buy it. Make sure to keep these money-saving tips in mind -- your bank account will thank you!