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Last Updated on September 28, 2023 by Chris Panteli
Save Money as a Student
We’re not going to tell you cliché stuff like “get a roommate” or “look for part-time work.” If you’re a student on a tight budget, you’ve likely already considered or done it. Is there anything else?
While there’s no magic solution or productivity “hack” that’ll fix the deteriorating economy, we asked finance experts what students can do to save money beyond “earn more, spend less.”
So let’s dive into those non-cliché tips to save money as a student.
Understand “comfort” purchases
Instead of forcing yourself to cut off all pleasurable purchases, it’s more helpful to try and understand what’s leading to these “comfort” purchases. Are you getting takeout every day because you’re too tired to cook after an exhausting day? Are you subscribing to different services because you need a way to unwind after hours of studying/work?
In these situations, it can feel impossible to completely cut off spending. “Living in a time of heightened competition and stress increases the potential students may have for impulse buying as a salve to reduce feelings of anxiety,” says Jonathan D. Friedman, a clinical psychologist at Baker Street Behavioral Health, who studies the correlation between debt and psychological strain.
“Paradoxically, the more they experience financial strain the more they may act out the underlying anxiety through comfort buys, which can add up even on a micro level.”
In other words, the more you worry about your finances, the more likely you are to spend on comforting things like takeout, video games, and night outs with friends, to temporarily alleviate that stress.
Unfortunately, these comfort purchases only feel good in the moment, but eventually greatly interfere with your ability to save and make the right investments, Friedman adds.
Question peer pressure
In today’s capitalistic world, most forms of entertainment and casual social hangouts require money. If you want to be a part of a group, you’re required to spend on food, drinks, and events to maintain that sense of belongingness. This can turn into peer pressure where you feel compelled to spend money just to fit in.
You don’t have to reject all social events to save money! Understanding the temptation of peer pressure and setting the right boundaries beforehand can help.
“If you are going out to eat, attending an event, or considering a trip with friends who are big spenders, always clarify in advance what your limits are and how you will be splitting the cost as a group,” says Patricia Roberts, a finance author and chief operating officer at Gift of College, a gift registry for college savings and student loans.
You don’t have to feel pressured to split all bills equally, especially if you’re not eating and drinking as much as others. “Many restaurants are willing to offer you a separate check if you ask when you are ordering,” Roberts adds.
Set up barriers to spending
Today, spending has become easier than ever. Many students grow up in “an instant gratification digital world” where you can get anything you want at the click of a button, Friedman says. “Food and products reach your doorstep in minutes, which makes purchasing far simpler and requires little to no personal sacrifice of time and energy.”
Various studies have shown that making an activity harder to do discourages us from doing it. So a simple yet effective solution would be to set up more barriers to spending. This could include:
- Deleting delivery apps from your phone and having to download them again every time you want to order.
- Removing your address and account information from the apps so you have to enter it again every time.
- Having someone else set up a password so you have to ask before using the apps.
Take advantage of free events and discounted services
Many universities and organizations host events that you may not be interested in but still find some value in attending. Look for the ones offering free snacks and goodies, says Andrew Latham, a certified financial planner and director of content at Super Money.
Many service providers also have a “student” plan that isn’t advertised prominently, he adds. “Always carry your student ID and inquire about student discounts everywhere you go,” he says. “Follow your favorite brands and local establishments on social media to catch flash sales or student-specific promotions.”