Back to School Budgeting: 3 Ways to Save Money as a Poor College Student


We’ve all experienced that back-to-school rush as the fall winds start blowing in. I can smell the crisp new notebooks, the books weighing on my new leather straps on my shoulders, and the feel of my new shoes digging into my heels like it was yesterday.

The first couple of weeks breeze by, and then you begin receiving those large assignments and the novelty of the new year wears off. You soon realize that you are stuck here for the entire year with countless assignments. You no longer have that eager bounce in your step, but they drag you onto the next class after the next, as you find yourself daydreaming of the summer days you’d spent overseas.

Reality sets in and you realize that you will also have to budget for the rest of the year, as mommy and daddy’s allowance will wear thin after dining out at that new restaurant your friends have planned for the following weekend. Been in these shoes? Here are a few steps on how to stretch your allowance for the rest of the year.

#1: Buying Groceries VS Going Out to Eat

Don’t go out to eat? That’s what all college students do on a daily basis. What I mean by this is not to never go out to eat with your friends, but to be smart about when and how to spend money on going out to eat.

Going out to eat, paying for tip, and maybe even parking and/or valet is the biggest waste of money for a college student on a budget. That’s like throwing money right out the door- you might as well just toss some on the ground. Buying groceries can make your meals last a week or more versus going out to eat everyday.

Your basic groceries that may last you even up to two weeks include: eggs, bread, milk, cereal, maybe some orange juice and bacon? And of course, you always have your spam and ramen: instant and filling. Grab some granola bars for your grab-and-go days when you are pressed for time for those morning classes. Can’t live without coffee? Bring your coffee maker from home, or use your dormmate’s. Spending that extra $5 or so a week adds up- that’s an extra $140 / month you could have spent on food!

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Buying groceries is also much healthier than what your cafeteria has to offer. Many college campuses have local restaurants with burgers and all the greasy fried foods that are good once in a while- but not everyday. And you wonder why they call it the freshman +15! Additionally, pick and choose the functions you will attend eating out: are your friends trying to go somewhere just to try it because it’s the new and cool place to go, or is it a good friend’s birthday?

Trust me, you will meet and make many friends on this journey: you do not have to attend every function you are invited to. Once you realize this, you will be most liberated, so you’re welcome. Blame it on your studies: that is one excuse that trumps any other.

#2: Make a List of Daily Specials

One of the things I did in college was to write down all the daily specials bars and restaurants had. For example, sometimes restaurants will have half off burgers or dollar drinks. It won’t be too difficult to find these types of deals since most restaurants on campuses already know college students are scraping for deals.

This is also a great way to eat out with friends without breaking the bank. As you already know, eating out with friends can get quite costly sometimes. Having a get together on nights with specials will kill two birds with one stone: a great social outing + eating out on a budget.

#3: Find the Free Food Events

Your college campus will have plenty of mixers and other events for new students as well as clubs and other organizations trying to recruit you. I’m not saying to join every one, or you can, if that’s what you’re into. But aren’t you in college to try to figure out your interests after all? Would it be such a crime to attend an event to enjoy some of the perks these events have to offer? I would say not.

Being a poor college student doesn’t have to be wretched.  As a college student, what do you have to spend money on anyway? You are there to study, so do just that & make your parents proud. Become conscious of your spending and try to save up- if your parents give you “x” amount of dollars a month and you don’t spend it all- imagine how much more you can save just by being smarter when it comes to going out with your friends.

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