Rethinking Savings as a College Student

25. April 2011

Saving money and attending college are two activities that are typically NOT thought of together. In fact, many college students might tell you that they don’t have enough money to buy a pizza on a Friday night, let alone to add to a savings account. But what if we rethink the traditional notion of “savings” to make it a goal that is a bit more realistic for this cash-strapped chapter of life?

Consider this: If you purchase a used text book online using tools such as DealOz or TextbookLand instead of buying a brand new book at the campus bookstore, what is likely to happen? You got it…savings. Sure, these dollars won’t necessarily end up in a savings account. In fact, you will probably spend that money before the week is out securing a new bus pass for the term or getting an oil change for your car. But think about it this way: for every dollar you save, that is one less dollar you need to borrow in student loan money – thus minimizing your debt burden and freeing up future dollars for your savings account as a young professional. Sure beats throwing money at interest payments!

Let’s try another one. Are you grabbing lunch on the go throughout the week as you juggle classes, work and student involvement? Dining out adds up fast and meal time can typically be made much cheaper with grocery shopping and careful meal planning. What if you pack your lunch two more times a week using easy recipes found at YumYum, Budget Bytes or Peta2 (all vegan recipes!)? More savings!

OK, one more. Do you have a budget? No? Then how do you know you’re spending wisely, putting your dollars towards your biggest priorities and not over-borrowing? Living on a budget is an easy and effective way to minimize your student loan burden, meet your financial goals and plan long term for building wealth. Mint is a free and easy-to-use resource that links with your online accounts to help you create a realistic and livable budget. Remember – every dollar in savings is a dollar put towards your future.

With a little thoughtful financial planning your money can go a long way towards meeting your goals. Who knows…you may even be able to cut back hours at your campus job, graduate early or even take a trip this summer! Either way, living frugally as a college student will help you hit the ground running financially when you take that first job after graduation, setting you up for long-term financial success.

This month's e-Wealth Coach author is Kate Trombitas, the Assistant Director of The Ohio State University Student Wellness Center and a financial wellness specialist. Her work focuses on educating students about building a strong financial foundation that will lead them to a solid financial future. Kate’s expert financial advice for college students was recently featured in the 9th Edition of Gardner and Barefoot’s Your College Experience: Strategies for Success.