(Photo courtesy of morguefile.com)

by William Biersack

Have you looked in your wallet, lately? Was there any money to be found?

If the answer is no, that’s alright. It is an unfortunate truth, but college students are commonly known for being broke, among other things. Money seems to keep slipping away, especially at the beginning of the school year when there’s a need for textbooks, supplies, and dorm essentials.

If this sounds familiar to you, here are some ideas that you can use to stop spending and start saving:


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

At the beginning of the school year, two of a student’s main worries are setting up the dorm room and collecting needed school supplies. In the rush to get everything ready, it may seem easier to simply buy everything you need. However, this does not need to be your only option.

One way of reducing your spending is to reuse and recycle old supplies. If you have any binders, backpacks, or stationary supplies from earlier semesters or high school, then pulling those out will save you a trip to the store to buy new materials. When you need textbooks for a class, finding a friend who has already taken the class will usually get you the textbooks faster and at a much cheaper rate.

The same thing goes with dorm supplies and furniture. If you already have it, then reuse it. If you are looking for more furniture to add to your dorm room, you should first check with friends to see if they are looking to part with anything. At this point, a majority of my dorm decorations have been donated to me by friends that graduated and were looking to lighten their load. It’s a useful strategy and will save you a lot of money.


Discounts, Coupons, and Sales

When buying supplies, another thing to think about is chasing sales and discounts. Some stores will offer back to school discounts with your college i.d. Other stores may have sales and coupons available for certain items.

While you are researching different places to buy products from, one thing to consider is if a store has these opportunities to save. If multiple stores have sales on the products that you need, the worst case is that you will have to go to each store to buy each item where it’s the cheapest. It may be time consuming, but you will still be saving a lot.


Use Your Meal Plan

If you are a resident student or a commuter that has invested in one, you have already spent a large amount of money on a college meal plan. By going out to eat, you are spending even more money, which all adds up in the end. As an alternative: aim to use up every meal opportunity that your meal plan gives you. Maximize its usefulness so that you can maximize the money you have left at the end of the semester.


Manage Your Bank Accounts

One additional option is to simply not spend money. It may not be an option that comes to mind immediately, but it makes a lot of sense.

If you are a student that came to college with a checking account, a smart option would be to open a savings account too. As you get jobs, work hard, and earn money, you should put a little bit of your income into that account every so often. According to the Money in Your 20s column on About.com, experts say that you should save about ten percent of your income and increase the amount you save as time goes on.

If you feel that you have plenty of money and it is burning a hole in your pocket, go ahead and put some of it in savings. It will take away the temptation to spend and will help you later on in life.