How to Save Money | 7 Ways to Save Money as a Student

How to Save Money | 7 Ways to Save Money as a Student


Image of man adding a coin to his piggybank to save money.

University (or "college" to some) is supposed to be the time of your life. And why wouldn't it be? From fun parties to being able to buy whatever groceries you'd like, college is the time when you have the most amount of freedom with the least amount of responsibility.
With that being said, being a university student does come with its own set of challenges. Take being broke, for instance.
Despite getting more money than you've probably seen in your entire schooling career, you're always left with little to nothing to show for it. We've all been there. It sucks.
Thankfully, I've created this guide to help you save money fast as a student. After all, saving money is part of financial self-care and is super important. Let's dive right in!

How to Save Money and Achieve Your Savings Goals

Image of a dart near the centre of a target in blog post of "How to save money."

There are numerous ways for you to save money. Here are some key money-saving tips.

Set a Monthly Budget With a Savings Plan

Creating and following a budget helps you keep track of your finances. It's also a great way to check if your financial decisions are in line with your savings plan.

It's probably the first time you've been given money and have had to pay for your cell phone plan and clothing, for example. So, it makes sense that budgeting as a beginner may seem intimidating.

Keep in mind that the more you practise, the better you'll get. It's not necessarily about sticking to it 100% of the time (although that would be great, wouldn't it? 😅). But it's about forming good habits for your financial future.

P.S. Check out my simple budget template if you'd like to get started.

Keep Your Living Expenses Low

Image of flatlay with a notepad saying, "expenses," with stationary, coffee, glasses, and a keyboard nearby.

Naturally, keeping your expenses low (both fixed costs and variable costs) helps you save money. The more you keep your expenses lower than your income, the more money you'll have left over.

You can use this extra money to contribute to your emergency fund or your investments. Either way, you'll have more options (thanks to more money).

Track Your Expenses

While this won't necessarily help you save money fast, it is one of the best ways to save money over time.

Tracking your expenses can help you find out exactly where your money is going. Over time, you'll be able to figure out what the money suckers are and spend money more mindfully.

Buy Used Textbooks (or Visit the Library)

Image of open books laid on top of one another on a desk.

Saying that textbooks are expensive is an understatement. Depending on your courses, you can find yourself spending a handsome amount of money on books.

Thankfully, there are online marketplaces specifically for buying and selling pre-loved textbooks. How awesome is that?

If you prefer getting an up-and-close look at a textbook before buying, you can always check out the second-hand booksellers on campus.

Another way to save money is to spend some quality time in the library. You'll probably spend quite a bit of time studying there, so why not borrow textbooks? It doesn't cost a dime (unless you return the books late), saving you money on your savings journey.

Being a little patient and resourceful in this area can lead to big savings.

Tip: Second-hand textbooks from fellow students are cheaper than second-hand bookstores.

Clever Grocery Shopping

Image of woman wearing a mask, holding a pineapple, and doing grocery shopping.

Whether you're doing a bit of online shopping or popping into your favourite grocery store, ensure you check and compare prices online first.

This way, you'll have an idea of which store is more affordable for you. I love checking prices online because I can make sure I get the best price (in-store or online).

Do this by first writing your shopping list and then comparing the prices for the products online. I usually shop at three to four stores in the same mall and buy the cheapest groceries from each. I don't necessarily have a favourite grocery store, but I know what my checking account likes — saving money.

Get a Student Cheque and Checking Account

Image of Visa and Mastercard with cash next to it.

You can open a student bank account with lower monthly fees than regular accounts. Depending on your habits, you may choose between a pay-as-you-go option or an unlimited transaction fixed fee account.

I personally chose the fixed fee unlimited transactions account because I knew I'd use my bank account for many things. I don't withdraw cash once in a while and make deposits once in a blue moon. If I did, I think a pay-as-you-go option would be reasonable (and cheaper).

If you're someone who's a "heavy" account user and requires more from a bank account, then the fixed fee account may be your best bet.

Whichever option you choose, it has to make financial sense and suit your lifestyle.

Open an Interest-Bearing Savings Account

Would you save your money under your pillow or in a drawer? No. So, check out the different banks and see which one offers a savings account with a good interest rate.

Some banks offer fixed savings accounts (i.e., a fixed deposit account) where you save for a fixed period (say, three to six months).

If you think you'll need access to your money immediately, it may be helpful to sign up for a normal savings account. This is incredibly helpful in emergencies and unexpected expenses.

Have Different Bank Accounts

Image of bank sign.

Having a separate savings account (at another bank) can help you track your savings better. You may find this incredibly useful if you can't resist transferring your savings to your checking (cheque) account.

Another great benefit is that it helps you avoid being overly dependent on one bank. Online banking being down for scheduled maintenance is not uncommon, so it helps to be able to transact without worry.

You can even have one account specifically for long-term savings and another for your emergency fund. I think it's quite handy for one's savings journey.

Sign Up for Store Loyalty Programs

Ooh, don't get me started on loyalty programs. I've subscribed to so many (at no cost, because we're smart like that), I've lost count — just kidding.

But on a serious note: I make sure all my loyalty cards are in one place, so I can swipe up some points at the till. Last I checked, most of my loyalty cards give me cash back. This allows me to pay for much-needed purchases with my loyalty card.

It's come in handy quite a few times, especially when I needed to save money fast but still buy essentials.

Apart from getting cash back, you can also get some sweet discounts. Some stores have promotions, especially for members or loyalty cardholders. Sign up for a few and start saving money with these right away.

Visit Your Campus Clinic

Image of lady saving money by seeing a campus doctor.

You may be on your parent's medical aid (or have your own if you're an international student) and prefer to seek private medical care. But you don't necessarily have to if you're a student.

In South Africa, some universities have a campus clinic where you can seek medical attention. From nurses to clinical psychiatrists, they may offer free admission*.

This can be helpful if you fall ill on campus and need to see a general practitioner.

*Check in with your college or university for more information on this. You may have to pay a consultation fee to see a medical expert at your campus clinic.

Buy Generic Drugs vs Prescription Drugs

One of the best ways to save money is to buy generic medication (generic drugs) instead of brand-name prescription drugs.

Generally speaking, generic medication is cheaper than its brand-name counterparts. They still contain the active ingredient(s) to help you heal, but they're more affordable.

Cut Down on Premium Subscriptions

Image of woman with popcorn watching a movie on her laptop.

I know, I know. You can't live without [name subscription service], but hear me out.

Streaming services and other recurring monthly bills can really eat into your bank balance. If you want to keep your streaming services, consider family and group plans. This way, you can split the monthly cost and save money. Grab your popcorn!

Don't Spend Money (or at Least Try Not to)

I know this sounds (and actually is) difficult, especially when it feels like one has to pay just for breathing. But let's be honest: how many times have you spent money when you could've avoided it? This is a no-judgment zone — we've all been there.

One of the easiest ways to save money is just not to spend it.

Are sales in email newsletters too irresistible? You can unsubscribe from marketing emails to avoid the temptation of shopping online.

A major benefit of this is that you can see and understand your spending habits better. Going on a spending freeze for a certain period of time can help you avoid outflows from your account. You may even find you have extra cash to put towards credit card debt (or store accounts).

Avoid Unnecessary Debt

Image of a jar with cash notes and coins labelled "Debt".

Speaking of which, you can save money by not going into unnecessary debt in the first place. This is especially true for consumer debt, which is the debt you take on to purchase goods.

Whether it's credit card debt or credit balances on your store account, unnecessary debt can negatively affect your ability to save money. This is because the interest rates on this type of debt can be quite high (compared to personal loans, for example).

Plus, it's way better to use your extra money to save or invest instead of making debt payments.

Final Thoughts on Saving Money as a Student

As a student, you can save money in many ways. From taking advantage of student discounts to buying used textbooks, you can start saving for your future. Making the right financial decisions now can put you in a better position tomorrow.

Looking for ways to make extra money? Check out this blog post next!


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