20 Money Tips To Survive and Thrive in College

By | January 13, 2018

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College life can be challenging. But take heart.

By the end of this post, you’ll not just be surviving, but thriving. You’ll be making smart savings and earning side incomes. I’ve included real life examples of how current college students are managing their studies and work to inspire you.

Challenges College Students Face

If you are like many college students, you are feeling tired much of the time, hungry most the time and stressed out about money.

You are wondering when this will all end and when you can earn a decent income and start living a normal life.

As a student, you are constantly juggling lots of things – getting at least passing grades, meeting parents’ expectations, keeping costs and spending from getting out of hand, having a social life and relationships, and trying to have more free time for yourself . . . the list goes on.

Well, the good news is all the ‘suffering’ bits are temporary – they will end.

Many years ago, I was in the same boat. I had no one to confide in and no one told me to put things in perspective. Because you’re in the midst of it, this may seem endless and you think that it’ll last forever, but it will definitely pass.

So how is knowing this going to help me? You may ask.

Firstly, knowing that all this will end helps to calm you down.

Secondly, because you are calm, you can make better decisions.

So take a s..l..o..w deep breath and carry on reading……

Much of the stress you face stems from this question: “Am I going to have enough money to see me through my studies?”

Do Work and Study Work Well for You?

But before you start looking for jobs to supplement your student allowances, you may want to think about how demanding your college program is. An Arts undergraduate may find working more feasible, as the timetable may not be as packed as an engineering or medical undergraduate.

If you should decide to work, will you be too exhausted to even pay attention during your lectures and complete your assignments?

There are only 24 hours in a day and you have only so much time and energy. Don’t forget that you also need time to rest and take breaks in between studying.

Working in a job is NOT taking a break.

Remember that you have already paid for your program costs and not making the grade means MONEY and TIME down the drain.

Here are two real-life college students I know personally:

Amy* is working full-time. She is also studying towards a diploma and a degree at the same time. Both are online programs and they are demanding. She is frequently on sick leave as she is probably physically and mentally exhausted.

Shannon* is doing a combined law and sociology degree. She flatmates with friends and juggles 3 part-time jobs at the same time. In the end, she had to take a year off from her studies and jobs to rest.

* Not their real names.

What’s the solution then?

Limit your part-time work to a manageable level.

So here are the top 20+ money tips you’ve been waiting for.

You can save lots of money by doing the following:

Living with Your Parents Saves $$$

What? You’re kidding. Why should I? This might be your reaction.

You should, because accommodation costs bite off a huge chunk of your limited money. So, think seriously about living with your parents (obvious caveats:

1. If your parents agree to it.

2. if your home is not too far from your college).

Yes, it is exciting to live with your peers. But it is not exciting at all when you realize that flatting is a major financial drain.

Many students need to work a good number of part-time hours just to pay the rent. This plan comes at a heavy price – it may badly affect your studies and health.

I have heard of students trying to get supermarket and other jobs during term time. It’s difficult since many other students have the same idea of applying for such jobs.

Moreover, the pay per hour is quite meager, as employers pay the minimum wage for basically unskilled labor.

Another college student I know, Conan*, lives with his parents and is enjoying homecooked meals, free lodging and other luxuries like doing minimal housekeeping.

He is saving heaps of money by living at home – about $100 per week in rent, which makes it an impressive $4,000 savings a year. Conan also saves a lot on food.

So, he does not need to work part-time, although he busks for extra money during his Summer break.

Do seriously consider whether living with parents can work for you.

But what if you can’t live with your parents?

Location, Location, Location

You really need to choose your accommodation very carefully.

Say you have a choice of 2 places: one near your college and one farther away.

The one near your college costs more while the one farther away costs less.

You decide to rent a place farther away from college because the rent is cheaper. But if you need to take public transport to get to your classes, it uses up your limited money, time and effort.

If you drive, can you find a place to park at college for free? What about car maintenance and gas costs?

Therefore you may decide that it’s better for you to live very near your college, even if the rent costs more, as you’ll save precious money, time and effort on not having to travel.

But it really depends on how much more your rent is. You’ll have to do the math and weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Build Your Savings Before College

Saving hard in the years before college is very important to reduce your money pressure at college. I know of a tertiary student who took 2 gap years.

She worked in fast food restaurants, saving hard for her college education. She now supplements her undergraduate costs and allowances with her savings.

She is able to afford her rent, food and her car. As her college and hometown are in different parts of the country, she is unable to stay with her parents.

This is her strategy for coping with her living costs while studying.

Apply for Scholarships

You might think this wouldn’t work for you. But you need to have a good go at this.

Create a written plan to study smart and hard. Seek learning advice at high school or college. YOU can actually do well enough and get a scholarship.

What have you got to lose?

I read in a local newspaper about an undergraduate who kept applying for scholarships. He was awarded several as a result.

You know something? He said he never had to work for money at all during his studies, because it was all taken care of by his scholarships.

Not only did he get good grades, he didn’t have any financial concerns at all.

In his view, getting paid to study well is the best of both worlds.

You can check out this useful website which talks about 10 sites you can use to find scholarships.

ScolarshipOwl is another site which applies for scholarships on your behalf! See below:

Extra Saving Ideas

Some colleges offer free breakfasts once a week. Go for it!

Instead of eating out most of the time, you can also try making simple, fast and healthy food. Just google ‘easy cheap recipes’ for free recipes.

If you want to save time and just have the recipes planned out for you, try the $5 meal plan.

Some college students occasionally take advantage of special discounts offered by eateries by showing their student ID cards.

Do take care NOT to use student discounts to spend money on unnecessary items like clothes, entertainment and the latest electronics like smartphones. It’s not really smart to spend money on upgrading your smartphone that’s working fine.

I’m not saying you can’t buy new clothes at all too, but be careful that you are not lulled into this sense of complacency because of the discounts.

Advertisers always say you save when they have sales, but I’ve come across someone saying ‘If I don’t buy, I save ALL my money.’ How true!

Another area you can save on is textbooks. You can have the option to buy secondhand, sell or rent them. An observation: If you buy secondhand books, you can use them practically for free if they are still in good condition, by selling them later.

You can buy, sell and rent secondhand textbooks on Amazon.

CampusBooks compares textbook prices and you can save up to 90%.

Another student went to this extreme length to save. He saves on toiletries like soap and toilet paper by visiting public washrooms as often as he can!

Extreme money tips college students love to use

Money earning Ideas!

Apart from saving money, here are some ways you can make money while at college:

Give Tuition, Including Online Tuition.

This is ideal as you get paid for your knowledge, so you’ll almost always earn more than a checkout operator.

Besides, you save time and money on transport in the case of online tutoring. Some senior undergraduates even post their subjects and grades on student noticeboards and websites when offering to teach junior undergraduates who need to improve their grades. You might have to sign up with agencies or tertiary job search groups.

Find out how this college student started his side hustle. It took off and he had to employ his college mates to help out with the demand.


Can you play an instrument or sing quite well?

You might want to get several opinions first though 🙂

Of course, you can practice to improve your music skills.

If most people you ask agree that you are good, then give it a go. You can also team up with a friend and split the takings. It’s a flexible option.

You get to choose where, when and how long you’ll busk. Make sure you’re reasonably well dressed when performing, as it gives passersby a positive impression and you may receive more money.

A suggestion is to go to popular farmers’ markets – their patrons usually have loose change to spare.

If you’re good enough and passersby are generous, there’s potential to earn quite well.

Do Summer Jobs

Apply for vacation work when there are no classes.

Save up this money and use it during term time, when you need it most.

There are different casual part-time or full-time work out there during the holidays, especially during the time leading to Christmas, as local businesses need extra temporary help during this hectic time of the year.

You could:

Sell your plasma. Huh? Find out more about how you can sell your plasma to earn extra cash.

Be a Santa Claus or Santarina

Gift wrap in malls

Be wait staff

Be a motel/hotel cleaner

Do data entry

Be a receptionist or shop assistant

Be a warehouse laborer (probably for the fit and strong)

Be a garden helper in your neighborhood

Be a dog walker in your neighborhood

Be a junk mail distributor

Do babysitting

Be an Uber delivery driver or rider

Be a product promoter

What do you need to consider when you choose a job?

Assuming you meet the requirements, try and choose those jobs that pay you more money, with less time and effort on your part.

Factor in the distance to your workplace, the travel cost, and the travel time as well.

And what happens after you graduate?

Find out ways you can save more money. Click on this post from Dollarsprout.com to learn more.

Wrap Up

So there you have it. All these ideas should give you some good starting points to have more money during college.

What strategies have you tried to have more money during college?

Are they similar or different to the ones above?

I’d really love to know your success in the comments below.

If you find the tips helpful, please share it with others 🙂 They’ll love you for it!

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