How to save money as a college student

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Bryan Smith - May, 23 2024

5 min read

About the author

Content Manager at Prodigy Finance, helping international students gear up to study abroad

Saving money as a college student can be incredibly tough when there can be so many things that demand your attention.

From purchasing study materials such as textbooks or hardware, securing accommodation, and ultimately eating well and entertaining yourself and friends, working a manageable budget can feel near-impossible.

Fortunately, there are a number of simple steps you can take to save money as a college student, and set yourself up for success as you complete your studies and either prepare to enter or return to the working world.

How much does the average college student have in savings?

A recent survey OneClass found that among surveyed students, a majority of people enrolled in higher education have between $51-$500 in their account - and around 13.5% of all survey participants have less than $50 in their account.

Can I, or should I, work during college?

Depending on your international study visa and country of study, you may be eligible to work part-time during the course of your studies.

However, the choice to pursue work is entirely up to you - and your decision may be influenced by the amount of work and attention your studies demand and your ability to meet the hours specified by your employer.

If you’re able to work part-time during the course of your studies, doing so can be an excellent way to pave your path into the workforce in your country of study - and can help you build essential networks and skills that can assist you later.

Naturally, working part-time can be the best way to supplement your income in the currency of your study country and can help establish your budget.

If you’re planning on seeking work opportunities, see our guides on finding full-time employment or a part-time role.

Saving money as a college student - what you can do

To build your savings and expand your budget, the ability to save money from your income is essential. To do so, there are some simple steps you can follow.

Seek the lowest fees on bank accounts or other financial products

As you establish yourself in your country of study, one of the simplest things you can do to save money is to ensure you use financial products that are within your means - that can naturally include what international bank account you pursue, but further whether you plan to take out any insurance policies, local contracts, or subscriptions.

For example, a charge many might ignore are monthly banking fees, which can average to around $10 per month. Ensuring your account offers favourable rates and terms can assist you in putting that same $10 charge to the best possible use in your budget.

Set up an auto debit on your account

If your international banking account offers a savings product, consider making an auto debit or auto-deduction from your income or current account each month. This can empower you to save as soon as your income is deposited into your account, and can help you avoid the temptation to spend this money as part of your monthly budget.

Prepare your emergency fund

Could you survive a $1,000 emergency? Many people might not be able to - but ensuring you’re prepared for any eventuality is a hallmark of a great budget and sound financial planning!

Insurance policies are one method to cover emergencies - whether they be medical or otherwise - but often do not cover the entirety of an expense. Building an emergency fund for rainy days can be the best way to ensure that you have coverage in the event something unfortunate happens.

Clever ways to save money in college

College demands certain expenses - and to keep your budget as lean as possible, there are several essential steps you can take to save money:

Buy second hand goods

As you settle in your new study country, you may want to purchase items to ensure some of the comforts you’ve had at home are at hand.

To do so, look to buy secondhand - many thrift stores and markets offer great discounts on items in good condition that you might otherwise pay top dollar to purchase new.

Cook for yourself

Given that time is one of your greatest economies, many international students might opt to eat fast food or out at a restaurant - and while an occasional treat is a great way to reward yourself, remember that cooking for yourself is far cheaper and economical.

Search for free entertainment

The great outdoors offers a variety of free entertainment - and often costs nothing! Visiting landmarks, parks, beaches, forests or the open wilderness with friends can be a great way to skip out on the expense of watching the latest film in a cinema.

Leveraging free and open entertainment - such as hiking, touring, or visiting national landmarks or those affiliated with your university make for great activities for college students on a budget.

Use your college library

You’re already paying to attend college and access amazing educational resources - and now is the time to put it to use! Take full advantage of your college library to secure resources and academic works that you otherwise might need to pay for.

Remitting money back home at the lowest cost

Many international students and graduates remit a portion of their income to their home country - either to their personal accounts or to contribute to family expenses.

Finding the best possible - and most affordable - means of remittance is essential in transferring larger amounts of money back home, and for the lowest possible cost.

Use our handy guide of great remittance services to find the best solution for you.

Chat to mentors who’ve been in your shoes

Have questions about your study abroad journey?

Our community of mentors are here to guide aspiring international students like yourself! Our mentors are Prodigy-funded students who have attended schools all around the world, who have navigated and mastered challenges in settling into their new country of study.

You can connect one-on-one with our mentors for first-hand advice on their study abroad journey and their experience with Prodigy Finance.

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