Saving while in College 101

By Kristin Thomas, College Consultant & Guest Contributor

Plenty has been written about saving money for college, but just as important is helping students save money while in college.


It is essential to start the conversation early about managing money. The majority of teenagers haven’t thought much about the monetary decisions they will need to make in college. Try to increase your child’s knowledge and responsibility with money as they move through high school in preparation for post high school independence. Open bank accounts with them, help them read statements, encourage them to be organized, save documents and track finances.


Food and shelter are different from entertainment and clothing. Be clear as parents about what you will be paying for and what you won’t be providing. Help them map out a budget, perhaps setting up an automatic deposit on the first of the month. If the amount “isn’t working”, you’re destined to have the “Mom, Dad … I need more money – phone calls, text messages and skype calls. Have them revamp the budget by itemizing their monthly needs and email it to you. You can then show them what are clearly ‘needs' and ‘wants' and be clear that you will only cover the ‘needs'.


College is a good time to learn a little frugality (welcome to the real world) by cutting coupons and looking for specials (such as with which also provides discounts with travel, computers, clothing…). Encourage students to carry their student ID card and to ask about student discounts.


Do they need a car? Sometimes these decisions are made for you based on location of college or university policy. But carpooling, public transportation, walking, biking and other alternatives should be considered when possible.


Make sure your student is maximizing their meal plan and if it isn’t working, change it. At least you will know they are not starving.


Beyond tuition, textbooks can be another big expense.  Buy both text books and supplies second hand when possible.

One of the more creative alternatives I’ve seen recently is RENTING textbooks. has a user friendly website that allows you to use the textbooks and return them, complete with flexible time frames and free shipping. This might be the best idea yet for saving money in this arena.


Fun activities don’t have to cost a lot of money. Encourage students to take advantage of free activities: Parks, picnics, outdoor events, hikes and so on. There are always lots of free stuff to do in college communities.


An on-campus job is a great way for your child to make a bit of money to cover some of their “wants”. Not only does an on-campus job create a chance to earn extra income in a convenient location, but working on campus can also connect your student to the university.

Remember: This is the first step for your child to be away from home and one step closer to being in the “real” world. Helping your child be a proactive, saver is doing both of you a favor.

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One Response to Saving while in College 101

  1. Mariana says:

    In order to save money as a college student, I would recommend getting a prepaid cell phone. I have saved so much money with my new TracFone. I pay only for the minutes that I need as opposed to paying an arm and a leg for minutes to go to waste.

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