College life on a budget

piggy bank

Billy Ferguson/ Fourth Estate

Saving can feel overwhelming, but with these tips, it doesn’t have to be


Saving money as a college student is easier said than done. Between the countless cups of coffee and the convenience of on-campus restaurants like Chipotle, saving money becomes less and less of a reality.

But it doesn’t have to be. Turns out, the “easy” ways to save money are a lot like how the average student approaches buying college textbooks.

Make a plan:

Much like making a plan or to-do list for your homework, write out your saving or spending goals on paper. Be realistic about your goals and what you can comfortably save. This doesn’t mean you can’t go out to eat or have fun with friends, but planning out how much you want to save can help you make decisions for the longterm instead of impulse buying.

Set small goals:

Saving a dollar a day will give you seven dollars by the end of the week. At the end of the month, if you kept saving a dollar, you would have 30 extra dollars saved. The point is to save what you can when you can. Don’t stress yourself out by thinking you have to save half of your paycheck to save money.

It is important to also stop thinking of saving money as what you can’t do and start thinking of it as what you can do. In other words, instead of thinking of saving money as “I can’t go out with my friends this weekend,” think of it as “if I don’t spend money now, I can by those new shoes later.”

Write a list before:

This is self-explanatory, but write a grocery list, write a “needs” list, write so many lists that you get sick of lists. Making a list puts what you are actually going shopping for at the front of your mind, so you’re less likely to impulse buy, which saves you money. Along with this, don’t go stress shopping at midnight with your friends. It can lead to a lot of impulse buying and can break your budget.

Look at student discounts and other deals:

Plenty of places offer Mason students a student discount. Giant in University Mall gives students a 10 percent discount when you show your Mason ID. Patriot Activities Council (PAC) gives every Mason student one free movie ticket per week that is valid at the University Mall theater. Cinemark Fairfax Corner 14 Theater, which you can get to by taking the Mason shuttle, gives student discounts too.

Saving money and spending less doesn’t mean you can’t do anything fun. It just means spending less when you can to save more overall.

Buy used:

Much like how students often go about buying used textbooks, buying used clothes, movies and videogames will save so much money long-term. Thrifting has turned into a popular pastime for students, but it doesn’t have to stop with clothes. There are plenty of discount stores available that allow for spending on a budget.

College students joke about student loan debt and being broke, but that doesn’t mean you actually have to be broke. Saving a little can go a long way, and doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process.