How to Build Your Savings in College

Most people leave college in debt, especially from student loans. Other young people leave almost bankrupt from misusing what is often their first credit card. But what if you could finish college with some money out aside to pay off your debt and start your new life? If you save up during college, it's possible.


  1. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 1
    Track your spending. Before making any changes, write down all your spendings (in a planner, notebook or whatever you want). Write down what you bought, how much it cost and why you bought it. Also write down any income you come across.
  2. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 2
    At the end of the month, look carefully at what you wrote. Think hard about your spending habits. Deep down you know where you should cut in order to save, but we'll tackle that next.
  3. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 3
    In a separate paper, write down all your income. From work or an allowance from your parents, scholarships, all of it! The money you're allowed to spend on a credit card does not count as income and it's not spendable money. Save credit cards for emergencies. If you'll be tempted to use it before that, try some drastic measures like freezing it in a giant ice cube or give it to someone you trust for keeping but who wouldn't give it back without explanation (maybe mom?)
  4. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 4
    Write down your living expenses. Maybe arrange them by categories if you'd like. Things like gas, hygiene products, food, water bills and such fit into this category. If you add them up and the total is less than your income, you're in the clear, for now.
  5. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 5
    If your income cannot support your basic living expenses you need to make more money! Resorting to credit throughout college to pay for basic needs is a big red flag and it means you're in trouble. Try all you can to find another steady source of income like a job, applying for financial aid or doing odd jobs like tutoring or babysitting. Hopefully your basic expenses are covered and you can move in to the next step.
  6. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 6
    Write down your "necessary" expenses. These are those buys you wish you could keep but can cut out if drastic measures are needed to keep you out of debt. Things like new clothes, a latte every morning and dinners out are little luxuries you may not be able to afford. If the total, added to your living expenses is higher than your income this is where you need to cut, in order to live comfortably and still have some money left at the end of the month.
  7. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 7
    Even if you can afford your personal luxuries, think about cutting back. Consider how much money you have left in your budget to put aside to savings. Do the math for how much you save each year, with and without the unnecessary spending. For example, if you have a latte a day, you can save 20$ each month. If you only have one a week, you can save 50$ or more depending on where you live and what lattes cost.
  8. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 8
    Once you've decided on how much you'll save, act on it. As soon as you get your income, set your savings aside, in an envelope or a savings account. Do not resort to this money for spending unless you have no choice. This means needing money for a new calculator because your died on you; fabulous new shoes don't count.
  9. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 9
    Every month, after you put your savings aside, tackle your fixed expenses. Set money aside and pay them off. Search for ways to cut these expenses if possible like a cheaper texting plan or taking shorter baths. The internet is riddled with saving tips.
  10. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 10
    Now you're left with spendable money. Divide it by the number of week or days you must go without needing more. Say, if you have 100$ left and must live from them a month before you get more income, you have 25$ a week. Stick to that, no matter what. If by the end of the week you've only spent 20$, put the rest in a jar, separated from your savings.
  11. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 11
    The jar can get you through unforeseen small expenses. Like someone's birthday or needing a new notebook. When this jar reaches a reasonable amount (you decide), use some of the money to treat yourself, maybe to a fancy dinner or shopping for a new item you've been coveting. Treating yourself encourages further saving and prevents spending sprees. Also, you can add jar money to your saving when you have a nearly full jar.
  12. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 12
    With the savings you put aside, you can go two ways. Keep the money with you (and only tap into in in an emergency) or putting it in the bank, earning interest in a savings account, separate from your checking account. In both situations, try to keep at least one (ideally three) month(s) expenses on you and only after that start saving for when college is over. A sudden emergency like a job loss or needing a new computer should not have to destroy your saving efforts.
  13. Image titled Build Your Savings in College Step 13
    Keep substituting spending habits for almost free ones, to save more. This will make it so you have more money to put in your jar at the end of the week. Instead of going out to dinner, have a potluck with your friends, or a movie marathon night. Ask some girl friends over and have a spa night much cheaper than actually going to the spa. The choices are endless to have fun without spending money


  • If you need new clothes, check thrift and consignment stores first
  • Cook at home, as often as possible
  • Cancel your gym subscription and exercise with friends for free
    • Instead of going out, try to have fun in. Theme nights where everyone brings something (think french: one friend brings baguettes, another brings cheese) can be a lot of fun, as can be movie night with homemade popcorn
  • If you are out of ideas, try to think back to your childhood. Lots of the stuff you loved was free like making soap bubbles or camping indoors. Re discover these activities for extra cheap fun!
  • You don't need TV when you have a computer and internet connection
  • There are plenty of way to make beauty products at home for next to nothing instead of spending money on store products. Try sharing these with your friends and they'll share more tips with you


  • Be careful when investing your savings and read carefully any contract before you sign
  • Don't cutback on food without thinking about your overall nutrition. Ramen noodles EVERY day isn't good for you. Cut back elsewhere

Article Info

Categories: Budgeting and Financial Aid for College