Tips From a Broke College Student to Save Money

Brandon Wang

I graduated from college. I got a job. Then I realized I was broke. It’s a funny feeling after starting that first job. For the first time in my life, I was being paid a full-time salary, but as most first jobs go, the pay left something to be desired.

Fortunately, I was taught to start saving and investing my money from a young age, and the importance of starting early was not lost on me. Unfortunately, from student loans to everyday expenses, my paychecks seemed to find ways to quickly vanish after hitting my bank account. Due to this magical performance, I quickly learned a few ways I could see through the act and save a little bit more.

There are some things you can only get away with when you’re a broke college student or even the first few years after graduation. Although I’m not talking about crimes here, the amount I’ve saved definitely feels almost criminal. I’ve realized there is simply no better time in your life where it becomes easier to save money than your early twenties.

With that being said, here are four of the sneakily simple ways I’ve been practicing frugality.

1. Finding Alternatives to Paid Entertainment

Whether it was going out on a date or hanging out with friends, I found myself constantly spending money. After coming to the realization that a large portion of my expenses each month stemmed from some sort of entertainment, I searched for alternatives to the status quo.

  • Instead of going out to fancy restaurants, I began to gravitate more towards picnics in the park or cooking with friends.
  • I played more sports outside and took advantage of the nearby parks and beaches.
  • My friends and I also chose to stay in more often and host events such as game nights.

Although there are tons of great free options for entertainment, there were definitely still some times I ended up spending money going out anyways. Despite that, just implementing these alternatives every once in a while created a huge difference in the amount I ended up spending on entertainment. Through these experiences I learned that hanging out with your friends or getting to know a date shouldn't break the wallet.

2. Avoiding Alcohol at Clubs/Bars

I enjoy drinking, but I will normally never buy an overpriced cocktail at the bar much less bottle service. Your early twenties are normally the time where most people frequently spend nights out at the clubs or bars with friends. I’m no exception. I enjoy a fun night out every once in a while but being able to afford the overpriced cocktails or bottle services is a different story. A twenty dollar cocktail is not worth the marginal amount of fun that comes with it.

Odds are, if you went to college, you’ve been to at least a couple of pregames. Pregaming should’t just be thought of as a way for college kids to get more drunk. Hosting pregames even after college are an easy way to avoid paying the hefty premiums at the venue of choice for the night. I’ve saved more than I can remember by purchasing my alcohol at the grocery store instead of over the bar.

3. Recycling

I have no shame. I will reuse old plastic grocery bags instead of trash bags. When I eat at restaurants(mostly fast food), I’ll leave with pockets full of napkins, condiments, and plastic utensils. Empty pasta sauce or jam jars? I’ll use them as cups or my own frugal version of mason jars.

Just being in this mindset has allowed me to become creative with everything that I have and find uses for many items I would have definitely thrown out otherwise. Recycling is an easy way to not only be environmentally friendly but also to save on a few small costs that definitely add up over time. You will be suprised at how much of a difference this makes.

4. Fast Food Apps

Fast food apps are really just the present day’s coupon books. Almost all of the time there are multiple different BOGO deals found on apps for places such as McDonald’s or Burger King. If you’re a T-Mobile user, there’s also an app called T-Mobile Tuesdays that gives you coupons for random things every Tuesday and for a few months, I used it to get a free Whopper from Burger King(no purchase necessary!).

Personally, I enjoy fast food a lot but even if you might not feel the same way, there’s still a multitude of apps out there that you can use to save money. Many other restaurants or stores have special offers on their apps in order to incentivize people to download them.

There are also apps like Ibotta that compile a list of coupons or offers for things like grocery stores or gas stations that allow you to simply snap a picture of your receipt and pay you back on everything you buy(if it’s qualified in one of their many deals across the app).

With these few methods, I’ve since been able to save a little bit more each month and start using that money to invest in my future. Strangely enough, each of these saving strategies has taught me something different on top of saving more.

Finding alternatives to paid entertainment has also shown me the many outdoor entertainment options that exist and in turn, pushed me to stay more physically active. Avoiding alcohol at clubs and bars has not only saved me a pretty penny but has made it easier than ever to keep track of how much I am drinking on a certain night and making healthier choices. Recycling has continued to expand my creative mindset. Fast food apps…unfortunately have not really helped in any other aspect. I just really enjoy eating terrible food.

This article is for informational purposes only not all information will be accurate. This should not be considered Financial or Legal Advice. Consult a financial professional before making any significant financial decisions.

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Foodie / Personal Finance Enthusiast / Post-grad Life

San Francisco, CA

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