Three tips to escape the college money pit

“Bye-bye Money” is something I feel I say all the time.  Between buying gas, food, clothing, and enjoying a movie every once in a while, saving money becomes tough.

As a college kid we hear “I can’t go because I’m broke” every day.  Sometimes getting a job isn’t an option, so how can you save up money? 

Even when you have a job, it is hard to keep the cash from flying out of your pocket and into another’s.  Here are some easy ways to save money as a college student:


1 – Dining in or take out?

Ever calculated how much money you spend on eating out each week?  After adding it up, I was surprised.

On a normal week I spend about $20 eating out.  That makes $80 a month and at least $320 a semester.  I now understand where my paycheck goes every month.

When eating out, look for the amount of food you can afford.  Five dollars exactly will get you a taco, side of rice, cup of sour cream, and a cup of water at El Pacifico. Don’t forget the chips and salsa are free when you eat there. Your wallet and body will both thank you later for ordering that glass of water instead of a tea or soda. 

Late night food runs are typically pretty cheap, but over the week can add up quickly. One dollar for the burger, another dollar for the fries, and maybe a third dollar for the ice cream. $3 isn’t expensive, but after four late night runs a week, it makes a difference.  Limiting your late night runs can increase the money in your wallet and decrease your pants size.

Taking your CatCard to local restaurants is definitely worth it. When you show your student I.D. at Bogangles you can receive 10 percent off your purchase.  At Sapphire Valley Brewing Company in downtown Sylva, you can get half-off the price of any small pizza. Show up to Zaxby’s on a Tuesday and receive 25 percent off your meal. 


2 – Put it in the bank, the piggy bank

Lauren Johnson, a Western Carolina student uses her piggy bank every week.

 “I normally get $20 a week out of the bank in cash. I use that for food, and whatever else spending money I need” Johnson says.  “Every time I come home from wherever I used the money, I put the spare change in my piggy bank, Lola.”

“Also, if there is a dollar bill, that goes in too.  I do that for a month and then count it at the end of the month and put it back in Lola until the end of the semester.”

Typically, Johnson’s piggy bank money goes into a savings account at the end of the semester.  She figures “If I save for four years when I graduate I will not be a completely broke college student any longer.”

If piggy banks are not your thing, pickle jars, soup cans, and envelopes work to hide funds away as well. 

Making a Christmas funds jar or spring break stash is a great idea.  If you put just five dollars every week in the stash, beginning in August, you will have between $80 to $100 by winter break and around $150 by spring break.

You don’t have to have cash in hand for you save your change.  Some banks offer special savings accounts just for the change left at each debit card use.  Every time you swipe, you save up a little more.     


3 – Use what ya got!

Did you know you could get free funnel cakes and deep fried snickers at Western Carolina football tailgating?  How about watch a movie on the lawn with all your friends for no charge.  Those are several things Last Minute Productions (LMP) and Western Carolina offer to students and visitors on campus. 

Stay at Western weekends offer a variety of activities and food without costing you. Making personalized road signs and laser tag on the lawn two activities previously sponsored by the school.

For the small amount of $2, visiting the UC Theater any Friday or Saturday night is  an inexpensive evening.  Enjoy your popcorn, drink and soon-to–be released movie, without leaving campus.  You can look on WCU’s website to find all these listings or find Last Minute Productions on Facebook.

Etched on the sidewalks and plastered on posters you can find “Free food on Tuesday, be there!”  Resident Assistants (RAs) are always having programs, most including some sort of free food.  Other times, a campus ministry, campus organization, Greek organization, or local church may be offering a meal to students.  It is as easy as opening your eyes and seeing what is available.

Bottles, cups, lanyards, and koozies; you name it and you can probably find it at Valley Ballywhoo.  Valley Ballyhoo and the Cat Fair are known for the best places to get freebies. It’s not only a great way to see what organizations you would might choose to be a part of, but you can also collect new items to decorate or use in your dorm room or apartment. 

Many students say “It is all mental.  You have to want to save money.”  If you use these few simple tips your wallet should begin to feel heavier. Quit starving your piggy bank and start saving.