Smart swaps for saving for college students

By Ellie Marshall 

College. Some consider it the best four years of their life, while for others, graduation could not come sooner. Everyone’s individual experience is as unique as they are, but one thing remains consistent in most college students’ lives: a lack of financial stability.

You might roll your eyes, but it’s true. According to Ohio State University’s 2015 National Student Financial Wellness Study, 70 percent of college students feel stressed about their personal finances.

This number is staggering, but not all that surprising. The price of college in the United States has more than quadrupled since the 1980s, with wages increasing at a much slower rate of about 67% on average. Long gone are the days of working a part-time summer job to pay for tuition.

This might all sound extremely bleak, but there is no sugar coating the tough reality that it is hard to afford college in 2023. It is even harder when you include required expenses such as rent and groceries. Throw in going out with friends or buying a new outfit, and you might start to panic about how low the number in your bank account has dropped to. It can all be extremely overwhelming.

Now I am no financial expert, but I am a second semester senior in college. I’ve lived this experience for almost four years, and though I will not be able to solve the problem of rising tuition or rent that seems to have significantly increased each year, I can help you with the small stuff. The simple swaps to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak.

Let’s start with groceries. When I first got to college, my roommates and I would get our groceries at Target every few weeks because it was close, convenient, and honestly an excuse to buy random stuff from the $1 section that ended up being completely unnecessary– how shocking! Though obvious, this brings me to my first point: do not buy things you know you do not need. We are all human and it’s okay occasionally, to splurge on something fun, but it is not okay to do this every time you go grocery shopping. Learn from my mistakes and accidentally huge, scented candle collection.

Second, shop at stores you can afford. As I said, my first year I shopped for food almost exclusively at Target. Nothing against the beloved bullseye, but their groceries are not the most affordable for someone in college. According to a 2016 Business Insider comparison, groceries at Target are on average 15% higher than they are at Walmart, which is a huge difference – especially when every dollar counts. Aldi, if it is in your town, is another great option for low priced, good quality food on a budget. For those 21 and older, it should be noted that their selection of affordable wines is astronomical and surprisingly very good quality.

This leads me to my next point: going out. Though it is not everyone’s cup of tea, many college students enjoy a night on the town with their friends from time to time. This is obviously not a necessary thing to spend money on, but let’s be honest: it is fun to have fun. Going out to eat with friends during happy hour or lunch as opposed to dinner, opting for shareables like appetizers and pitchers, and bringing exclusively cash so it’s easier to stick to your pre-planned budget are easy ways to save.

Though nothing I’ve said is revolutionary, these tricks have truly helped me get the most out of my college experience while not breaking the bank. I hope some of these tips can help you too!


Ellie Marshall is a senior at the Missouri School of Journalism

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