Avoiding the "Broke College Student" Status


If there is a universal saying a large body of people identifies with, it’s “broke college student.” According to the Federal Reserve and Forbes, 44 million Americans are in an estimated $1.4 trillion total student debt. $1,400,000,000,000. That is a lot of zeros and commas for young adults starting the “adulting” thing.

Higher education is not cheap, so the majority of students have to depend on federal and private loans. But if you are tempted to think loans will cover every facet of the next four years of your college life, think again. In addition to tuition, you have necessities like room and board, groceries, electronic expenses, and gas to consider. How can you stay on top of things without drawing out more loans than you can afford?

The first thing to get you started is to get a job. School is your number one priority, but it is possible to get an hourly job to earn extra money. Four in five college students work at least part time through college. You can find businesses that are willing to look at your school schedule and assign you work hours that do not clash. You can also find on-campus positions. Southern’s job board is updated once a week with all sorts of positions ranging from desk operator to landscaper. Take the initiative and apply for jobs that you are interested in.

The other big thing to help you is to budget. Budgeting is not a dirty word to be avoided at all costs. Budgeting does not require complicated math. All it requires is honesty and self-control. Start by creating categories such as gas, groceries, eating out, etc. Estimate how many dollars you need per week or month in those categories. Last, STICK TO THE PLAN. It is hard when your friends eat out multiple times a week. But they have their money, and you have yours. Save up and do not spend above your means.

In addition to getting a job and budgeting, here are ten simple things you can do to get and save money in college.

  1. Walk or Bike.—Even if it is from your dorm room to your class to the other side of campus, use your legs. Gas adds up.
  2. Meal Prep.—Not only is this great for helping you avoid Freshman 15, but in preparing your meals ahead of time, you know exactly what ingredients to buy and how to avoid waste.
  3. Limit Eating Out.—Yes, eating out with friends is a fun, bonding experience. However, it costs money, especially if you consider transportation cost and taxes. Try to hang out in different (free) ways like urban exploring or hiking.
  4. No Drinks or Dessert—If you do eat out with friends, try to limit yourself to ordering the entree only. Water is free, but a simple glass of soda adds to your bill.
  5. Take Care of Your Electronics.—Nothing takes away a massive chunk of your savings more than fixing a broken iPhone screen or having to buy a new laptop because you spilled coffee on it.
  6. Go Off-Season Shopping.—Looking good for college does not have to be expensive. Buy clothes for your winter semester in the summer (and vice versa) for generous markdowns.   
  7. Try Thrifting.—If Macklemore can do it, you can too! Not only is it kind to your wallet, it can also yield surprising finds. From barely used clothes to room decors like lamps, you can prep for college just by thrifting.
  8. Rent or Buy Used Textbooks.—It’s hard to save up when a single brand-new textbook for a class can go up to a hundred dollars or more. (Medical textbooks are especially pricey.) Use SlugBooks to compare prices of books to rent or buy from websites like Amazon, Chegg, and Valorebooks.
  9. Use Student Discounts.—A variety of businesses offer exclusive discounts for their student clients. If unsure, ask. Here’s also a list of stores that offer educational discounts.
  10. Be Careful of Subscriptions.—Subscribing to a movie/show and music streaming services can add up over time. Try to get the free versions of these things. Even if you have to sit through a few ads, you get to save $$$ through the years.  

It is possible to be a college student without the "broke" aspect of it. What are you strategies to save up?

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Shaina Rantung Story by Shaina Rantung Published: Last Edited:

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