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The Collegiate's Guide To Saving Your First $1,000

College is expensive. And if you’re a full-time college student like me, it can be hard to save money if you’re spending most of your time studying. Especially if your only source of income is that part-time minimum-wage gig you scored for the weekends or the occasional cash gift from family on your birthday.

Whenever you find yourself with extra cash here and there, the LAST thing you want to do is go blow on something you don’t really need. Saving is very important and there are so many strategies to get the job done. It’s essential to focus on what strategy works best for you. You need to have some kind of savings to back you up in the event of an emergency — car troubles, your health, or you just don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck.

It may seem like a tough goal to reach, but it’s completely possible and you can easily save your first $1,000 is one year or less. Then you might just find yourself on the path to financial freedom. Here are some simple tips and tricks to help you on your saving journey:

1. Budget

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it bears repeating. Take a step back and look at your current finances and create a monthly budget for yourself that you can comfortably stay within. Cut back on some of your expenses here and there. You don’t have to go crazy, but you can cut back on your daily coffee and start taking meals from home to work or school.

Cut back on any unnecessary expenses you may have. Stay in more often and cut back on the alcohol or drinks when you do go out. Cancel any memberships you don’t use like your local gym membership. Use the gym on campus instead or try out the good old outdoors to get your workout in.

If you’ve got a cable plan, consider cutting back on the plan and get less channel or take advantage of cheaper streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Sling.

To make your first $1,000, you need to be serious and have some sort of savings plan in place to make sure you stick to your budget.

2. Open a savings account

What’s the point in saving if you have nowhere to put it?! This is super important. Shop around and open an account that gives you the best rates. Fees and minimum balances can vary depending on where you choose to open your account.

I highly recommend opening an account at a credit union. Credit unions are meant to serve just your local communities, but it can definitely pay to open an account at one. They have fewer fees and have higher-yielding savings and checkings accounts which is a pretty sweet deal.

You can also open up an online savings account.

Yes. Online.

You can open an account that is strictly online. You can transfer money from your checking account into the online savings account. With these types of savings accounts, you can take advantage of no minimum balances and no transaction fees. Good online savings accounts you can look into are GS BankSynchrony and Discover.

3. Use cash

Using cash makes you spend less when you go out. When you have the cash physically in your hands, you feel more connected to your purchase and you’re likely to spend less. If you only bring a certain amount with you, you will stick to your budget. With a card, you can keep charging it over and over and not feel it until later on when you check your bank account.

Using cash helps you be more conscious of your purchases. You don’t have to use cash forever, but try it out for a couple of weeks and see if this method works out for you.

4. Keep the change

Remember that cash from tip #3? Keep the change. Set up a coin jar and keep all the extra change you receive or come across. It really does add up if you stick to it. I was able to save over $200 in change with this method and used it to help purchase a new camera.

When you save up your coins, head over to your bank and ask the teller for coin wrappers so you can wrap them up and deposit them in your account.

You can deposit your coins in a local Coinstar machine, but it does take out a certain percentage of your coins so if you want to skip that, roll them up and deposit them in your savings account!

5. Make it automatic

This makes saving so much easier because it does the job for you. Set up automatic transfers with your bank. Pick an amount you would be comfortable setting aside each paycheck and go into your mobile banking app and create a recurring transfer.

You won’t have to think twice about saving and it actually teaches you to work with less money and minimize your spending. I have automatic transfers set up every 2 weeks and it’s taught me to not miss the money because I don’t even see it. It never hits my checking so I just learned to work with what I’ve got.

If you’re ever running low, you can transfer money back out of your savings and play around with a comfortable amount for your automatic transfers. I highly recommend this tip because it has seriously done wonders for my savings.

6. Download cashback apps

Ah, cashback apps. Who knew that apps would actually pay you to use them? It’s true, they really do. There’s apps out there that give you money back for spending at certain stores or buying certain products.

So why not take advantage and get money back from things you were going to buy anyway?

To find out how you can up your savings using cash back apps, check out my blog post all about it:

6 iPhone Apps That Will Help You Earn More Cash

7. Staycation

When was the last time you were a tourist in your own town? You can save a ton of money by planning a staycation in your city. It can be just as fun and adventurous as any trip without spending an arm and a leg on plane tickets, hotels, food and more.

I’m sure they are places nearby that you haven’t explored yet. You don’t have to pay for a hotel if you don’t want to. There are tons of free activities around town that we often overlook. Treat it just like you would any other vacation. Or you can head over to the next big city in your area and check out the activities and attractions there.

You will have a fun and relaxing vacation and still have all the benefits of saving money. All the money you save can be put away or put towards any outstanding debt you may have. Check out to find out fun (and possibly even free!) activities to do in your town.

8. Pay off your credit cards

It’s hard to save if you’ve got debt. Any extra cash you come across would go directly to paying off credit cards and loans so be sure to stay on top of what you owe. Work on paying off your debts. If you’ve got a certain amount of extra cash, put most of it towards your debt and a little bit towards your savings.

Then once your debts are paid off or even significantly paid off, then you can start focusing more on your savings. If you have high-interest debt, it’s really important to focus on that first because interest charges really do add up. Once your debt is paid off, make sure not to easily get back into debt.

Make wiser choices of what you’re putting on your credit card or request a limit decrease with your bank. Sounds crazy, but it can definitely help you get towards saving your first $1,000.

9. Get a cheaper cell phone plan

This is something a lot of people don’t think about. Getting a cheaper cell phone plan can bring so many savings for you and is a great idea if you’re looking to improve your finances. So many people just go with the most popular companies for their cell phone plans, but in this case, it pays to shop around.

Do your research and find another plan or carrier that can provide what you need at a lower price. For example, T-Mobile and MetroPCS are owned by the same company and use the same network but Metro PCS is much cheaper and affordable. Just take your device and head over to make the change and you’ll receive a much better bargain.

I personally made the switch to a cheaper, no-contract carrier and I don’t have any problems with service or data and I save a ton of money. So consider your options for this because it could make a huge difference!

10. Sell your old textbooks

This is a big one. Textbooks are SO expensive in college. It’s ridiculous. A great way to save money is by buying used textbooks whenever possible and whenever you can’t buy used, just resell your textbook at the end of the semester.

You can sell it to friends who will be taking the course in the future or you can sell it to Chegg. I buy used books and rent through Chegg every semester. When I’m unable to purchase used or rent, the next best thing is to purchase the eText. It’s so much cheaper. If you’re okay with your textbook being completely virtual then it is a good option.

I know some people prefer paper text so it depends on what kind of student you are and what your preferences are. In my college, sometimes you can even find the textbooks in the library. Search around before you shell out major cash on textbooks. Sometimes you are forced to buy brand new books, but it’s worth a shot checking around for used books and selling them when you’re done. You’ll maximize your savings big time.

11. Take advantage of student discounts

There’s actually a ton of student discounts out there so you better make use of them! Where can you find them? Here are a some you should definitely look into:

  • Your local movie theater
  • Amazon Prime Student
  • Sam’s Club
  • AT&T
  • Subway
  • Chick-Fil-A
  • Chipotle
  • Spotify

Check out this list of 100+ Stores That Give a Student Discount

12. Sell stuff

Last but not least, sell stuff! We talked about selling your textbooks when you’re done with them but what about the rest of your stuff?

I’m sure there’s some stuff that you don’t use anymore that you could sell for some extra cash. Look around your place and set aside things you don’t use and plan a yard sale. You could sell them there or you could sell them online on eBay or Craigslist.

It’s a good idea to have a good clean out every once in a while. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure so take advantage of this and use the cash you earn to add to your saving pile. It doesn’t cost very much to have a yard sale (if anything at all!) It is a lot of work to go through your things and set everything up, but you’d be surprised what people will buy.

And that’s a wrap!

These are my top 12 ways for saving your first $1,000 while in college. It’s easy to get discouraged along the way, especially if you’ve got school expenses and debt but trust me it is completely possible. Just follow these steps and you should be seeing those zeros in your account very soon.

To get you started, grab this ridiculously EASY $1,000 Savings Plan!

If you tried out this plan, let me know in the comments below!

1000 Savings Plan

The Collegiate’s Guide To Saving Your First $1,000