Student Money Saving Hacks That Actually Work (And a Few That Don’t)

Hack your way to savings.

Hi, I’m Georgie, and I’m terrible at saving money. There, I’ve said it.

And I’ve had enough.

In an effort to save money like a proper grown up, I’ve been scanning the Internet for the world’s best money saving hacks. And let me tell you, there are a lot. To save you guys from wasting your time reading endless listicles, I tried out some of the easiest hacks around to see if they actually helped me to save money after all.

Drinking more water

At first I thought this was a hack that my mom managed to sneak onto the list to encourage me to get my eight glasses a day, but then I realized the truth: If you drink more water, you’re not only saving money from not buying other drinks, you’re also filling yourself up with healthy H2O instead of another bag of chips. I started carrying around a huge bottle with me everywhere, and noticed I would reach for a snack a lot less than I did without water in hand. If you tend to buy a drink or a snack whenever you’re out, you can easily save $5 a day with this one.

Verdict: Great, unless you’re about to embark on a long car journey.

Leaving your bank card at home

In theory, this makes perfect sense. If you only take a set amount of money out with you, you can’t spend anything extra. The first time I tried this, I hated it. When my friends got another round and I realized I was down to my last few dollars, I had to sit back and stare longingly at everyone else’s drink instead. A few weekends down though, I checked my bank statement. After comparing it to the few months before that, I noticed I’d saved almost $70.

Verdict: Difficult at the beginning, but saves a huge amount long-term.

Couponing

We’ve all watched Extreme Couponing on TV, but who actually wants to spend hours cutting up newspapers to see if they can save 50 cents on milk? Not me. I searched the Internet to see if I could find discount codes for things I actually needed (shampoo, new sneakers, self esteem, etc.), but then I focused on the important stuff: pizza. A quick flick through the first page of Google is all it takes for some of that delicious reduced pizza.

Verdict: Great for food and groceries, maybe not so much for bigger stuff.

Turning off the lights

This is straightforward: whenever you leave a room, turn off the light. That’s all there is to it – no scouring the Internet, no physical labor, just pure and simple on and off. It can admittedly mean running around after your roommates but, supposedly, it’s worth it. I did this excessively for a month and my electricity bill barely even changed. Maybe do this whenever you remember, but don’t beat yourself up over it.

Verdict: No doubt it’ll go down well with your parents, but it’s not gonna help you become a millionaire anytime soon.  

Having ‘no spend’ days

The idea of a ‘no spend’ day scared me a bit. I’m not exactly sure why – I think I’ve likely done at least one in the past, but when you’re actively avoiding pulling your purse out, it becomes a lot more daunting. The trick with this one was preparation: I made my lunch in advance, had a dinner of leftovers, and spent exactly zero dollars in a whole 24 hours. Obviously, you couldn’t do this everyday, but if you can do it once or twice a week it’ll save you a lot long-term. From not buying a morning coffee, lunch or snacks, I saved around $15 in one day.

Verdict: Very satisfying, and also very reassuring when it comes to checking your bank balance after a few expensive days.

Buying in Bulk

Will I actually go through a 10 litre tub of mayo? Let’s get real, yes, of course I will. Buying things in bulk instead of a bunch of smaller versions of something is the way to go. You’ll drop more money up front, but will save a ton in the end.

Verdict: Actually very helpful. Just try to avoid running into your crush when you’re walking out of the store with 100 rolls of toilet paper in tow.

Taking Public Transit Instead of Your Car

Our friends at Don’t Freak Out broke down the costs of taking public transit in Toronto versus owning and driving a car. With the help of CAA’s driving cost calculator, they found the cost of purchasing a 2012 Honda Civic and driving it for a year would cost roughly $14, 275 (that includes insurance, gas etc.) The cost of buying transit passes for a year is roughly $1,755. Though I might occasionally run into some strange body odours, I think I’ll stick with the bus.

 Verdict: In some cities (especially big expensive ones like Toronto), taking public transit is a lot cheaper. In more remote areas, this may not be doable, but it’s worth looking into. Also, biking is totally free and a great option if you can swing it. 

After a month of following the best tips from the Internet, I was pretty surprised to see just how much money I’d saved overall. So, with water in hand and bank card at home, I’m starting my journey towards responsible adulting – see you on the other side.

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Georgie Darling

Georgie Darling

Georgie Darling is a student journalist at the University of Sheffield who enjoys travelling, photography and writing. She is currently working towards achieving her NCTJ, BJTC and PPA accreditations and is eager to start her career as a journalist.