The experienced college student has a handful of essential words that he/she comes to learn all to well: free, poor, cheap. There is probably no more financially difficult time than the four years at the university. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. When else are you paying anywhere from $18,000 – $50,000 (or more) in expenses each year and earning little or no money? You may find that you have some support from parents or scholarships, but I am sure that every college student that doesn’t want to rack up as much debt in school loans as possible is asking themselves one thing: how can I save money?

You Are What You Eat

I am sure you have heard of the saying, ‘You Are What You Eat.’ Most often this is applied to your health. If you eat healthy, you will be healthy and if you eat unhealthy, well, you get the picture. The same is true with your finances. One of the biggest money-consuming category of individuals’ (or families’) finances is food. The american diet has transitioned from eating a home-made dinner around the table to eating out and eating out often. This is all because of a the convenience factor (and poor financial planning).

If you are a college student, think about the last time you made a midnight run to a fast-food joint. Or should I say, try to think of the last time you didn’t make a midnight run to a fast-food restaurant? I realized I was spending a lot of money for a late-night snack when I was in college (even though I had a meal plan). The simple truth is that you can save a lot of money by cutting back on eating out.

Get Rid of the University Meal Plan?

Once you have been able to control those midnight cravings, it is important to ask yourself whether the convenience of the university meal plan is that important to you. If it is, than you are better off sticking with it and limiting yourself to the number of times you eat out. But, if you are like me and want to save as much as possible, why not try to buy your own groceries and make your own meals.  This way you aren’t paying for the salaries of the food staff with your student loans.

Case Study

Some of you may be wondering if you can really save that much money by buying your own groceries and making your meals.  Here’s a great example of how I saved lots of money. My university charged somewhere around $1100 per semester for 10 meals a week. The plans with more meals per week were even more expensive (but slight less per meal). There were about 16 weeks in the semester, so it averaged out to about $6.88 per meal. (1100 / 160 meals = 6.88).

When I discovered how high this was, I decided to take things into my own hands. I cut down my spending to $100 per month for food. This was quite the extreme, but it is easy to do and doesn’t require just eating ramen noodles. I was able to save over $700 per semester by simply eating food that I prepared myself.

You may not be as committed as I was to save money, but even with slight cut backs, you can save lots of money. Read about the other frugal tips that 20’s Finances has to offer.

*featured image provided by: ugod via flickrCC