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College,  Education,  Finance

5 Foolproof College Tips to Save Money and the Ocean

Let’s face it: college is expensive, and if you’re trying to save money, it can get challenging at times. As you navigate your degree in marine biology, the cost of books, housing, food, and classes can mount. Therefore, maximizing your budget and time is vitally important.

To ensure you’re keeping a good eye on your financial health, give these 5 tips a try, and save money today.

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Use money intentionally | Photo by Annie Spratt

1. Master the art of budgeting.

At the heart of every money-saving story is a budget. Perhaps, you’ve dabbled in building a budget before, or, maybe, it’s a mysterious and foreign concept. Regardless, budgeting can be one of the most powerful tools to save money and track expenses.

Because money management can seem overly meticulous or, at times, daunting, I suggest college students check out budgeting apps. Since most people keep a smartphone on hand, budgeting apps are accessible in ways traditional spreadsheets simply are not.

Personally, I’ve used Mint to budget and view my net worth. With Mint, you can build a budget based on your monthly expenses and monitor your financial accounts and bills. If you’re looking for a comprehensive and easy-to-read summary of your checking, saving, investment, and credit accounts, I’d recommend using Mint.

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Budget your money | Photo by Jonathan Borba

2. Save money on basic expenses.

For many college students, the most expensive categories you’ll be spending money on are groceries, housing, and transportation. Because these expenses can eat up income, it’s imperative you use your money strategically, so you can save money.

  • Grocery shopping with your budget in mind: People often underestimate how much money food budgets consume. However, as a college student, there are an array of opportunities to save money on food. For instance, take advantage of all free food opportunities and events on campus. Additionally, earn cashback on grocery purchases with Ibotta.
  • Being intentional with housing: Housing is a major part of any budget. To ensure you’re getting the best deal for your situation, consider on-campus and off-campus options. For example, look into becoming a residential assistant on your campus. As an RA, you may qualify for free housing, a free meal plan, and a monthly stipend. This may differ from university to university, so make sure to do your research.
  • Choosing economic transportation: Having used all kinds of transportation at school, I can say with certainty that keeping a car on campus can be one of the most expensive and stressful options. If your school lacks parking, ease your suffering, and consider alternatives. For example, biking is a tried and true way to save money on gas and reduce environmental impact. Another noteworthy alternative is public transportation. Aside from the bus being crowded at times, it can be convenient for last-minute studying and napping.
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Save money on everyday expenses | Photo by Avery Evans

3. Maximize income with paid research opportunities.

As a marine biologist, research can be a useful way to expand your professional experiences, build your resume, and get paid. However, finding a paid research opportunity can be difficult depending on the availability. Oftentimes, research will go unpaid. BUT, if you communicate with your supervisor upfront and put enough time into the position, you may find yourself with a paid research opportunity.

In my experience, I worked the first 6 months of my research position without pay. Nevertheless, after those 6 months, I secured a steady stream of income and a flexible schedule. To learn more about my experiences in undergrad research, read this article.

If you’re looking for short-term paid opportunities, sign yourself up for any career-related email lists your school or department has. During my undergrad years, I was on a mailing list that sent out information about occasional weekend opportunities and research cruises. For long-term opportunities, look into whether your university has an online portal for job listings (that’s how I found my very first research position.)

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Give research a shot | Photo by Bret Kavanaugh

4. Get SCUBA certified in college.

For marine biologists, SCUBA can open new career doors. If you’re interested in working at zoos or aquariums, SCUBA is often a pre-requisite. Because SCUBA certification can get expensive, check out what opportunities are available through your university.

As you research cost-effective options at your university, you may find a SCUBA certification course through the recreation department. Alternatively, you may find a SCUBA certification course and scientific diving course through your marine biology department.

Since SCUBA can broaden your career prospects, the earlier you get certified the better. And, depending on your university, you may find cheaper paths to SCUBA certification than what’s offered at your local dive shop.

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Learn SCUBA in college | Photo by Juanma Clemente-Alloza

5. Save money on entertainment by volunteering.

At the end of the day, entertainment may be another high-spend category in your budget. To keep your brain stimulated, consider volunteering at your local aquarium Not only will you score free access to the aquarium, but you will also have the opportunity to meet new people, whether they be guests or fellow volunteers.

Over the years, I’ve volunteered at aquariums, and each volunteer shift has been rewarding in one way or another. From jaw-dropping ocean sunsets and whale watching cruises to tide pooling expeditions and shark egg presentations, volunteering has engaged me with new entertaining opportunities.

Not near an aquarium? Consider volunteering at a nature reserve or zoo. Perhaps, you can organize or participate in a beach cleanup as well. No matter where you are, there are likely organizations waiting in anticipation for volunteers, like you.

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Volunteer at your local aquarium | Photo by Celeste Mc

Take charge of your finances and save money by staying mindful and diligent. College doesn’t need to be a time for money to disappear—it can be a time to grow and save money. As you move through college, prioritize your savings and investments, and keep these tips in mind. With some practice, you may improve your financial health and save money along the way.

If you’d like to learn more about the marine biology major, check out this article.

Hi, I’m a San Diego-based blogger who's passionate about marine biology, finance, and science communication. Having recently graduated from UC San Diego with a bachelor's in marine biology, I am now working on a certificate in science communication. Over the years, I’ve worked in laboratory research and science outreach at aquariums, zoos, and environmental research centers. When I’m not writing, you can find me home brewing, tide pooling, skydiving, playing DnD, or hanging out with my two adopted guinea pigs. Reach out to me anytime, and follow Sand Dollar Wallet!


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