Are you a university student looking to learn how to save money in college? Or a prospective learner preparing to enroll?
This is the guide for you.
In this article, we’ll walk you through over a dozen ways you can save money in college, live on a tight budget, and make use of the resources available to you.
Whether four years or two, fast-track or part-time, Ivy League or technical school, getting through college is difficult enough as it is. So, don’t stress out about money when you don’t have to.
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Here are 15+ ways to save money in college and stick to a budget:
1. Take Your Student ID With You Everywhere
Your student identification card is your passport to a world of discounts.
Want to catch a movie? There’s a student discount for that.
Looking to buy a new shirt at H&M or Topshop? There are student discounts for that, too.
Restaurants, public transportation, electronics stores, museums, aquariums—almost every commercial establishment and the various means for getting there have reduced prices for students. All you have to do is show your student ID!
2. Split Costs
It’s almost always cheaper for two people than it is going solo. If you have a close friend at school or a roommate, consider:
- Sharing Netflix and/or Spotify subscriptions;
- Making dinners together rather than eating separately;
- Getting a cell phone family plan;
- Subscribing together to the New York Times or Guardian;
- Purchasing a couple’s plan at the gym rather than a single;
- Split a Costco or Sam’s Club membership.
3. Get a Job
Your university studies are priority number one, and a job should not interfere with that.
However, a part-time job on the evenings or weekends could be a great way to supplement the funds you have now without adding too much to your responsibilities.
Choose a college job that lets you mentally leave the workplace when you clock out, such as a food service job or retail gig. Employment with high responsibility and likelihood for work during your personal time (e.g., project management) will encroach into your studies and may hurt your grades.
For a job that keeps you on campus and connected with the pulse of the goings-on, become an R.A. (resident assistant). Another good option is an intern program, as internships are a great way to get started on your career path.
Related read: 50+ Best First Jobs for College Students
4. Live in Cheap Housing
Cheap housing doesn’t necessarily have to be no-frills or incubating a diverse ecosystem of mold.
Usually, the cheapest living options include on-campus housing, such as designated student dormitories, rather than off-campus housing (i.e., getting your own apartment). Get a roommate whenever possible, or become a roommate to someone else.
But, the most inexpensive option of all? Live with your parents, if you have the opportunity!
5. Become an Entrepreneur
I’m not saying you should create The Next Big Thing while attending university.
Rather, put your passions and strengths to good use by freelancing to earn some cash on the side. Studying computer science? Perhaps sign up as an on-demand software engineer on Toptal. Love to write? Sign up on Upwork for one-off writing gigs. Have a high mechanical aptitude? Post your home repair services in the local paper.
And, you can freelance alongside a part-time job or as a primary source of college income.
Related read: 15+ Entrepreneurship Words & Phrases Defined
6. Rent or Buy Used Textbooks
At hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars, textbooks are a significant portion of your overall college expenses. If you’re still required to purchase the old-school paper version of a textbook for class, there’s no reason it has to be new.
Where to buy cheap college books? Here are a few options:
Many of those outlets also let you rent textbooks, as well. Oh, and get some spare cash by selling your completed textbooks for the next student to use!
7. Buy Used Everything
It doesn’t have to be just textbooks.
Shop at Goodwill (not Goodwall, we don’t sell anything 🙂 ) for secondhand furniture for your dorm room. Find a thrift shop for bargain outfits to wear. Search through garage sales on the weekends to find a coffee maker or that cute clock that brings your flat together.
When your college studies converts into a successful career for you in the future, that’s when you can shop till you drop.
8. Bank Wisely (and Online)
Avoid overdrafts, first and foremost. Those $35 insufficient funds fees could pay for a whole week or two of groceries, or an entire month of utilities.
Shop around for a great bank account without monthly fees. Most banks have free student checking accounts, so take advantage of those. However, the best banks lately are not the big ones like BofA or Chase, but rather smaller online banks, such as SoFi, Wealthfront, M1 Finance, Revolut, and Betterment.
Finally, don’t put too much on credit. Sure, it may be more convenient, and it’s available right now, but that interest adds up. Make your future self happy by spending only what you have now.
9. Take Their Handouts
Colleges and universities know the struggle students face financially. And, to address this, there are countless college programs out there just for you.
Go to the university gym rather than buying a monthly membership at the local Equinox. Look up events on the institution’s website to find performances or networking meetups with free admission for students. Check the local library for regional discounts for college attendees, as well.
One added bonus—those free college events often offer free snacks or drinks!
Related read: 10 Niche Social Media Platforms to Join in 2021
10. Find Online Student Discounts
That Macbook you need for class? Apple has great discounts for college students. Want to get your own NYTimes subscription? They have academic rates available. Need Microsoft Office for your next project? It’s free for students at uni. Adobe Creative Cloud has steep savings, and so does Evernote, Lenovo, and many others.
For everything else you need, there’s always Amazon. And with Amazon, you can get a free 6-month trial to Amazon Student Prime.
11. Cook at Home
Cheap college living doesn’t mean Nissin Cup Noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Sure, you can eat ramen noodles if you want to, of course.
What I mean here is that you should limit the number of times you choose to eat out or order food delivery. While you’ve got enough on your plate figuratively, with exams, reports, lectures, etc., you’ll have more on your plate literally by buying groceries for your dorm and cooking yourself.
Also, avoid that $5 Starbucks latte and make your coffee at home!
12. Purchase in Bulk
Buying 24 rolls of toilet paper in a Costco pack is always cheaper per unit than purchasing one at a time (and you avoid any problems by running out!). Same goes for buying frozen TV dinners, gallons of milk, and boxes of cereal.
Just don’t go grocery shopping while hungry!
Related read: What is the Difference Between a Job and a Career?
13. Sell Your Car
Car payments. Registration fees. Vehicle insurance. Maintenance costs. Gas.
A car eats up money fast.
If you live close enough to your college, sell your high school vehicle once you’re in university. Take public transportation, use school transportation, or walk to class—saving money, helping the environment, and helping you stay in shape all at once!
Once you sell your car, you’ll also have to learn how to…
14. Travel for Cheap
On my other website, Dauntless Jaunter, I write extensively about how to travel cheap, among other things. The good news is—there are a lot of options for you.
Whether you’re heading home for the holidays or taking a weekend trip with friends to celebrate another successful semester in your rearview mirror, here are ways to travel inexpensively in college:
- Spend a little extra time by taking Amtrak or Greyhound rather than a flight—they often have student discounts.
- Take public transportation as often as possible—it’s a great way to fight climate change and a friend to your wallet! (And there are always student discounts on public transport.)
- Carpool whenever possible (check out BlaBlaCar, for instance).
- Be as flexible as possible when booking flights, which means dates, airlines, and airports.
Also, for great student discounts on travel, check out STA Travel.
15. Study Hard
Yes, it’s good college advice in general, but what does studying have to do with money?
Well, if you pay for your own tuition, failing even one class is a huuugggeee ouch in the coin pouch. And, the longer it takes for you to graduate, the more time you’ll spend before starting your career and making that better money university’s been preparing you for.
16. Ask for Help on Goodwall!
No, we’re not like GoFundMe, and we can’t help you raise tuition money, unfortunately.
As a Goodwall member, you are part of a community of over 1.5 million entrepreneurs, students, and young professionals from all around the world, many who share your same interests, obstacles, and even university.
Use them to your advantage!
Try out Goodwall’s question feature to get diverse feedback, unique insight, and viewpoints that you just can’t find anywhere else. If this guide on tips for saving money in college didn’t have the answers you were looking for, the Goodwall community certainly will.
And—found all the tips and advice you needed here on how to save money as a college student? Got something new to add? Then you can share your knowledge with other Goodwallers by using our handy virtual elevator speech (here’s how to make one). Or, share it here as a comment below, and thanks for reading!