10 More Tips for Frugal Scholars

Recently, I wrote about ten ways to save money on two of college’s biggest expenses – books and food. Today, I will explain how to save money on two other large expenses – electronics and travel.

Save Money on Technology & Communication

In 2006, the average college freshman spent $1,200 one school supplies; a large percentage of which was spent on electronics. Because technological gadgets can become such a money sponge, it is a good idea for look for ways to cut costs in this expense category. Besides the obvious options of buying less and buying used, here are six ways to cut your technology costs.

1. Free Wi-Fi – Many colleges offer free wireless internet access in multiple locations across their campus. Unfortunately, this free Wi-Fi is generally not offered in the dorms, so you must pay if you want to access internet from the comfort of your own dorm room. By only using the free Wi-Fi, however, you can save hundreds of dollars every year. If you do use public Wi-Fi networks, read how to keep you computer secure on public networks.

2. Computer Software – Another large cost for college students is computer software. However, this cost can be almost entirely eliminated in three steps. First, get free or open-source software whenever possible. For example, instead of paying for an expensive office suite, download OpenOffice.org for free! It is amazing how many free programs are available. In fact, you can even get an operating system, Ubuntu, for free! Another option is using free online programs. A good example of an online program is the Google Docs office suite. Finally, if you can’t find if for free, be sure to look for student discounts. I have heard of people purchasing Windows Vista through their university store for as little as $20!

3. Protect Your Electronics – Electronic equipment can be damaged in many ways. You must defend your computer against everything from semi-innocent pranksters to online spy-ware creators. To protect your electronics from cyber-damage you should install some sort of internet security. Many colleges offer free internet security programs to their students. To protect your electronics from prank-playing roommates, you should password protect you computer and other gadgets and keep them in secret, secure places.

4. Use VoIP For Phone – Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a relatively unknown technology that enables people to use their internet line for phone calls. VoIP saves you money in two ways. First, it is normally much less expensive than normal phone contracts. In fact, you can cut as much as 80% off you phone bill by switching to VoIP. In addition, most VoIP contracts come with unlimited calls in the US and Canada – that means no more expensive long-distance calls! This is especially useful for college students who often live far away from their family and friends. For more information read Voice Duck’s VoIP provider comparison chart.

5. Limit Cell Phone Use – If at all possible, do not use your cell phone! By saving your cell phone for emergencies (real emergencies!), you can cut a lot off you cell phone bill. Notice, I did not say to throw out cell phones entirely. On the contrary, cell phones are very useful, but they can also easily be overused. Find a cheaper cell phone plan, use fewer minutes, and communicate more via email, online chat, and your main phone instead.

6. Limit Texting – At an average cost of ten cents each, texting on cell phones is a seemingly small cost that can quickly add up. For example, it is not uncommon to hear of people texting 50 times a day. That would be a cost of $150 a month! You can cut these costs by getting a cell phone plan with unlimited texting, but even that is expensive. In addition, too much texting can easily destroy useful study time. Therefore, limiting texting saves you both much-needed money and important study time.

Save Money on Travel

Most college students travel many times a year. For example, the average college student travel home at least twice a year. In addition, many scholars visit foreign countries multiple times throughout their college years. All this travel can get quite expensive. Using the following four cost-cutting methods, college students should be able to greatly reduce their travel expenses.

7. Student Discounts – Many discounts are available to students traveling by bus or plane. In addition, steep discounts can be found for hotel rooms and car rentals. Most of these discounts can be obtained by planning ahead or simply asking for discounts. Visit Student Universe to find student discounts on plane tickets, bus passes, car rentals, and hotel costs.

8. Carpool – If you travel by car, look for fellow students traveling to the same part of the country. This way you can split the costs and travel for much less. However, you do need to be careful who you choose for your traveling companion. A wrong choice can make for a difficult, disappointing trip.

9. Travel Less – This is the most obvious method – simply travel less often. For example, instead of paying hundreds of dollars for an expensive trip during Spring Break, volunteer or find a quality internship. Either alternative will look better on your resume…and on you budget!

10. Stay Local – This can be true in two ways. First, instead of traveling to distant locations, explore your local options. National Parks, local museums, factory tours, and historical monuments all are great places to visit. The second way that you can “stay local” is by attending a college near your hometown. This will save you money when you travel home; plus, you can get lower tuition costs by attending an in-state public university.

Hopefully these ten tips will help you cut costs and save some money. How have you saved money in these areas?

Photo by Allan Ferguson.


  1. Awesome article and thanks for the tips. This definitely touches into the general savings but another way to save money is to research and look for different companies that offer monthly discounts to students for their day to day services such as technology and communications.

  2. Isabel:

    I graduated university in 2006 and things really changed! for me, the most expensive thing to buy was text books. i needed to buy at least one for each papers every six months and they are very expensive (average $150 per book). while you could read them from the library for free, I am a slow reader, so didn’t work for me. so i decided to photocopy a week’s worth of reading and read them throughout the week. It worked out great for me because i could make notes on the side and i could use highlighters as well.

  3. Regarding travel, I would definitely encourage students to consider getting involved with Couchsurfing.com. It’s a great way to meet people from all over the world, learn about their communities and avoid spending your trip rotting in a hotel. And not least you can save a LOT of money on accommodations. We’ve been involved in it for years and it’s really changed our world view.

    As usual, this is a really useful post!

  4. bob:

    These are more general college savings ideas, but I’ll throw in a few electronics related ones as well. As far as sound systems go, most college towns have at least a few local goodwill or Amvets stores. You can get used stereos or boom boxes for sometimes $5-$20. I had an old 70’s stereo that I plugged my CD player into ( they didn’t have ipods back then but you could also use an ipod in the same way).

    In regards to computers, unless you’re a graphic design major, I’d recommend an older computer. I actually found mine in the trash when I was in school. It was a black and white Mac classic ( the little guys with a handle). I used it mostly for writing papers. I later bought a used mac that (barely) went online for $25 from a sale that the local hospital was having. If all you’re using it for is surfing online and writing papers, then the lowest grade new computer will work and most of these are pretty cheap these days… as in $450 for a laptop. They generally have Celeron processors which are the slowest processors but will work fine for general computing.

    As far as college in general, well first of all the first 2 years of school tends to be somewhat remedial, with a heavy load of math, science, and various English and literary classes. Research your degree first and see what the required curriculum is. If its as I mentioned, consider community college for the first 2 years since they teach almost all of these classes. That will cut down on your costs dramatically.The 2 last years can be spent at either a state school ( cheaper) or a renowned out of states University ( more expensive) I did this exact same thing. So did my brother who graduates next month. The result was that neither of us have any debt.

    Here’s some other ideas. If you’re going to a large city, consider either a bicycle or even a small gas scooter. I had an 85′ Honda Elite I paid $300 for. I used it for 2 years. Riding public transportation back in the late 90’s for me was around $2 a day. I seldom used it and used the scooter instead. The result is that I saved over $1,000 in 2 years. The nice thing about the scooter was that I could park it anywhere and also take excursions to the burbs when I was bored.

    Man… I can’t believe I’ve been out of college 10 years already…

  5. mark:

    Anyone tried this?


  6. Bill:

    Just like kids travel a lot, they also eat out a lot. Limit restaurant and fast food visits. You’ll save a lot…and be a great deal healthier.

  7. Juli:

    I just bought a phone for texting (I’m 42), and switched over to AT&T. I’m paying $5/month. While not unlimited, it gives me enough to work with (maybe 200). Combined with roll-over minutes on the cheapest plan they have, I am pretty happy!

  8. Elizabeth Shepherd:

    Concerning #3 – Protect your Electronics… If you have a Mac I just discovered a great piece of software called Undercover 3.0 When downloaded it creates a unique ID for your Mac and if stolen will track your computer’s internet location, take screenshots of the thieves’ activities on the computer, takes a pictures of the thieves using iSight, and if all else fails will simulate a system failure encouraging the thieves to take the computer in for service. It’s only $49 and they promise to refund your money if they fail to recover your computer or just if you’re not satisfied w/ the product.

  9. These are great tips. There are many expenses on this list that didn’t exist when I went to college, and many others that weren’t there when I went to graduate school either.

    They say education is expensive, but not having an education is even more expensive.

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