51 Ways to Save Money in College

Saving money for college is a job in itself. College students should earn credit for doing it, because the task requires using the mind and it’s helpful for life after college. So to help out the universal crowd of college students who have been trying to save money since the roots of higher education, here is a list of fifty-one ways to save money for college.

That’s fifty-two ways to save yourself from going deeper into debt, and fifty-one ways you can pat yourself on the back in the future. And for some encouragement, listen to the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.”

Transportation

1. Bike it. Not only does using your bike help out your wallet, it’s a good work out for the gluteus maximus.

2. Bus it. Public transportation is one of man’s greatest inventions because it is cheaper than car insurance and history’s highest gas prices (which you won’t have to pay if you ride the bus/metro/insert other mode of public transportation here). All it takes is a small fare or your campus’s bus passes (some universities charge, others give them out for free for a limited number of hours).

3. If you own a car, turn off your air conditioning while driving to save gas.

4. Choose the shortest route from point A to point B.

5. Carpool; work on your social skills.

6. If you drive a manual, coast on the down hills.

Food/Drink

7. Dumpster dive. Some places make dumpster diving easy by, for example, putting all of their stale (but edible) items in a specially marked dumpster. Check your state’s law for further info. Here is Urban Dictionary’s definition of dumpster diving: “Actively searching through trash in commercial or residential dumpsters to find discarded but usable items; Proves fruitful at grocery stores and bakeries, where good food is often neatly thrown away when it merely approaches the sell-by date.”

8. Don’t just leave those cans and bottles from last weekend’s party on the curb to be taken away by the garbage man. Recycle them yourself and get cash from a grocery store that provides this service. This method of recycling, known as the Bottle Bill, is only in certain state’s legislation so hopefully you live in one of those 11 states.

9. Keep your receipts from grocery stores, which often hold coupons and special offers on the other side. Look up extreme couponing to get inspired.

10. Step away from the latte and say hello to good ole coffee and Americanos. If you are one of those college students who hangs out at a coffee shop so often most people aren’t sure if you are a customer or an employee, it would be wise to choose cheaper options if you are buying a drink every time you visit. All that milk one finds in a latte can’t be good for one person, even if you aren’t lactose intolerant.

11. Want to have a pizza night? Taco night with friends? Have each person bring one ingredient to contribute to the meal and it will be astronomically cheaper for the host, and that much tastier too.

12. Use the most of your punch cards at local coffee shops. Three dollars off of a drink of choice or even a free drink is that much money that you can keep in your wallet if you are consistently punching that beloved 2 by 3.5 inch piece of paper.

13. Home brew your own ______ (fill in the blank). Check out The Mad Fermentationist blog to get recipes and ideas. Who knows if home brewing is cheaper, short term, but in the long run perhaps people will be paying YOU for what you make. Think about it.

14. Brew your own coffee at home. This is cheaper, because you can buy grains in bulk, and when you put it in a travel mug you are good to go for class.

15. At the beginning of every week buy enough food to last you one week in one meal. i.e. chicken and rice for dinner the next seven days. It lacks the variety one enjoys, but we’re in college so we’re aiming for cheap and edible.

16. Buy in bulk. Use those coupons and stock up. Use your freezer.

17. Make use of your on-campus credit that goes towards food and beverages in the cafeteria and various stores and coffee bars. Use it all up before spending it elsewhere, especially if you can buy the same items there as anywhere else.

18. Go to school or community events with free food, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

19. When you are grocery shopping, don’t go to the store while you are hungry. There will be less of an urge to buy everything that looks appealing.

Clothing

20. Thrift stores, garage sales and second-hand shops are a college student’s best friend when old clothes wear out. It is a widely held belief that thrift stores are thee places to shop whether you are cheap or not, because there is such a wide range of clothing that fits anyone’s taste and it’s rare that you’ll see someone else wearing the same clothing item you’ve bought from a second-hand shop.

21. Get in touch with your crafty side. When you find clothes at a second-hand shop that are too large, alter them yourself. That x-large band t-shirt that you cannot pass up will be a size medium in no time.

22. Trade clothes with friends when your wardrobe starts looking dull. This is all perspective, and what you need is to swap a few articles of clothing and voila! That should do the trick to curing your monotonous closet.

23. One word: Self-control. Restrain from being an impulse buyer!

Books

24. Rent textbooks. This can be done through a website like Chegg or places nearby such as your university’s bookstore, library or your county’s local library.

25. Join Amazon Student and for one year get unlimited free two-day shipping on textbooks and other items. It’s free to sign up for students!

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{16 Comments}

  1. I know someone who just spent $700 for text books for the semester! This is outrageous! Something should be done to help his problem of over costly books!

  2. Siti Nazia Jahir:

    I think this post is very helpful. As a university student, I am my own personal financial manager. It is always a problem for me to manage my money throughout the month. Eventhough everytime after I receive my allowance, I will always try to save it and hide the money somewhere else and will just use it during “emergency”,unfortunately it was never a success because I will always make excuses and act like everything is ‘emergency’. Thus, saving is always a problem for me, but after reading tips in this post, I think what I should do is not about saving my money, but to control my spending wisely and take other initiatives, however, words are easier said than done :P Anyhow, great tips though!

  3. Abby:

    My only comment on dumpster diving is this:
    http://waukesha.patch.com/arti.....th-a-couch

    Other than that these are good ideas & I hope my husband & I can use most of them when we go back to college after the military in a year or two :)

  4. Kevin:

    Great tips on saving money, as others in the comment section have mentioned textbooks can be terribly expensive. Renting is a good idea, also buying used is good too. No matter what you do though you need to compare prices, http://www.retextbook.com is a good place to see what your book would cost (new, used or renting) on many websites, all at once.

  5. Brittany,
    Excellent ideas, we actually rented books for our college student from Chegg after reading your article, and it saved us a ton of money! Our son is attending community college to take the core classes and then taking the last two years at a traditional university. He is living at home and working to save money so that he (hopefully) won’t have to have student loans, or just a small amount. You have to be creative in this economy. Good work and job well done Brittany.

  6. I’m a huge fan of Pay As You Go (PAYG) mobile phones for people on a budget as well. TracFone and a host of others are available at even the local quick mart.

    Using a PAYG will limit the phone bill to what you could afford when you topped the phone off and not leave the broke college student with a bill they can’t afford.

  7. SmithMikes:

    I have one more tips for student clothing is this that you will find a horizon of clothing and accessories opened in front of your eyes on hookprice.com, Compare the prices with others, you will find this site on the top place; that’s guarantee as well.

  8. Very good article! Renting textbooks really does help out the costs, I had saved so much money by doing so. A BIO 256 book was going to cost me about $130, but I had saved $100 by renting it. Although, I wouldn’t recommend Dumpster diving. That is illegal in some states. Another tip is google urban gardening. You will save a lot of money on food if you grow your own, and you only need a little space to do so. :)

  9. Gary:

    There are some pretty amazing dumpster diving communities and networks in major cities like NY. I don’t know if there is a much of a scene for that here in Vancouver but it’s working for some people so good for them. Brittany, have you tried this before? I’m kinda scared by the idea but it might be a smart way to save some money.

  10. Get your books online, or as many of them as you can. It’s a great way to also save.

    Good tips! Too bad I didn’t follow many of them in school.

  11. H.B.:

    “Buy in bulk.”

    Buy in bulk wisely. Don’t just buy in bulk because you can or it’s on sale. It’s much smarter to buy what you need and use it, than buying in bulk and winding up throwing out food that goes bad because you could not possibly eat it all. It’s not savings if it winds up in the trash in the end.

    “One more word: Groupon.”

    Anyone else find their deals so amazing they’re getting in on a hot deal every other day? At the end of the year all those hot deals ADD UP. Be smart, and only take advantage of the best of the best. Just because it’s a hot deal doesn’t mean you have to get in on it. Show some restraint.

    “If it’s not on craigslist, you don’t need it. Never buy new. Let’s say it together: “Never buy new.”

    I’d steer clear of buying the following items used: shoes, under clothes (including socks, underwear, pantyhose, etc.), bath towels, and bedding. Sorry, but I have to draw a line somewhere. My issues here mainly have to do with sanitary and safety concerns. Unless the used shoes were barely worn that idea grosses me out.

  12. H.B.:

    “If you own a car, turn off your air conditioning while driving to save gas.”

    Not 100% correct! The rule of thumb is to use AC at high speeds and open the windows at low speeds. During highway driving over long distance especially, it is more fuel efficient to roll up your windows and use AC.

  13. Fabulous article. These are easy ways to save money while in college. A must share with the college-goers.

  14. These are great tips for saving money, but don’t forget about all the entrepreneurial ways to earn more money. As a college student I was frustrated with wages being offered — $7 an hour? How is anyone supposed to pay bills like that?

    But several of my peers, I noticed, were thinking outside the box. Two guys at my college started a business cleaning people’s apartments/houses on the Friday/Saturday/Sunday morning after a party. Their tagline was something to the effect of “When you’re hungover, cleaning is the last thing you want to do.” They earned great money in college.

  15. Great post! I loved all the frugal, budget-minded ideas. One of the ways I lived on a budget in college was by buying textbooks at http://www.half.com and then when I finished using the book for the semester, I resold it. The first term in college, I bought my books from the bookstore as classes started the following day and $400 later I walked out in disbelief. I couldn’t believe how expenseive textbooks were. Never bought textbooks from the university book store again. Following term I shared books with other friends in my classes and split the cost. Then I discovered half.com…. it changed my life… buying used books at reasonable prices and then selling them back usually breaking-even. Best way to utlize this site is ordering books before classes using the ISBN number which some universities post on their site in the information about the required books for each class or by browsing the university bookstore and writing down the ISBN numbers. :)

  16. Great article, Brittany! However, may we suggest a #52? Consider pawning with Pawngo.com! Pawngo has reinvented the 3,000 year-old industry of pawning. It is a great and easy way to get cash fast! Our hassle-free approach poses no risk to your credit. The best part is you don’t even have to walk into a pawn shop…everything is done online, electronically, and via UPS. Check us out at Pawngo.com or feel free to email me at katy@pawngo.com. Cheers and best wishes to you!

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I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.

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