97 Ways to Save Money in College
The college years stand as some of the most financially sensitive times of any individual’s life. Applying creativity, cunning, and conscientiousness, students may enjoy their time in school without stressing over finances. By applying these and other valuable money-saving tips, college students can settle into healthy spending habits that last a lifetime.
- 1. Coupons: not just for old people ! : Clip coupons from the newspaper or download them off the internet is one of the easiest things anyone can do to keep a bank account healthy.
2. Barter whenever possible : Figure out ways to trade goods and services with other students in order to get things done without ever having to spend a penny. For example, tutor someone else in exchange for having them fix your computer.
3. Stick with water at restaurants : Avoiding the usual soda in favor of the free water is the more economical and healthier option. They may be cheap, but the savings add up.
4. Do volunteer work : Volunteer work keeps the mind and hands occupied, burns up potentially idle free time, nurtures friendships, helps the community immensely, and costs absolutely nothing.
5. Save the credit card for emergencies only : Graduating with credit card debt worsens a students’ financial future. Keep one around only when faced with an absolute emergency…and sorry, but needing that adorable Coach purse does not qualify as a dire situation.
6. Share entrees with a friend : Most restaurant portions are really big enough servings for 2 people anyways. Just make sure the establishment does not charge extra for taking such measures beforehand.
7. Take advantage of discount cards : Free memberships at Borders, CVS, Kroger, and many other chains may be a pain to sign up for, but the savings certainly pays off. Sign up for every card possible offered through frequented stores.
8. Check out campus events : The programming at colleges and universities cater to the interests – and pocketbooks! – of its students. Schools make for one of the best places to find free or cheap entertainment.
9. Sign up with a discount website : Take advantage of the myriad websites available with free membership and vast amounts of rebates and coupons, such as Shop At Home and Bond Rewards. Make sure they are approved by the Better Business Bureau first in order to avoid any scamming impostors.
10. Never pay retail price whenever possible : Buying everything on sale is not the sign of a cheapskate. It is the mark of the responsible consumer.
11. Buy used whenever possible : Except for underwear and toiletries, almost anything that can be bought used should be bought used. This especially goes for textbooks and clothes.
12. Day-old baked goods are still edible : Buy the marked-down pastries and bread through local bakeries or bakery sections at grocery stores. They may be one day closer to spoilage than their comparatively fresher brethren, but they are still completely safe for consumption and much cheaper to boot.
13. Do DIY projects whenever possible : Rack up as many home and car care skills as the brain can handle. Fixing and making as much as possible saves a lot more money than one would thing.
14. Eat at home : Sometimes, the cost of a meal for 2 at even a reasonably-priced restaurant can be used to feed 4-6 when the raw ingredients are purchased and taken home for preparation. Provided, of course, that one spends prudently while at the grocery store.
15. Grow herbs in the windowsill : Start a little planter and grow fresh basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, and other popular kitchen herbs. It makes for a homey decoration, saves money on purchasing them at the store, and they can be used as a bartering tool with friends who enjoy cooking.
16. Pay bills as they arrive : Doing so means the complete avoidance of late fees. Whenever possible, have the checks prepared ahead of time and drop them in the mailbox the same day the bills come in.
17. Apply for scholarships : There is a scholarship out there for almost everyone. Apply to as many as possible to help defray some of the tuition costs.
18. Set up a definitive budget : Budgeting money ahead of time and never straying off it except in the most extreme emergencies is one of the best financial decisions anyone – not just college students – can make.
19. Curb the non-essential spending : College may grant freedom, but that does not necessarily grant clearance to spend recklessly. Going without luxuries for a few years means the ability to actually afford them later on with far less worry.
20. Install software to keep track of expenditures : Quicken and other programs grant users a detailed visual on spending habits and bank account balances. They are valuable tools in the fight against irresponsible fiscal choices.
21. Take advantage of public transportation : In larger cities with reliable public transportation or smaller towns conducive to walking, ditch having a car and all its associated expenses. The effects of the savings can be felt almost immediately.
22. Yelp and CitySearch: a student’s best friends : Sign up for free to connect with the community and learn of all the best deals and specials in the area. Many businesses offer coupons and discounts for participants on both websites as well.
23. Drink in moderation : Beer may stand as the college student’s most popular (and clichéd pastime, but the cost of alcohol adds up quite a bit over time. Slowing down the drinking quickens the savings.
24. Sign up for an ISIC card : For $20, the International Student Identity Card can be used internationally and domestically to grant students amazing deals with cultural, culinary, and travel-related establishments. It can even be used in the student’s home city.
26. Find a bank with free student accounts : Some banks offer free checking and savings accounts for students with no added fees or charges. Try and seek these out and make sure to review every element of their plans before committing.
27. Save every receipt : Like money management software, saving receipts offers a visual representation of expenditures.
28. Be discriminating when it comes to credit cards : If a credit card must be kept around for emergencies, be sure to pick one with no annual fees, only a small credit limit, and the lowest possible interest rate.
29. Roll up loose change : Coinage adds up over time, so be sure to keep them properly stored. Once enough has been collected, roll them up and exchange them at the bank for cash or add them to a savings account.
30. Stick with drink and food specials : For instances where coupons are not available, specials can provide the same beneficial savings.
31. Sell all textbooks upon completion of a course : Unless sorely needed at the professional level, sell textbooks at the bookstores, online, or via bulletin boards at school.
32. Buy international editions of textbooks : In the occasional instance where used books are not available, buy international editions of textbooks online. They are usually much cheaper and contain the same content in the same language as the domestic.
33. Charge a small fee for common services : Tutor, edit papers, offer resume advice, fix computers, knit, sew, and take advantage of any number of marketable skills to make a little extra money on the side. Be creative!
34. Start a blog : Blogging helps nurture writing and thinking skills, builds a community of like-minded individuals, occupies time, and generates extra revenue when selling advertising space.
35. Sign up for a medical study : Medical schools actually pay participants to take part in their studies. They take up little time and pose very danger.
36. Never pay to exercise : If a school does not offer a free gym as a perk to its students, then get exercise by walking, running biking, skateboarding, playing basketball or tennis in a park – there is absolutely no need to spend money on joining a gym.
37. Take advantage of clubs and other organizations : Joining up with like-minded individuals at a school fills up free time and builds friendships and networking opportunities with little to no cost.
38. Never buy detergent at the laundromat : It may be more convenient, but laundromats mark up their detergent prices because of this. But it on sale at a store and bring it to the facilities.
39. Buy store brand goods whenever possible : Store-brand goods are almost always as good as the name brands, and many stores such as Kroger offer additional savings when pairing their items with their discount card.
40. Hit the local public library : When seeking variety from a school’s programming, the public library offers a number of different – almost always free – activities as well.
41. Watch TV and movies online legally and for free : Many networks now offer full streaming videos of their shows online, usually posting new episodes the day after a premiere. Hulu, SnagFilms, and other services offer free television shows, movies, and documentaries with the full consent of their copyright holders.
42. Shop at discount stores whenever possible : Buying items through a discount store saves quite a bit of money, and many of them offer free membership cards for further savings.
43. Amazon.com, eBay, Overstock.com – a student’s other best friends : Before hitting the shops, make sure better deals are not to be found via these websites. Pay close attention to shipping costs, however, which may render the retail savings moot.
44. Patronize businesses with special student rates : Many businesses cater especially to students, especially those within a certain proximity to a college or university. Take advantage of what they have to offer and encourage them to continue their services.
45. Visit local art galleries : Art galleries provide free culture and entertainment, and openings almost always mean free hors d’oeuvres and wine, beer, and the occasional mixed drink.
46. Give self-manicures and -pedicures : Nail salon visits leave a glossy, pink-streaked dent in a pocketbook. Replicate the experience at home for only a sliver of the cost – plenty of free tips and instructions are available online.
47. Buy in bulk and split the price with friends and roommates : While this strategy ought not be used when it comes to perishable food items, it works splendidly for items such as soap, toilet paper, shampoo, paper towels, and other essential, nonperishable products.
48. Get haircuts at cosmetology schools : Almost every cheap cut and style by a cosmetology student is done under the guidance of a professional, so there is very little risk of suffering from any aesthetic trauma.
49. Take advantage of Skype : Whenever possible, use Skpe or a similar internet phone service to make free or extremely cheap calls around the world through a computer.
50. Sign up for a study abroad program : For students with an itch to travel, study abroad programs offer both class credit and a trip oversees for far cheaper than a solo voyage. In addition, many involve exclusive experiences unavailable to many travelers.
51. Stay at approved hostels when traveling to areas with no family or friends to board with : STA Travel and other resources will gladly offer a list of safe, cheap hostels around the world – many of which cater exclusively to students. ISIC members also receive this as a benefit upon signing up.
52. Sign up with a pay-as-you-go cell phone plan : Keep a cell phone for emergencies or quick query calls while out and about, saving extended conversations for instant messaging or free internet phone services like Skype.
53. Take advantage of (legit! free sample products : Many companies offer free samples of their consumer products via their website, with restrictions regarding how frequently individuals may sign up for them. Do not bother with many explicit freebie sites, as they are generally scams.
54. Don’t forget to send in rebates! : As a general rule of thumb, try and send in any rebates on the same day of purchase. Sitting on them for too long may mean missing out on savings.
55. Carpool whenever possible : Everyone chipping in a little for gas means a less expenditure for everything from a night out to a trip to the local discount store for bulk items.
56. Take community college courses when feasible : Make sure to check transfer protocol beforehand, but taking core classes and occasional electives through a community college saves quite a bit of money than the same education through a major university. There is little to no disparity between the academics at one institution or the other, and some classes may be taken online for further savings.
57. Travel by bus or train if available : For longer trips beyond the end lines of public transportation, trains and buses make for safe long-distance alternatives to airplanes.
58. Live close to campus : Especially when forgoing the use of a car, living close to campus cuts down on the need to carpool and provides convenient access to activities.
59. If air travel is necessary, research the cheapest possible rates before buying tickets : Sometimes, buses and trains may not end up at a desired destination, thus rendering air travel a necessity. Never commit to buying a ticket without first comparing and contrasting the available rates through any number of websites offering this service for free.
60. Sign up for a family cell phone share plan : When Luddite parents have trouble with “the Skype,” joining together on a family share plan usually offers free calls between participating phones and enough minutes for emergencies and quick confirmation calls.
61. Resist the urge to go road tripping : Just because college students can does not necessarily mean they should. Road trips are great experiences, but should be special treats rather than regular occurrences.
62. Spring break is a waste of time and money : The shrieking, hedonistic masses may appear to be having the time of their life, but fun ends once they have to start actually paying for it.
63. Never buy dry-clean-only clothing : Having to dry-clean clothes only adds one more expense to the pile. It is possible to buy professional wear that does not require any special cleaning beyond the washing machine. Some may have to avoid the dryer, however.
64. Take advantage of yard sales and flea markets : Like used stores, a number of treasures for the home, entertainment, and wardrobe may be found at yard sales and flea markets at bargain prices.
65. Shop online whenever possible : Patronizing online businesses or the online presence of brick-and-mortar stores cuts down on commuting costs. Some even generously offer free shipping.
66. Ignore the newspaper and credit card “deals” offered on campus : Every semester, newspaper and credit card companies swarm college campuses across the US to pressure students into signing up for their wares. Generally, better deals on credit cards may be found with a bit of research. And news may be found for free online.
67. Make handmade gifts and cards : Buying the materials necessary to create birthday, holiday, and special occasion gifts and cards oftentimes proves far cheaper than the completed goods themselves. Art supplies and cardstock justify their cost, as they may be used to make multiple gifts as opposed to just one.
68. Buy absolute necessities during tax-free weekends : Many states offer tax-free weekends shortly before classes begin, making for an excellent time to save as much money as possible on the essentials.
69. Always remember to turn off lights! : Turning off lights, computers, and other electronics is a simple habit that significantly cuts back on electricity bills.
70. Get the cheapest cable plan available : With the internet more or less a requirement for a college education, most students living off campus not springing for DSL will need a cable hookup. Forego the specialty channels that cost extra and opt to watch favorite shows online, with friends, or on DVD instead.
71. Take quick, efficient showers : Long, hot showers can smooth the edge off a rough day, but they only serve to crank up water bills. Learn to clean in a fast manner that does not compromise on quality.
72. Keep heating and air conditioning as low as possible : Like the electricity and water bills, being responsible with heating and air conditioning helps to reduce energy costs.
73. Try and find an apartment or home heated by natural gas : Natural gas makes for a cheaper way of heating than electricity, which cuts back expenses.
74. Minimize home decorations : Most student housing is transient, so keep the décor simple. Ornate or cluttered decorations add extra cost to purchase and to move. Save the interior design vision for a more permanent living space.
75. Dumpster dive wherever it’s legal…and safe : Dumpster diving laws vary from place to place, so be sure to confirm legality prior to attempting. In areas where it is allowed, dumpsters can prove absolute treasure troves – though findings need hearty sanitization after retrieval. Try to avoid dumpsters which may contain biohazards or toxic materials. They won’t give you superpowers, they’ll give you diseases.
76. Get a roommate : Share a space with a trusted, individual in order to defray some of the cost of living. As a bonus, it means one guaranteed friend with whom to share bulk nonperishable items.
77. Take advantage of free (and legal! music downloads and streams : Many music artists offer free track downloads through their websites or Myspaces, and the completely legal Napster Free hosts thousands of popular and obscure albums to stream for free.
78. Avoid getting a pet if one is not necessary for safety or as a companion animal : Pets are the most cuddly, adorable, and fuzzy-wuzzy financial sinks for a college student. Food and veterinary costs add up over time. Only give a pet if living in a questionable neighborhood for added protection, or if necessary for a disability.
79. Start a book club, religious text study, or other special interest group unaffiliated with the school : Starting a club or organization with no ties to a college or university opens up the potential to make friends with similar interests and goals, occupy time, and pass the time in an economical manner.
80. Ask for necessities for birthdays and gift-giving holidays : Be practical. When friends or family inquire as to desired gifts, ask for clothing, kitchen utensils, and other necessities. This cuts back on both time and money.
81. Sell anything unneeded or unused : Hit up resale shops or head online to sell or trade any clothing, books, CDs, DVDs, or other items that remain unused. It simultaneously reduces clutter and means a little extra cash or the bartering of goods and services.
82. Rent movies with friends : Chip in together to rent a movie for one night, or allow each (trusted! participant to keep it for a day.
83. Go without a TV, CD, and DVD players, if possible : With CD/DVD players now standard on almost every computer, there is little need to buy freestanding ones. And now that fans can watch their favorite television shows online, it is possible to survive college without a TV. Not only will it cut back on costs, but electricity bills as well.
84. Attend matinees : Whenever possible, opt to see movies at the theatre during the far cheaper matinee hours. Save even more money by refraining from buying the frequently overpriced snacks.
85. Real Simple and Lifehacker – still more best friends for students : Real Simple magazine and the beloved geek culture repository Lifehacker always provide money- and time-saving tips for the home and personal technology.
86. Buy refillable ink cartridges : Ink costs build up, especially for students in writing-intensive courses. Refilling ink cartridges at home saves on having to buy new ones or having to pay a service to do so.
87. Never consent to extended warranties : Stick with the manufacturer’s warranty whenever offered the option to extend it. Doing so just piles on extra expenditures.
88. Avoid establishments where tipping is necessary : Adding 15% onto a restaurant bill may reward service and supplement a waitron’s tragically sub-minimum wage salary, but it also means a 15% decrease in bank accounts. Try and patronize places where tips are not a requirement to save some extra cash.
89. Java aficionados need to invest in a coffee maker : Morning coffee at a favored shop adds up over time. Buying a coffee maker and bags of grounds to brew at home costs far less in the long run than a daily java jolt.
90. Spring for a college meal plan : Pretty much every college and university offers a number of reasonably-priced meal plans to meet different needs and wants, and some of them allow even students to take a bit of food out after dining in.
91. Stock up on healthy snacks : Keep a stash of yogurt, (real! granola bars, fruits, and vegetables available at all times to curb any hunger pains in a way that does not compromise health. This prevents the need to go out for meals.
92. BYOB whenever possible : Diners hoping to enjoy a drink or two with their dinners may want to seek out BYOB establishments. Be wary of ones with corking fees, however. Buying wine or beer prior to eating generally results in a higher volume of alcohol at a lower price than buying drinks there.
93. Don’t buy alcohol at restaurants : The markup on wine, beer, spirits, and mixed drinks at restaurants is generally higher than those at bars and stores. Stick with water or other nonalcoholic beverages and elect to consume alcohol elsewhere.
94. Kick a smoking habit. Alternately, don’t bother picking one up in the first place : Sure, everyone over the age of 18 holds the full legal right to smoke. But with packs retailing for upwards of $7, the savings add up quickly when passing on the indulgence.
95. Rent movies from the library, Netflix, or Redbox : Public and school libraries alike often rent movies for free. Should their selection not offer the desired film, the latter options offer reasonably-priced services ideal for students. This works when said movies may not be found for legal downloading or streaming online.
96. Drink tap water whenever safe : In areas where the tap water does not swarm with questionable microbes ready and willing to wreak havoc on the human digestive tract, ditch the bottled stuff and drink straight from the sink.
97. The only worthwhile loan is a student loan : College is not the time to borrow significant amounts of money to buy a house or boat or car, start a business, or anything else requiring a loan from the bank. If a loan becomes an absolute necessity, use them only for tuition and other school-related costs. In this case, the debt is entirely warranted and understandable.
University and college students have enough to worry about when it comes to juggling classes, clubs, and jobs. By taking these careful precautions with money, they can alleviate some of the daily anxieties that come with higher education. Developing healthy and wise spending habits during the first few years of independence helps students learn to manage their money long after they have completed their degrees.
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