It seems like being broke as a college student is inevitable these days. Between paying for tuition, room and board, books, fees, food and trying to have a life, it sure gets pricey. But if you’re smart with your money, you can save a few dollars here and there and get through college without breaking your budget. Read these 9 ways to save money in college to find out how and where to slash expenses.
Skip the Books
If you haven’t yet attended your first semester of college, I know that not buying the texts might sound crazy to you. It makes you nervous. But if you hear from plenty of students that you don’t need the book, take them at their word. Or at least try attending the first several weeks of class without a book.
Of course, for some classes, not using the text is not an option. But that doesn’t mean that you have to buy it. Instead, you could:
- Put together a book swap with a large group of friends.
- Rent your textbooks.
- Use one of the library copies. (Tip: If you’re going this route, plan to do your work EARLY and know that you can’t leave the library with them or check them out for more than a few hours.)
- Search online for PDF copies of the book.
And, if it turns out that you truly do have to buy the book, split the costs with a friend, preferably one who makes a great study buddy.
Pack Your Own Lunch
It’s tempting to purchase a big meal plan or to get a lot of flex dollars for the campus’s restaurants because, well, that’s a lot easier than dealing with food yourself. But the truth is, there will be days when the idea of cafeteria food makes you sick, and it’s easier than you think to blow through those flex dollars.
Since most schools require that on-campus students purchase a meal plan, purchase the smallest one you can. Pack your lunch instead. Yes, this requires some budgeting on your part, but you can actually eat for just a couple bucks per meal, which is less than you spend going out. And speaking of saving on food, make your own coffee, too. Keurigs make it super simple to get coffee that tastes just like your favorite brew at Starbucks, and they’re much more affordable than $5 a day for your caffeine fix!
Do Activities in Groups to Get a Discount
You don’t want to miss out on road trips and adventures in college, but you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for them either. If a friend suggests rock climbing or white water rafting, suggest getting a larger group together in order to get the group discount.
Opt for Free or Nearly Free Social Activities
Alternatively, opt for free or nearly free activities instead. Want to go on an outdoor adventure? Go hiking or camping instead of paying big bucks for a guided activity. Friends urging you to go out to dinner? Suggest a picnic instead where everyone brings a dish.
Get Your Spending Money Out in Cash
It’s so easy to swipe that debit card when you’re shopping without thinking about the total. But if you have cold, hard cash in hand, you’re not going to overspend. You did leave your debit card at home, right? How embarrassing would it be to not have enough cash on hand for your purchase! Using physical money makes you pay more attention to the amount your spending, and you’re more likely to stick to your budget.
And while you’re using cash, keep all the change that you get back in a piggy bank or jar. Over the course of a semester, it can really add up! Even if it’s not a ton of money, it can add up to a tank of gas or a night out with your friends without feeling guilty about spending the money.
Have a “No Buy” Week at Least Once a Month
For some of you savvy savers, not buying anything for a week probably sounds like a piece of cake. But if you’re anything like I was as a college student, that would have seemed nearly impossible. But doing it will show you just how much money you waste during a typical week. There will be no going out to eat, no movies, no drinks and no gas for your car. (Make sure you gas it up the week before if you’re a commuter). The week will be over before you know it and you’ll find out just how easy it is to not spend a dime.
Take Advantage of Student Discounts
You probably know that you can save quite a bit of money on electronics, activities and an Amazon Prime membership. But did you know that many grocery stores and other businesses in college towns usually offer discounts, too? Find out which days they’re offered, and do your shopping and activities then. Discounts are usually 5-10%, so it’s nothing to sneeze at.
Sell Things You Don’t Need
Seriously… sell anything that you don’t need or don’t use anymore. Re-sell those old textbooks. You can probably get more money for them selling them privately than selling them back to the bookstore. Go through your wardrobe and take any clothes you don’t love to consignment. Old games, electronics and more can often go at a fair price, too. Even if you only get a few bucks here and there for your old things, that’s more money in your pocket and less clutter in your room.
Decorate Your Dorm on the Cheap
There’s no need to run out and buy new things for your dorm when you probably have everything you need right in your bedroom. Take your things from home, and find some creative ways to decorate your dorm without spending any money.
Want to add to our list of ways to save money in college? Share your savvy tips with us!