College: 12 Vital Tips for Saving Money

Before you know it, you’re graduating college with $50,000 or more in debt. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even with necessary costs like room and board, food, tuition, books, fees, laundry and anything else you can think of, you can still save money. 

1. Don’t buy textbooks

Aside from buying, you have other, less expensive options:

Your campus probably has a bookstore that rents or sells books. Renting from your school can be very expensive. Consider renting from Amazon, Chegg or somewhere else. There are TONS of textbook websites.

Some websites offer 80% off retail prices on rentals. A university bookstore is the last place you want to rent from if possible.
If you have a cousin or friend who is in college, ask if they have the textbook you need. If they bought it, they may still have it. Did you know that you can borrow from your campus’ library? Not all schools have this option but most do.

A great deal of professors put a set amount of books on reserve at the school library. Some schools will let you borrow it for a semester and others for a couple of hours. Be sure to check out your school’s library. You can also exchange books with your roommate if you’re taking the same classes!
Textbooks can sometimes cost $200 or even more. While it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a free version for all your books, you may be able to find the free version for a few and save $400. there are tons of websites that offer free downloads. Check out our list of Free Textbook Resources.

2. Take summer classes at your local community college

  • you can take a few classes or a whole semester and get ahead
  • classes are generally cheaper and can save you $1000s
  • you’ll most likely be guaranteed in state tuition if it’s local

Before you decide to take summer classes at a community college, be sure that it’s cheaper than your school and that your credits will transfer. You’ll waste time and money otherwise.

3. Apply to scholarships
If you do your research and compile a list of say, 5-20 scholarships (depends on your time) per a year, including summer than you have a great chance of at least winning one.
Even if you only win one, you could end up receiving anywhere from $500 to $5000, maybe more. What’s better than free money? Nothing when you’re in college. Aim to complete 2 scholarship applications during the summer and 1 per a semester.

Be sure to check on scholarships provided by your school. If your school offers a scholarship, try to meet the requirements so you’ll have money for next years tuition.


4. Cash back rewards

Check with your bank to see if they offer cash back rewards. Enrollment is usually free. I bank with Bank of America and they do offer cash back.
If your bank doesn’t offer cash back rewards, consider applying for a credit card that does offer cash back. Think of cash back as getting a discount on stuff you’re going to buy anyways. Who doesn’t want a discount on clothes, food, gas, etc?


5. Student discounts

It can be difficult to remember to ask about discounts when you’re stressed out, hungry and hoping for an A on your test tomorrow. But make a note in your planner, on your hand, in your phone or somewhere that reads: ask about student discounts!
Now that you have a student ID, you can get discounts at tons of places. McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A and more.
You could also get a Student Advantage card. This will allot you discounts at AMC, Greyhound and even Topshop.

6. Make smart investments 
Although your goal is to spend less money, don’t be afraid to invest in a laptop that will last you till grad school graduation or a pair of walking shoes that will be comfortable for 3 years. Investing in something can save you money. Would you rather spend $100 on a pair of shoes that lasts 3 years or $40 a semester for a new pair?

7. Use your meal plan
If you’re paying $1500 a semester, utilize your meal plan. Your dorm can have a microwave and a mini fridge. You’re not going to be able to cook steak and you won’t be able to afford it either. Buy food for the times your meal plan won’t come in handy but make sure to get your money’s worth!

8. Eat free food
Every campus organization hosts different events. Some schools have a weekly movie night with free pizza and soda! Keep track of all the events on your campus, those events are your meal tickets! If your meal plan doesn’t cover snack time, attend an event that does.

9. Use coupons

There is no shame in using coupons, they were created for a reason… If you need to buy food for your dorm, look for coupons.

You can find coupons in the Sunday newspaper, online, directly from manufacturers and even from your friends. Ask your roommate or friends if they have coupons they’d be interested in swapping.Buy a Sunday newspaper or find a free one and snatch up the coupons. Ask your family too!
Check store websites for coupons. Target and CVS have coupons available online along with many others.. You can also check out our Find Free Coupons list to find out what other stores offer coupons!
Don’t forget to look in your college newspaper for free coupons!

10. Use your free (or included) campus resources
I mentioned earlier that you can get free food on campus. That’s not the only perk. Other free (or included in your tuition, so might as well use it) resources include:

  • fitness center/gym: you pay a fee so you may as well use the free classes and equipment on campus.
  • printing credits: most schools will give you a printing credit. Mine gives a $10 credit. That equals to 100 pages I can print/fax/copy. Although I’m bringing a printer because I know I’ll be printing more (see #6 invest), I am still going to use the free credits.
  • free entertainment: not only are you getting free pizza but you also get to watch a movie, play a game or etc for free! Instead of dishing out $40 on a movie and dinner, go to a free movie and dinner on campus.
  • check out movies and books free: most libraries have movies now so you can check out a movie to watch or a book to read if you need something to do.

11. Coordinate and split costs with your roommate
How you can save money by coordinating with your roommate:

  • If one of you is buying a printer, see about splitting costs for paper and ink and share the printer. It’s a win-win.
  • Ordering food? Split the cost for pizza, you probably won’t eat 8 slices by yourself
  • I bought the shower curtain for my dorm bathroom and my roommate is buying the rug. Split up the costs when possible and you’ll both be happy to save money
  • If you’re sharing a room, ask yourself: do we need two microwave? Split the cost or just share
  • Buy in bulk. You both want ramen noodle? Buy ramen in bulk and split the costs (again)  and food

12. Save your quarters
Don’t ever spend your quarters and make sure to ask your family for theirs. You will need quarters for laundry. Calculate the costs: can I get to the laundromat across town and spend less (transportation+laundry)? If so, save yourself some money!

13. Save your receipts
Let’s say you go out to eat at Krystal or Sonic. You might throw away your receipt. But would you throw it away if you knew you could get free food or discounts? Fast food restaurants, stores and chains like CVS print off promotions at the bottom of their receipts.
For example, I have a receipt from Krystal. It says I can get 3 free Krystal’s with a purchase of a medium drink and fry if I fill out a short survey. I went online, filled out the survey. It only took 60 seconds!


Always check and save your receipts!!!

How do or did you save money in college? Did you learn anything from this article? Let me know below!



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