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So, you’re looking to save money in college.
Let me tell you, college is incredibly expensive. Not only does room and board cost tens of thousands of dollars, but there are a ton of added expenses you’ll want to plan for.
It can be easy to get caught up in the culture of spending money, especially when you’re experiencing the freedom of living on your own for the first time in your life.
These tips are designed to help you see opportunities to cut down on your spending habits and hopefully save a few hundred (or thousand) dollars by the end of your college career!
General Advice on Saving Money in College:
- Keep track of your expenses. Make sure you’re aware of exactly how you’re spending your money. That way, it will be easier to cut back on unnecessary expenses.
- Figure out what you’re spending the majority of your money on. Is there a less expensive alternative? It’s okay to spend more money on certain things if that’s what you think is right.
- Don’t make impulse purchases. Take the time to think before you go out and make a big purchase. You want to be confident that it will actually improve your life, or you’ll regret not saving the money for later.
- Set some goals. Think about what you want to save up for in the future, whether it be a car, an apartment, or new clothes. If you allocate your earnings toward future purchases, you’ll be more motivated to save money instead of spending it right away.
Now here are 10 ways you can save money in college.
1. Rent Your Textbooks
College textbooks are CRAZY expensive. We’re talking anywhere from $100-300 per class. An easy way to save money in college is by renting your textbooks through Amazon or Chegg, which costs under $50 a book. After all, you won’t need the book again after the semester is over. Keep in mind you don’t need the exact same edition as indicated in the syllabus.
Wait to make any purchases before you start class. It’s highly likely you’ll end not even using a textbook, unless your professor specifies that there is exam content not covered in class lectures. A lot of times you’ll have to buy an online homework program that comes with an online version of the textbook, which is really all you’ll ever need.
2. Make Coffee in Your Room
Motivating yourself to make coffee is an uphill battle. After all, Starbucks is so convenient. But, at $5 a drink, it adds up quickly. During midterm and finals weeks, I found myself going to Starbucks two or even THREE times a day.
If you start making coffee in your room instead, you’ll end up saving thousands of dollars by the end of college. Even investing in a Keurig and a bunch of K-cups will end up being far cheaper in the end. Of course, you can always just kick your caffeine addiction, but I doubt anyone is up for that.
3. Use Student Discounts
If you’re an avid online-shopper, there are a lot of stores that offer discounts specifically for college students. All you need to do is verify your student ID online with Unidays, Student Beans, etc. by logging in to your school’s portal.
The student discounts for retailers are usually around 10-15% off your purchase, which can make a significant difference when it comes to big ticket items. Many subscription services, including Amazon Prime, Spotify, and Apple Music, have a discounted rate for students.
4. Buy Necessities in Bulk
Try to avoid paying for individually priced items. Stores on campus tend to upcharge their items because they know students are willing to pay more for convenience. Especially when it comes to things you’ll need to purchase again, such as toothpaste or gum, it’s better to hit your local Target.
If you get hungry throughout the day, it’s a good idea to buy some individually-packaged snacks for your dorm room. Do NOT fall victim to the vending machine. Although a dollar here and there doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s definitely cheaper to buy the items you want in bulk on Amazon or at the grocery store.
5. Share Clothes with Your Friends
Sharing clothes with friends is a great way to expand your wardrobe. Especially when it comes to special occasions such as formal or Halloween, no one wants to wear the same outfit twice.
Borrowing a dress or costume from a friend gives you the option to wear something new (that no one has seen you in) without have to go out and buy it. Make sure you return the favor as well!
6. Get a Reusable Water Bottle
Using a reusable water bottle is another easy way to save money in college. It can be really tempting to purchase individual water bottles when you get thirsty, but you can get water for FREE from a soda machine or water fountain. All you need is a water bottle to fill up.
If you like your water super cold, make sure to buy a bottle with a big enough neck to use an ice dispenser (aka not a s’well bottle). Hydro Flasks and Yeti water bottles are very common on college campuses, just be careful about getting one that’s too big or it won’t fit in your backpack.
For a similar option that won’t break the bank, check out this cute water bottle from Amazon.
7. Find Free Activities
You probably get a weekly newsletter from your school telling you all the events happening that week. It can be worthwhile to skim through it, as colleges offer some pretty cool activities and events for its students.
During my freshman year, Bryce Vine, Lauv, and Young the Giant all had small concerts on campus that were free to students.
Around the holidays there are lots of opportunities to participate in themed activities hosted by clubs or dorms. Some examples of this are pumpkin carving, cookie decorating, and gingerbread house making.
If you’re interested in learning more about career options, you can contact the career center to see what they have to offer. My school has alumni from basically every industry come and give talks to students. If you have any questions or are just wondering what steps to take to secure your career path, that is definitely worth checking out.
8. Eat in the Dining Hall (Or Don’t)
If you’re required to have a meal plan, use it to the full extent. Every time you get take-out instead of eating in the dining hall, you’re paying for two meals instead of one. Basically, you’re not eating food you already paid for through your meal plan.
If you’re not required to have a meal plan, double check to see what types of meal plans your school offers. If you know you’re not going to use all of your meals/points, you should consider downgrading your meal plan to fewer meals or getting rid of it altogether.
When deciding whether or not to purchase a certain meal plan, it’s helpful to compare the cost per meal to your alternative food options. You can calculate the cost per meal by dividing the total price of the meal plan by the number of meals. If your school has a point system, find the cost per point and multiply it by the typical amount of points you spend on a meal.
9. Plan Purchases Ahead
Don’t wait until the last minute to shop for Halloween costumes, game day outfits, spring break swimsuits, etc. Rush shipping is a pain and it is a completely avoidable expense!
If you know exactly when you’re going to need something by, there is no excuse not to plan ahead and make sure you get the best possible deal. If you find yourself struggling to do this, set reminders on your phone to tell you to buy things a couple weeks before you need them.
10. Avoid Buying Drinks
If you’re over 21, avoiding buying drinks at bars is a good way to save money in college. You’re not allowed to bring your own drinks in, so bars get away with severely overcharging its customers.
Depending on what you order, an average drink at a bar might cost $5. If you live in a big city, drinks can cost over $10 a piece. You can buy the ingredients to make the same drink at home for around $1.
Considering a typical college student goes out several nights a week and consumes multiple drinks each night, you can save a ton of money by making your own drinks. If you really enjoy sipping on a drink at a bar, try limiting yourself to one a night.