Cheat Sheet: 30 Great Ways to Save Money in College

Peanut butter and jelly. Lock and key. College and cash-strapped.

Some things go together. But there’s no mandate to be dead broke while in school. With a little strategic thinking and a few life hacks, you can gain some valuable financial flexibility.

With this in mind, we offer 30 tips and tricks to stretch your dollar while you expand your mind.

Textbooks

  1. Rent your Textbooks

    Textbooks usually aren’t a long-term commitment. So given the opportunity, why buy when you can rent for cheaper?

  2. Buy Older Versions

    Textbooks also aren’t a fashion statement. So you might save big with a previous version.

    One important caveat: Be sure the newer version has not changed substantially from the previous one. Before you buy an older version, do your research online or even email your professor to ask.

  3. Sell your Textbooks at end of Semester

    You might be able to use a textbook as a reference in the future. But if not, why be sentimental? Pocket the cash by selling it once the course has completed.

Food

  1. Don’t Eat Out

    This one isn’t complex. Eating out costs money. The more you eat out, the less money you have.

    Your school may offer a reasonable meal plan. If not, you can save a ton of cash by shopping for your own groceries.

  2. Rotate Making Meals with Roommates

    If you have roommates, you may have differences, but there’s one thing in common: You all need to eat.

    If you cook for one, there’s usually leftovers. What’s more, cooking takes time. By planning together, you and your roommates can efficiently save money and stay fed.

  3. Be Coffee Cost Conscious

    Never, ever buy your java at a coffee shop. It’s too insanely expensive. You can easily make it yourself.

    On second thought, coffee at a shop is a brilliant idea… if you’re strategic! Got a ton of studying? Hit the coffee shop and buy a small cup of basic coffee. It should run you around $2. But if the refills are free, you’ll stay affordably caffeinated for hours.

  4. One Word: Ramen!

    Sodium intake concerns aside, there’s always the old-school option of saving. Ramen noodles are a cheap (if kinda bland) way of keeping your belly full.

Lodging

  1. Share Rent

    Another one for the ‘self-explanatory’ category. Single-person units tend to be more costly while sharing a space allows you to split the bill with your roommates.

  2. Become an RA

    Serving as a Resident Assistant is a time-honored way of saving on housing. Many schools offer free rent for RAs.

Entertainment/Lifestyle

  1. Cut the Cable Cord

    As you’re likely aware, cable TV is going the way of the dinosaur. Consider one of the streaming services that offer a lot of content at a fraction of the cost.

  2. Rent Movies from the Library

    Many college libraries have an enormous collection of movies. Take advantage of the free rentals!

  3. Don’t Buy Music

    Once iTunes was the new kid on the block. Now, not so much. Most streaming services allow you to sample music for free with minimal commercial interruptions.

  4. Seek out Campus Events

    Planning your own unique social calendar can be time-consuming and costly. Your school likely puts on events you can enjoy for absolutely free.

  5. Utilize the Campus Gym

    Your school almost certainly offers a gym and it’s probably included in your tuition. Unless you’re a world-class body builder, why pay twice?

  6. Skip Spring Break Trips

    Yes, it’s a tough pill to swallow. But spring break can turn you to spring broke. Considering volunteering over your break. It looks great on your resume.

  7. Cut out the Smoking and Binge Drinking

    Let’s be clear: we’re coming at this from a financial angle, not a moral one. And all morals aside, it’s hard to argue that these vices can add up quick. Just sayin’.

  8. Visit Home Often

    Making mom happy also has additional benefits. A trip home on the weekend means you’re not dropping cash on campus. Additionally, mom might even splurge on a grocery shopping spree, allowing you to stock up before the trip home.

Working

  1. Work On-Campus

    Jobs on campus are not only convenient but also tend to pay over minimum wage. If you’re a good employee you may also have the opportunity for a full-time position during the summer.

  2. Volunteer for Research

    By volunteering for tests or experiments, you can make some quick, easy cash. Your commitment may be as little as taking a brief survey.

  3. Work off Hours

    Consider a job where there’s not much work to do. For example, if you work the graveyard shift at a campus community lab, you’ll likely have plenty of free time to study.

    According to the Huffington Post: “If you can score a job that may allow for some down time and don’t mind working early mornings, nights or weekends, you may be able to get paid for just showing up.”

  4. Work Somewhere with Free Food

    If you work at a restaurant, you may be able to get free meals. Score!

Finances

  1. Pay your Bills On-time

    If you don’t pay your bills on time, the fees can rack up quickly. Also, if you have a credit card, make every effort to pay off the balance each month in order to avoid onerous interest charges.

  2. Avoid any Non-Education Loans

    Thinking of borrowing to buy a shiny new toy? If you have student loans, resist the urge. You’ll thank yourself after you graduate and start making student loan payments.

  3. Get a Credit Card

    According to Consumer Reports, getting a credit card in college can be an excellent way to build credit before you graduate. In the past decade, it’s become harder for adults under 21 to obtain a credit card.

    But maybe your parents will be willing to help. They could simply add you to their card or even co-sign for your own. While they will be able to keep tabs on your payments, consider it training wheels on the path to financial responsibility.

    The best place to start may be a local community bank like the Bank of Southside Virginia. Many banks offer credit cards, but with local roots, your community bank may take more time to help you build a valuable long-term relationship with a financial institution.

  4. Delay Purchases until the School Year Starts

    Shopping for new school supplies is a time-honored tradition. But it may be wiser to wait a few weeks into the new school year.

    According to US News and World Report: “Avoid stocking up on everything you think you’ll need at college before you leave. Bring only the necessities and, during your first few weeks, make a list of the items you really need. What seems important before you leave may not get put to use–and might not even fit in your dorm room.”

  5. Limit the Swag

    By all means, show allegiance to your college and any organizations you may join. But this does not necessitate buying every t-shirt and hat these organizations offer. Allegiance and moderation are not mutually exclusive.

  6. Befriend the Dollar Stores

    Is there any need to be picky when shopping for things like notebooks and paper towels? Hopefully, the question answers itself.

  7. Seek out Student Discounts

    Many shops and restaurants in college towns offer discounts when you show your student ID. Before you buy, check to see if you could save a few bucks.

  8. Capitalize on Move Out Season

    Buzzfeed recommends using “the end of the year move out to your advantage.” Many students plan poorly, leaving couches and mini-fridges by the dumpster. Keep your eye out and someone’s trash could be your treasure.

Our Single Most Important Piece of Advice

  1. Graduate On Time!

    According to the Huffington Post, fewer than 40% of college students graduate within fours years. Tuition will almost certainly be your most costly expense, so carefully plan your classes in order to graduate as early as possible.

    So there you have it. Knowledge is power. And you, my friend, are now powerful enough to bench press the load of cash you’ll save.

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