Last year, I was able to graduate college early and debt free! College is expensive, and while it might seem impossible to save money while you’re in college, it can be done! These are 50 ways that you can use to save money in college. It may take some discipline, but little habits reap big rewards! Best of luck!
50 Ways to Save Money In College (from a college student)
During college, I was able to graduate early and debt free. Along with working hard for scholarships, I made the most of the money I was making and didn’t spend my money frivolously.
No, it’s not always fun. Yes, it requires sacrifice.
But you do not have to accept the status quo that you HAVE to graduate with a mountain of debt. Graduating debt-free or with low debt is 100% possible.
BE MONEY SMART
1. Learn how to budget
Budgeting is one of the most important life skills you can have in college. It also does not have to be time-consuming. Take an hour and tally up how much you make a month, and how much you spend a month. (I have an app where I track of everything I save and spend. It is a fantastic and accurate way to look at what you spend, since a dozen trips to Starbucks can add up!)
Then, limit yourself to a certain amount to spend each month in each category. For example, perhaps you only want to spend $50 a month on eating out. Have the self-discipline to stick to your budget and if not, leave your money at home.
Creating a budget allows you to eat out, buy clothes, or have “fun money” responsibly and guilt free since you’re controlling your money.
It’s not what you make it’s what you do with what you make.
2. Use a credit card to build credit. Treat it like a debit card.
When used responsibly, credit cards can have great rewards! I have a Discover credit card which I love and I treat it like a debit card. For students, they give great bonuses and have great cash back program making it great for new credit card holders. I can set it on automatic payments and never have to worry about it.
3. Have an emergency fund
Dave Ramsey recommends having $1,000 in savings that you save for emergencies. (no, late night pizza isn’t an emergency.)
4. Have a no-spend weekend (or week!)
Discipline yourself to have one no-spend weekend a month. No eating out, no shopping!
5. Print your papers and course material on campus
Many colleges offer free printing or discounted printing services for students!
6. Consider an internship for college credit
Many colleges offer internship opportunities through the college where you can earn college credit! If your major requires an internship anyway, why not earn some college credit?
7. Plan out the classes that you need to take so you don’t end up staying longer than you need to
8. Don’t buy fiction or nonfiction reading books for your classes
If a class requires you to read a non-textbook book for the class, consider checking it out from the campus library or local library instead of buying the book. Most libraries will allow you to have a free card if you are a student. Or if it’s only needed for a few paragraphs, just use the book in the library.
9. Consider ditching your car and taking campus transportation to get around
10. Become a Resident Advisor
If you’re already a social butterfly, consider becoming a resident advisor. They have their room and board for free and sometimes even their meal plans!
11. Apply for scholarships
There are thousands of scholarships available! Check the following:
- Your college website
- Your place of employment
- Organizations you belong to (4H, Girl Scouts, etc.)
12. Take courses at your local community college
I took courses at community college and for a semester while taking my full, normal course-load. I was able to take 3 summer courses at community college for slightly more than the price of one summer course at my normal college!
13. Take the maximum number of credits allowed
If you pay the same for 12-18 credit hours, why not take the maximum number of courses allowed?
14. Take courses in the summer
15. Test out of courses
Some colleges allow you to take CLEP tests to pass out of classes. (if your college doesn’t accept CLEP, consider transferring to a college that does.) A CLEP test is under $100 and saved me a semester’s worth of lectures on a topic I already knew about and thousands of dollars. I also found some internet groups with people who treat CLEP tests like sport. Some are easier than others, and if you’re already knowledgeable in a category, a few practice tests may be all you need to pass.
16. Graduate early
Even graduating one semester early can bring great savings! Here’s how I graduated a year and a half early.
17. Pass your classes!
This one may seem obvious, but if you’re going to pay for a class, put in the work to attend it and pass.
18. Buy your textbooks used
My college had a Facebook group where people could buy and sell their old textbooks! This, Amazon, or eBay can save you hundreds! Especially in my later semesters, I stopped buying textbooks if I could manage. It’s not possible for every class, but if the textbook is not the main focus of the class, you may be able to just borrow when needed.
19. Resell your old textbooks
This will help lower the overall cost of your textbooks.
20. If you need to take out student loans, use subsidized loans and start paying them back while you are still in school
When in college, putting aside $10-20 each week for loans doesn’t seem like much but ADDS UP. The real killer of student loans is not necessarily the loans, but the interest. Subsidized loans don’t start accruing interest until 6 months after graduation. If possible, make the most out of those six months!
21. Choose your dorm wisely
Opt for cheaper dorm options if possible.
22. Take advantage of all the activities your school has to offer for free entertainment
23. Attend free events around your community
24. Skip the movie theatre and wait for movies to come to Redbox
25. Skip the expensive spring and summer break trips
Opt for more budget-friendly options or sacrifice temporarily until after college.
26. Break up with your cable bill, or even streaming services
I am 100% against pirating movies since it’s illegal and hurts companies. Still, there are so many legal ways to watch movies for free or cheap such as Netflix, Hulu, the library and Redbox.
27. Take advantage of your college’s gym for a free gym membership
28. Limit expensive entertainment to once a month
29. Take advantage of Black Friday deals for electronics
Don’t make a purchase from Apple without getting a student discount!
Volunteering is a great way to gain experience, keep busy without spending money, and sometimes free food is involved!
FOOD AND EATING OUT
31. Use your meal plan
So many students went out to eat several times a week, with unused meal swipes going to waste every week. I figured out a meal swipe for the 14 meals a week plan came down to $7/swipe, so 7 unused swipes at the end of the week comes down to $50, which adds up quickly. I got so tired of the bland dining hall food (we only had two options on campus) but ate it anyway and almost never went out to eat. I also fought quite hard for a smaller, unlisted meal plan.
32. Pack your lunch
33. Buy generic when shopping for groceries
34. Do some casual couponing to help you save at any store!
35. Limit your eating out
36. Instead of always going out to eat with friends, consider making tasty dishes together at home!
37. Splurge on a good coffee maker
If you love a good cup of espresso, you will end up saving more money by buying your own fancy coffee maker than what you would have spent on all those cups of coffee at Starbucks.
38. Learn how to cook basic meals. (use spices for more variety)
My favorite super easy meals:
- Fehttuchini alfredo with chicken
- Egg sandwich
- Chicken salad
- Chicken fried rice
39. Use reusable napkins, reusable straws, reusable paper towels, and/or sandwich bags.
Find cute cloth alternatives on Etsy. They are eco-friendly AND save you money!
40. Use a water bottle
Better for the environment, cheaper for you!
41. Work while in college
I worked full-time in college while taking 17-24 credit hours. I know several students who juggled a job, a sport, and school. Just working 10 hours a week can bring in some extra income.
43. Work on odd jobs if the opportunities come up
Sometimes, miscellaneous babysitting gigs or other good-paying opportunities come up. Take advantage of them!
44. Sell old things online
45. Love to shop? Buy and resell!
I’ll frequently buy something (designer purses) used at a great price, use them a couple times, and later resell them, either washing out or making a small profit.
46. Buy quality
This may sound counter-productive, but buying the quality, more expensive item that will last can be better than buying several low-quality items that will break after a few uses.
47. Take advantage of what your college offers
From counseling to tutoring, you’re probably already paying for it, so make the most of the services your college offers.
48. Ask for student discounts.
Hey, you never know until you ask!
49. Take advantage of Amazon Student and other student memberships
50. Buy used and secondhand
The app Poshmark is one of my favorite ways to buy used. (You can also find several new with tags items too!) I’ve bought several nice clothes and designer purses for a fraction of the cost! Use my code lifeincolor16 for $10 off your first purchase.
51. Start a change jar
It adds up!