College is a fascinating time in life. You’ve left behind the dependence of your youth, but haven’t yet fully stretched your wings into adulthood. If you’re living away from home during your college years, chances are you’re on a tight budget. Many students get part-time or full-time jobs in addition to their schooling. If that isn’t an option for you (and your parents are not Hiltons or Vanderbilts) you are probably trying to figure out how to save money in college. If you’re going back to school this fall, make sure you save these tips for reference!
Short of living off ketchup packets from the cafeteria, what can college students do to save money? Plenty! With a little creativity, you can stretch your dollars and figure out how to save money in college. These tips will help you live great on a small amount of money while away at school.
How to save money in college:
- Cancel your meal plan. If your school doesn’t require it, cancel it completely. They are usually over priced, especially if you’re not living on campus. Consider lowering it to one meal a day and purchasing your own food to prepare in your dorm or apartment. On the off chance that your meal plan ISN’T overpriced, use it religiously.
- Use coupons. You think its not cool? Remember that when you can’t go out with your friends because you’re broke! Coupons can be a life saver in college. Learn how to coupon correctly.
- Buy or rent your textbooks wisely. There are lots of places you can find cheap textbooks. Make sure you’re getting the best deal for your money.
- Ask for student discounts. LOTS of places give discounts to students. Ask everywhere you go and always carry your student ID for proof.
- Get Amazon Prime. They offer a cheaper rate for college students with their Amazon Prime Student Membership, and there’s always great deals on everything from pantry items to textbooks with free 2-day Prime shipping! You can also use your discounted Prime membership to get free Kindle downloads and watch free Prime Videos, which brings me to my next tip…
- Ditch cable. When you need a break from studying, opt for Netflix or Amazon Prime Video instead. Cable is a luxury most college students simply cannot afford. Look for Redbox coupon codes. They come out often and offer free rentals!
- Carry your own water bottle. Buying bottled water or soda adds up quickly. Invest in a vacuum sealed, insulated water bottle that will keep your drink cold for up to 24 hours!
- Minimize your student loans. Do not use student loans to buy a new computer, pay for your room and board or funding your spring break trip. Tempting, but being saddled with loans for the rest of your life is NOT WORTH IT. Ask me how I know. $90,000 in student loans is how I know. Seriously, just don’t. How to save money in college? Don’t take on debt!
- Look for ways to get free credit. If you’re still in high school, look into taking classes during your junior or senior year of high school for college credit. I got to take two semesters of college classes while in high school and my books AND tuition were free. Other options include testing out of required classes and making sure you are CERTAIN about your major before you start taking classes that are not general education.
- Become a Resident Assistant. See if your school offers free or reduced room and board for RA’s. It’s great experience, looks good on your resume for your first job after graduation, and it could save you lots of money!
- Scour the internet for scholarships. Scholarships are not just for the “super smart kids”. Lots of organizations and groups offer scholarships to members and relatives of members. You can get scholarships based on your ethnicity, religion, extra-curricular activities, hobbies, and more. Spend as much time as you can looking for even small obscure ones. Every little bit helps!
- Switch-a-roo. Look around for better deals on things like pharmacies and banks. If your bank charges fees, look for ones that offer a free checking account. If your pharmacy charges a lot for your allergy meds, shop around and find a cheaper pharmacy. Just because you’ve “always” had an account somewhere doesn’t mean you’re stuck. Look around for a better deal, and when you find one, go back to your original bank or pharmacy and tell them you found a better deal and ask if they can beat it. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at their answer! Also see about a bank account specifically for students.
- Party at home. If you’re of legal drinking age, consider drinking at home instead of out at bars or restaurants. Markup on drinks at your local bar and grill can be upwards of 400%!
- Share your ride. If you have a car, offer to let your friends ride with you if they help split gas. If you don’t have a car, paying a buddy a couple bucks for a ride is cheaper than a cab or Uber.
- Use on-campus resources. Does your college have a gym? A nurse? A free peer tutoring service? Free printing in the library? Use them! All the resources are free because you’re already paying for them by paying tuition so make the most of them. Look for signs and fliers for any freebies you can possibly grab like flu shots, supplies, food, activities, concerts or counseling.
- Pop some tags. Don’t feel weird about shopping thrift stores or Goodwill. It’s actually rather trendy now to rock the second-hand look plus if you shop the right stores (hint: look in upscale neighborhoods) you can often find designer clothing on the cheap!
- Be mindful of your landlord. If you live off campus, be sure to pay rent on time and don’t make a mess of the place so you get your security deposit back. Also be leery of landlords in college neighborhoods that prey on college students and try to extort money from you for damages you didn’t do or fees that weren’t part of the lease agreement.
- Get a library card. In addition to the one for your school, get a public library card. You can often rent DVDs and CDs there for free or cheap in addition to the usual books and magazines.
- Pack a snack. If you’re living off campus and classes have you ON campus all day, bring snacks and that bottle of water we talked about. It will save you from buying overpriced (and often unhealthy) vending machine and snack bar foods.
- You can go home again. If all else fails remember living with mom and dad might suck, but it IS free. Don’t rule out this opportunity unless you have good reason to (hint: because its “uncool”is not a good reason). Often you can save a LOT of money by living at home and commuting (or telecommuting) to class. By not paying rent for four years you could save up a lot of money and start out your adult life free of debt while your less savvy friends are saddled with debt and bad spending habits. Who is uncool now?
With these tips, you can save a ton of money as a college student. Parents, you can share these tips with your student and teens should share these with their friends. By working together, you can figure out how to save money in college the next four years.
Don’t forget to tell your friends how to save money in college!
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