How to Save Money as a College Student

10 tips for saving money in college

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Trying to figure out how to pay for college? Already in college and need to cut costs? You’ve come to the right place.  Attending college is becoming increasingly expensive and difficult to afford for many students.  The costs of tuition, fees, housing, books, and other living expenses add up quickly and many students are forced to take out student loans to pay for school.  Fortunately, there are many ways to decrease your expenses and avoid going into debt. Nobody wants the financial burden of student loans, so here is a list of 10 ways to save money during your pursuit of a college education.

     1.  Find scholarships

While this one may seem like common sense, many students do not realize how many scholarship opportunities are available for them.  Start your search early, preferably while still in high school, and research your particular college.  Most of the time, there are merit scholarships that students can automatically receive for meeting specific academic qualifications.  In addition to the guaranteed academic scholarships, there are tons of external scholarships that only require an essay or quick application (check the websites below).  Don’t think it is too late to find a scholarship because you are no longer a freshman; it is never too late to find scholarships.  Many scholarships are available for returning undergraduate students and graduate students.  Here are a couple websites to aid in your search for scholarships.



  2.  Earn previous credits

A great way to lower your overall cost of attendance is by taking courses and exams (AP classes for example) in high school that will count towards your college credit hours.  Many students try to graduate early or expedite the process by gaining college credits before they ever even apply for a school.  Each class costs money, so knocking credits out early can save you lots of tuition money.  Also, spending less time in school means less living expenses.  This takes a lot of work; however, it is worth it to start chipping away at your credit hours.  Keep in mind that many colleges often require certain grades or exam scores for you to receive any credit.

    3.  Don’t buy your textbooks new

Brand new textbooks can be super expensive and most are available online, either used or for rent.  Sometimes, even older editions will suffice as they cover the same material with only minor edits and changes.  It is important to note, however, that some professors require a specific edition or an online access code that may not come with the online purchase.  Websites like Amazon and eBay are excellent places to search for cheaper textbook options.  The university bookstore at each college is probably going to sell and rent textbooks for the highest prices due to convenience; however, it is still worth checking out for comparison.  Selling your old textbooks after finishing a class can contribute to your savings as well, unless you have some strong, sentimental reason to keep it (doubtful).

4.  Get a job

Although it can be difficult to balance working a job and being a full-time college student, having the extra money is worth it.  Even if you only work a couple of hours a week, the profits will add up quickly.  Many colleges offer on-campus jobs that will work around your school schedule and a lot of companies offer part-time jobs that will do the same.  Also, working during the summer and other holiday breaks can be a great way to save up for the coming semesters.

5.  Find ways to have fun for free

While it may be tempting to go out every weekend and spend all your money shopping, drinking Starbucks, and hanging out with friends, there are free ways to have fun and be social.  For example, you can take advantage of the on-campus events and opportunities.  Whether it’s sporting events or just fun activities, most students will get in for free.  A lot of schools offer recreational activities as well, like basketball courts, gyms, or swimming pools.  Campus activities are also a great way to meet your college peers and get involved on campus.  It will make for a better college experience and allow you to save your money in this process.

6.  Eat at home 

It is okay to eat out on occasion, but eating at home will definitely keep a lot of money in your pocket.  Some students opt for a meal plan, especially during their first year, but cooking at home is still the cheapest route.  Using a meal plan or eating out may seem more convenient and easy to manage given the busy schedule, but making the effort to buy groceries and cook at home will ultimately prove cheaper.  Finding coupons and choosing cheaper brands can also aid in this process.

   7.  Pay using cash

Credit cards and debit cards have made the process of making purchases as easy as swiping a card, but it is often harder to visualize the money actually leaving your possession.  It is easy to say “Oh, it’s just $5.00,” but the purchases will add up fast (especially when you don’t physically feel the money leaving your wallet). When using cash, it is easier to track how much money you have spent and how much you have left as you notice the dwindling amount of bills in your wallet.  If you are absolutely set on using debit or credit cards, be sure to check your bank accounts frequently and keep up with your bank statements.

 8.  Keep a budget

Whether its groceries, bills, or tuition, there is always something to budget for as a college student.  At the beginning of each semester, month, week (as frequently as you can really), sit down and figure out how much money you need to spend for each aspect of your life, even if it’s just a rough estimate.  After figuring out how much is left, you will be able to decide how much you have to spend or save for the upcoming semesters.

 9.  Pay your bills on time

Don’t forget to keep up with your bills and make sure that everything is paid on time.  First year college students, in particular, can be overwhelmed by all the new responsibilities of living on their own, and are prone to forgetting a payment here and there.  Unfortunately, it can happen to the best of us.  Anyone who has experienced late payments and additional charges can attest to the fact that they are not fun and usually avoidable.

10.  Use public transportation (if available)

Although it is not always the most pleasant experience, taking the bus can save you a ton of gas money.  Many colleges offer public transportation that is free for students, so find the nearest bus route and use it whenever possible.  Some students choose not to use a car at all, which is a great option if possible. Another alternative is riding a bike or simply walking, though the latter may be difficult if your campus is really big.


Trying to save for college? Already graduated? We would would love to hear about your experiences and the ways you saved for college.

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