How College Students Can Save Money

by Guest Blogger on 2010-09-038

Affording student loan payments and college tuition can already be quite a challenge. This guest post by Bob Lotich, who writes for, shares some great ideas to cut costs for those of us facing education-related expenses.

When you’re balancing work, school, and your social life, it can be difficult to stay on top of your budget. Just when you sit down to crunch some numbers, another assignment pops into your head that you forgot to do, or a friend invites you over for popcorn and a movie. Whatever the case, saving money doesn’t have to be such an overwhelming chore if you put these 10 tips to good use. Once you get the hang of things, you’ll barely notice that you’re doing the finances! It’ll just be a part of everyday student living.

How College Students Can Save Money: 10 Money Saving Tips:

1. Monitor your monthly expenses.

Every month, you need to sit down and write down all expenses you might have during the month. For example, this may include:

  • Tuition
  • Room and board
  • School supplies (books, computer costs, etc)
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Insurance
  • Medical
  • Phone
  • Personal (Hair cuts, toiletries, etc)
  • Clothing
  • Gifts/charitable giving
  • Emergency fund contributions

Make sure that your expenses are less than your projected income for the month. If you have a variable income, it would be a good idea to project income equal to the worst financial month you’ve had in the past 6 months. Be conservative in your estimates, you don’t want to get half way through the month and realize you’re out of cash!

save on textbooksImage from Follett

2. Buy and borrow used textbooks.

Textbooks can be expensive — very expensive! When you’re spending hundreds of dollars on new textbooks every few months, that really adds up! It can be easy to walk into the bookstore and grab what you need, but with a little extra effort, you can save thousands of dollars over the course of your education.

Find any students who have previously taken the class you’re attending. Ask your teachers if you can use older editions of books, and borrow as many textbooks as possible. The investment of your time into finding bargain literature is well worth the effort. Maybe even consider renting textbooks with a site like You can also check out these Chegg coupon codes and helpful links.

3. Get a debit card that pays rewards

Many college students start themselves off to a terrible financial start by getting into credit card debt. You can avoid this and earn some great rewards by using a cash back debit card that will pay you for using it.

4. Dine at the cafeteria.

Fast food and eating out can really drain your bank account. Instead, try getting deals at the cafeteria! Many colleges will offer discount cards for low income students and bundle meal deals if you ask.

5. Seek student discounts around town.

Even though you’re on a strict budget, you have to still find time for fun! Going to the movies can be expensive — try asking for a student discount! Theaters and entertainment venues often provide a healthy discount for those dedicated to their education.

You can also find great discounts on insurance from your local agent. Occasionally, insurance companies will provide discounts with proof of high grades.

Everywhere you go, ask if there are any student discounts. You’ll find that you can save a great deal of money on computers, entertainment, insurance, food, and more!

6. Find flexible, high-income jobs.

To help pay your tuition, fees, and other miscellaneous costs, finding a great side job can be the difference between failure and success. It’s important to seek something that doesn’t have set hours — you choose when to work! School is your main focus. Organize side jobs that you can easily place on your calendar.

7. Ask for roommate accountability.

Sticking to your budget isn’t always a piece of cake. Sometimes, it can be more like pulling teeth. Few people are self-motivated, and most need some sort of accountability. If you have a roommate, explain to them the financial plan you’re on and ask them to check in on you every so often. Make sure this is something they are happy doing, and you’ll find more motivation to stay on track!

8. Stay busy, spend less!

One of the best ways to save money in college is to stay busy with your schoolwork! The more involved you are in activities that don’t require expense, it’ll be easier to save those dollars! Try joining clubs and sports that won’t break the bank.

9. Keep transportation simple and inexpensive.

To save big on transportation, live on campus. The less you have to travel the better, as vehicle maintenance, fuel, car insurance, and other costs can represent a large portion of your budget. If you have to travel, try a bicycle and only drive when absolutely necessary. Make use of the resources you have around you!

10. Actively seek career opportunities as you learn!

Just because you’re in school doesn’t mean you have to wait for graduation to start exploring career opportunities. Attend occupational fairs and seminars. Talk with business owners in the community. Network! Network! Network! The more groundwork you do in college, the better off you’ll be when you hit the streets with your resume.

Final Thoughts

It’s admirable that you’re attending college, but merely attending is not enough. By utilizing these top 10 tips, you’ll be well on your way to greater financial health and will have built a solid foundation you can stand on throughout the rest of your life. Your education needs to be a beneficial process. Don’t let mismanagement of your personal finances weigh down your opportunities. You can be successful. Dedicate yourself to lifelong learning and positive financial habits. You’ll be so glad you did.

Do you have any other money saving tips for college students?

Copyright © 2010 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

KP September 3, 2010 at 6:36 pm

This post provides some great tips for college students. Some other tips I’d add:
– Look into scholarships/grants to reduce your student loans
– Prioritize your needs over wants to live beneath your means
– Be a smart shopper. For example, if you’re living off campus check out my blog post 5 Ways to Save Money on Groceries for grocery shopping tips –

Miss September 5, 2010 at 7:23 am

I would also suggest that schools run a small training program on budgeting for college at least 6 months in advance to prepare students. The class should have role plays and actively encourage students to prepare and save in advance. I wish I had this before I went away!

mike September 5, 2010 at 7:34 am

The most important thing when starting College, avoid signing up for those credit card offer that you will receive! Trust me, you don’t need any more debt!

craig September 7, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Be careful with what you spend. College expenses can be cheap but they can also add up very quickly if you are not careful. With a low income (if any) be careful and make the most out of what you can, as well as get creative. It is college after all.

Sandra Kingston September 8, 2010 at 6:58 am

Hey, thank you for your tips. I would like to add one tip: bartering for example your textbooks. For quite some time I use to barter on and it saves me so much money. I bartered my furniture there and also some of my books.

TheCollegeHelper September 8, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Wow, these are some really great tips for college students. Here are some other suggestions:

1. Fill out the FAFSA Early! – The sooner you fill it out, the better your chances at receiving financial aid (i.e. grants and scholarships). January 1st is the first day that students can fill it out.
2. Avoid Private Loans – The interest rate on these loans are variable and can get up to 20% like credit cards!
3. Commute from home (if possible) – Living on campus can get expensive, so if you stay near campus…consider commuting from home for a year or two.

Jack Heskett September 9, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Very good points here to save money as a student, bearing in mind our blog mainly looks at money saving techniques for the UK. To the above points i would add that point 10 – Network, Network, Network!! – this is an invaluable technique as we have found out that the more contacts you have, the better field of price you get to choose from in some circumstances.

Finally in the UK we have a site called studentdiscounts, which offers a cash back scheme on purchases, so say you buy something worth 50 dollars and it offers a 10% cashback from a commission, then you get 5 dollars back. Not sure if you guys have anything like this, but it would be worth a look surely.


Beate June 2, 2012 at 8:56 am

The best thing I’ve done to make some extra cash in college is flipping items on sites like eBay and Craigslist, and “cleaning out my closet” and getting rid of things I don’t need anymore. I’ve recently gotten sucked into “online trading” (of merchandise, not stocks), and it is amazing how much money you can make by looking for good deals on sites like eBay and Craigslist, and then sell the item for more (maybe “upgrade it” a little bit first). For instance, you can get an iPhone with a broken screen for a fraction of the price on Craigslist, change the screen for $50-100 and sell it and still make money off it!

I’ve used this new tool called Statricks (, where you get price trends and fair market values for almost all used goods so you’ll know what the going price is for an item. I find this very useful and reassuring, as I’ll know I’m not overpaying or underselling my stuff.

I would recommend everybody to sign up for it and start flipping items!

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