Top 10 Tricks for Saving Money in College

Jon Fesmire |

Are you just heading off to college, or are you a couple of years in and realizing you need to be more careful with your money?

Whatever your major, just having a college degree makes you more employable and helps in landing well-paying jobs, but during those four or so years, money can be tight. Here are our tips for saving money in college.

Keep a Monthly Budget

This is a skill that will help you in college and throughout your life after. By keeping a budget, you can prioritize your bills, food, and what’s important to you. You won’t have to guess how much you have to spend on anything in particular since you’ll figure it out upfront. Are you an artist? Then you can prioritize needed art supplies over going to the movies every week. A budget allows you to keep your expenses balanced and maybe even save a little money.

Save Money on Textbooks

If you don’t realize how expensive new textbooks are, it can be a real shock. You may feel like your entire semester’s budget is about to get blown when you’re in the campus bookstore looking over those massive tomes for each of your classes.

Fortunately, the bookstore will often have those same textbooks from the last semester. Used textbooks cost significantly less. Other ways to get your textbooks for cheaper than new is by renting them through Amazon or Barnes & Noble’s textbook service or ordering digital textbooks.

Apply for Scholarships

Look at the big picture. The more money you have coming in, the less you’ll feel stressed about your finances. Though applying for scholarships is work, when you get one, that’s money you don’t have to pay back. Talk to your counselor about scholarships and where to find them. You can bring in a few hundred or thousand extra dollars for school.

Purchase a Coffee Maker

Many of us started drinking coffee in college. It’s part of the culture, and it also helps you perk up in the morning before class. It’s so popular that cafes, from those on campus to those in town, charge around $2.00 for regular coffee and $4.00 or more for espresso drinks.

If you buy one cup of $2.00 coffee every morning, that adds up to $60.00 a month. Make your coffee at home instead and it will cost you a few cents a day. Talk about a big difference! That could be the difference between $2.00 a day at the cafe and $2.00 a month at home.

Eat at the College Dining Hall

Do you live in a dorm? With that, you likely have the school meal plan. Food can cost a lot, and if you’ve already paid for school meals, then eat at the dining hall. Learn when they’re serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and schedule your day around that. You’ll save a lot of money, and dining hall meals tend to be good and healthy.

Keep Snacks in Your Room

Late-night food runs or orders can quickly deplete your budget. Ordering from a top-notch local pizza restaurant may be tempting when you’re studying at midnight, but when pizzas are $15 to $30 each, that quickly adds up. Instead, you and your roommate should have a mini-fridge and a cupboard where you can stock enough snacks for when you get the munchies. Keep a toaster next to that coffee maker and you can have bagels in the morning when you’re in a rush. Keep a bag of trail mix and you have a healthy, sweet and salty snack for when you feel peckish.

Use Campus Services

There are a variety of services offered on most college campuses for full-time students. These include campus gyms, where you can work out. Seriously, if your school has this, don’t pay for a gym membership. It’s covered in your tuition. Another includes full medical services, including psychiatric and dental services. Get your checkups, see a therapist when you need someone to talk to, and get your teeth cleaned on campus as part of your tuition!

Visit the Library

Looking for a new read? Before you purchase a new book, or even a new ebook, see what the library has available. These days, you don’t even have to go into a library necessarily, though it is fun to do so. You can see what’s available online and either reserve a print book or check out a digital book.

Look for Student Discounts

Sure you have your state-issued ID, but while you’re in school, your student ID card is just as important. Keep it in your purse or wallet at all times because it can save you money. Around town, there are probably a lot of businesses who offer student discounts on goods, services, and entertainment.

In addition, there are probably free events on campus, from theatrical performances to sports events. Look for those, too. These events are often a great way to meet other students and save money.

Rent a Storage Unit

This may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t renting a storage unit adding a new expense? It is, and as long as you can, keep the number of things you need low so that you can remain comfortable in a dorm room or a shared apartment. However, after a few years in college, you may begin to accrue things you plan to use after you graduate. Instead of renting a larger room, you can save money by renting a storage unit.

Self storage rents for less per square foot than residential space. That’s how it can save you money, if you need it. You can expand your space by 25 square feet with a 5x5 unit, or 50 square feet with a 5x10 unit while paying less in rent than if you rented a larger room. If you’re looking for a storage unit near you, check our listings, which cover the U.S. and Canada.