6 Ways to Save Money in College

We all have these preconceived notions of college being this wonderfully glamorous place that will translate into the best years of our lives. And while that may be true for some, the majority of us get a good whiff of reality when our dollars start dwindling.

The truth is, while college will probably be one of the most memorable times in your life, it is very expensive. It’s not just your tuition; you have to also consider other costs, like transportation, textbooks, food, computers, entertainment, etc.

The costs associated with being a college student, and/or sending your child off to college are rising exponentially. We have ideas of how to save money in college, but here are a few things you may not have thought of:

1. Transportation

Living on campus your first year? Ditch the car. Seriously, you don’t need it. If you live in the dorms, that will make your college experience that much more memorable and your first year fairly reasonable in terms of how much money you’ll save. You’ll save on gas, insurance, parking permits, etc.

Your campus will have plenty of resources that will not require a car to obtain. If you do need to leave campus for any reason, consider taking the bus, riding your bike, walking, or carpooling with your friends. There will be plenty of people who do have cars and plenty who don’t, so you’ll be in good company.

2. Textbooks

Textbooks are annoying, not just because they’re usually big and intimidating, and who came to college to read anyway, right? Well, they can also be really expensive.

If you buy new books, you may find yourself shelling out top dollar for just one class. Multiply that by five or six. This could throw a major wrench in your budget.

New books are shiny and pretty, but its literally what’s on the inside that counts. Try renting or buying used ones. If you buy used, from time to time you’ll find really helpful notes and highlighted goodies on the inside.

You can then turn around and sell your books online, and make sure you get top dollar for it.

3. Food

Food is obviously a basic necessity, but you can find ways to cut corners. If you’re living in the dorms, you’ll need to choose a meal plan. Going with the most expensive meal plan isn’t always a good idea, although you definitely have more options.

Typically you’ll have the option of 7, 14, or 21 meals a week. Before deciding, think about your eating habits. Are you likely to wake up for breakfast?

If you have a mini fridge in your room, you could always have some breakfast staples, like milk and cereal, bagels and cream cheese, etc. That would let you choose the 14 meal plans a week and have all of your food needs covered.

Some other things to consider: stop buying bottled water. Unless you live in a third world country, you’ll be fine with filtered/tap water. If you’re working out of a coffee shop, buy the cheapest coffee or tea you can get. Opt out of getting the luxury drinks, otherwise your coffee fixes won’t be sustainable.

Alcohol is expensive. College students spend an average of $5.5 billion on alcohol. We’re not condoning or condemning alcohol, just providing the facts!

4. Entertainment

You don’t always need to leave campus for study breaks or entertainment. You’ll probably find plenty of events to keep you entertained. Look up dates for movie screenings, dances, sporting events, student-run plays, etc.

Your campus might have a beautiful park you can have picnics in and spend time with friends at. If you research it a little, you’ll probably find that leaving campus is more trouble than it’s worth most of the time, especially with all the amenities available.

5. Computers/Phones

Obviously you need a phone and computer in college. Take a good look at the various plans available with your cell phone company and choose the one that is reasonable for your needs.

Keep in mind that it might be a little limiting, but take advantage of all the social media sites that are available to connect with your friends and family.

When you’re buying your laptop/computer, take advantage of student discounts. Apple offers incentives for college students. Additionally, consider the programs or applications you really need to pay for. If you’re primarily using the machine to write papers and do online research, opt out of the high tech software programs.

6. Get a Job

Perhaps waiting a quarter or semester is a good call before getting your first job in college. Something that brings in a little bit of spending money and is on campus might be your best bet.

Take a look around and see what you’d enjoy doing. Special note here, however. Consider the fact that if you take on too much, you might get overwhelmed, so start slow and dial it back when you feel that it’s getting in the way of your school work.

After all, you are there primarily for one reason: a college degree.

Other than all that, good luck! And if you have a sparkling tip we forgot to mention, let us know on Facebook!


  1. […] to eat. Unless you want to live on Ramen and oatmeal every day of the week, consider these simple ways to increase that cash flow in order to splurge on a luxurious bagel and cream cheese once in a […]