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50 Smart and Easy Ways to Save Money in College

January 28th, 2008 admin


Finding college a little more expensive than you expected? Check out these tips to help you save cash during the college years—I’ve used a lot of them myself (and now that I’m paying of student loans, I’m finding even more!)

School & Textbooks
1. Try to get a tuition discount. (Fox College Funding’s founder, Deborah Fox, talks about how to do that on her Pay for College blog—look there for other good college & money saving info).

2. Check if your job has tuition assistance or education reimbursement program—if it does, use it!

3. Check to see if your 4-year college will give you credit to take lower division classes at a community college. They cost less to take, and should be basically the same classes.

4. DON’T buy textbooks from the campus bookstore! They are almost ALWAYS overpriced.

5. Buy your text books used ( compares prices on a lot of sites for you), or to save even more, ask your professor if you can use an older edition—those are usually MUCH cheaper.

6. Sell your textbooks at the end of the quarter/semester. You’ll probably get more selling them online than you would selling them back to the school.

7. Apply for scholarships–and increase your odds by applying to quirky scholarships that apply to you, or to local ones. They have a smaller applicant pool, so they’re easier to win!

8. Use meal points or other college meal credits that are built into your fees to their fullest (you probably won’t get a refund at the end of the year).

9. Buy store brand groceries for things that taste the same. For example, store brand cereals sometimes don’t taste as good, but I haven’t noticed a difference in canned goods, pastas, and salad dressing.

10. Buy bulk packages of the things you use the most—toilet paper, shampoo, soap, etc.

11. Don’t use paper plates and plastic utensils if you have to buy them, just wash some dishes instead. Little luxuries like disposable utensils add up.

12. When you go shopping, make a list of all the meals you are going to eat for the next week first. Buy ONLY what you need to make those meals.

13. Don’t shop hungry, and don’t give in to the impulse buys at the checkout stand.

14. Buy groceries that are on sale, but DON’T buy things you don’t need just because they’re on sale.

15. Learn how to eat well (as in real food, not ramen noodles) cheaply. Check out these $3 recipes from Cheap Eats for starters.

16. Buy local produce at a produce store or farmers market. It is fresher AND cheaper. In San Diego we have a store called Henry’s–you can also try to find cheaper fruit & etc. at stores like Trader Joe’s.

Transportation & Travel
17. Gas is expensive. Take the bus (a lot of colleges offer free shuttles or bus passes—check with your school’s transportation department).

18. Carpool and split the cost of gas. This is especially good if you’re taking a long road trip.

19. If you still need to buy gas, check to find cheap rates in your area.

20. Use student discounts when you travel. Check with the bus, train, or airline you are using, or use a student travel site like

21. Share a room. It’s tempting to pay the extra for your own room, but unless you REALLY need it, you may as well share. It’s good practice at getting along with someone, and it costs less.

22. Fight yearly rental increases if you live off campus! Landlords and apartment complexes will usually lower your rent increase if you just ask. Tell them you want to stay in the complex, but you can’t afford so much of an increase—they will usually compromise with you.

Utilities & Phone
23. Reduce your electricity bills: turn off your computer when you’re not using it, turn off lights when you leave the room, unplug appliances you aren’t using.

24. Track your cell minutes diligently so you don’t get charged extra. Better yet, cut down your cell minutes use and get a cheaper plan. Cut down on the frills (like texting or video messaging) that you don’t need, or see if you can get them for free.

25. Calling information? Don’t pay a fee! Call for free information at Google’s (800) GOOG-411, or another free service, (800) FREE-411.

26. Use free internet phone software like Skype to make free computer-to-computer phone calls (it will help cut down your phone bill!)

27. Use the internet at school, and skip getting it at home. Doing that saved me about $30/month.

28. If you’re buying software, hardware, or computers, check out Fry’s Electronics ( They often have rebate deals that allow you to get software for free.

29. Use to find coupon codes for thousands of websites—That College Kid used it to save $70 on her textbooks.

30. Refashion old clothes (or thrifted clothes) into something you love. Check out Wardrobe Refashion and T-Shirt Surgery for inspiration, and get free patterns at Burda Style.

31. Make your own gifts. Check out these DIY gift roundups: for girls, for guys, for kids, & for teens/twenty-somethings. I made a gift for my brother this year that he LOVED, and it cost less than $5 (you can find it in “gifts for guys”–its the Monster iPod Cozy).

32. Buy the floor model for expensive items (but make sure it has a warranty). I got a floor model mattress for a few hundred dollars cheaper.

33. Bargain anywhere you can! It never hurts to ask for a lower price. I’ve gotten discounts on mattress box springs, a motor scooter, and my car just by talking the salesman down!

34. If you have a credit card, use it like a debit card—never spend more than you actually have in the bank.

Credit, Fees & Bills
35. Understand what your credit score is, and keep it healthy! It will help you save money later when you’re looking for low interest rates on car or home loans.

36. Pay your bills on time, always. Late fees for most credit cards START at $20—they could be more.

37. Ask to have yearly or monthly fees waived from credit cards or bank accounts. The worst case scenario is that you get a “No,” the best is that you save those fees!

Food & Entertainment
38. Check for student discounts at museums, zoos, restaurants, and movie theaters. They may not be listed. The San Diego zoo had a deal that allowed me to get a year pass for just a little more than the price of one regular admission, but I had to ask for it—the deal wasn’t listed.

39. Don’t eat out. It adds up quickly, and if you’re not getting fast food, you have to add a tip.

40. Use the gym at school, or exercise for free at parks or beaches.

41. Make your own coffee, or at least skip the $3 lattes.

42. Find free, legal music downloads instead of paying $1 per song. has free downloads for students, and Librivox has free audiobooks.

43. Borrow books and movies from the library instead of buying them or paying a rental fee. Return them on time.

44. Buy discount movie tickets at Costco. They have discounted tickets for chains like Edwards and AMC.

45. Go to matinees, and take advantage of your local theater’s cheaper days—our AMC shows movies for less than half price if you go before 11 on a weekend morning.

46. Try to find a local discount movie theater. We have one on campus! The movies are a little older (almost ready for release on DVD), but still fun to watch on a big screen.

47. Avoid buying snacks at the movie theater; they always overcharge you. If you really want something to munch, pick up some goodies at a grocery store beforehand.

48. Sign up for freebies with your favorite restaurants. Two of my favorites–Pat & Oscar’s and Quizno’s–send out coupons via email, and you can get a FREE “Love It” (medium) size ice cream at Coldstone if you join their birthday club. Mmm!

49. Ask for a lower rate on hotel rooms and rental cars. Since they are travel industries, they are more likely to give you some kind of discount. Be polite, not pushy.

50. Look for freebies in your local paper or school paper: Some museums are free on certain weekdays, some bands play with no cover charge, and your college will probably have some free events for students. UCSD has at least two free concerts with big name artists every year.

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Photo: Piggy Bank 1 by Lynne Lancaster

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21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Student Travel Worldwide &hellip  |  January 28th, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    […] Original post by Jamie […]

  • 2. That College Kid: Tips on&hellip  |  January 31st, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    […] College Life has created a list of 50 Ways to Save Money in College. The list is broken down into eight categories that basically covers everything. Here are what I […]

  • 3. Link Friday - 02/15/08 | &hellip  |  February 15th, 2008 at 2:11 am

    […] 50 Smart and Easy Ways to Save Money in College  Some great advice on how to save cash while in school. var addthis_pub = ‘studenthacks’; […]

  • 4. Pay for College Blog - Ti&hellip  |  February 15th, 2008 at 10:18 am

    […] Third, teach your student how to be frugal (but healthy!) Help your child figure out how to eat cheap but healthy meals, use coupons, discount shopping websites, various tips you use to save money, or send them over to our student blog for money saving tips like this great article, 50 Ways to Save Money in College. […]

  • 5. Pay for College Blog &raq&hellip  |  February 15th, 2008 at 10:19 am

    […] Third, teach your student how to be frugal (but healthy!) Help your child figure out how to eat cheap but healthy meals, use coupons, discount shopping websites, various tips you use to save money, or send them over to our student blog for money saving tips like this great article, 50 Ways to Save Money in College. […]

  • 6. Gary Webber  |  February 27th, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    This is a good list. I strongly encourage students to look into assistant teaching positions – not only are you usually paid to be a TA, but you also get the advantage of another class (and considering how much money you’re spending on your education, an extra class is a good thing – get the most of your money and learn as much as you can).

    Also, make sure you really need that book for class. Several times I bought a book I never looked at all semester.

    I wish I was a student again. There are so many discounts. Make sure you look for all the special student deals and vouchers.

    -Gary Webber

  • 7. meaghan  |  March 6th, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    I love this list! I think it is so clever! I started making do it yourself gifts after I read your suggestions! I hope you don’t mind I linked to your post on my blog

  • 8. Surviving College Life &r&hellip  |  April 10th, 2008 at 8:47 am

    […] you either need to increase your income (by getting a job, for example), decrease your expenses (check out these 50 ways to save $$ in college), or […]

  • 9. Surviving College Life &r&hellip  |  April 11th, 2008 at 10:08 am

    […] 50 Smart and Easy Ways to Save Money in College How to Get Free Food in College […]

  • 10. Bruce from New Zealand investment property  |  June 24th, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Brilliant article! I think (in relation to point #3) that if every student learned to simply eat cheaply and healthily, student debt would be largely wiped out and the future health of the nation (particularly where obesity-related diseases are concerned) would be vastly improved.

    *Sigh* “if only every student really WOULD learn to eat healthily, huh?

  • 11. 50+ Tips, Ideas, Resource&hellip  |  July 31st, 2008 at 4:02 am

    […] 50 Smart and Easy Ways to Save Money in College at Surviving College Life […]

  • 12. Surviving College Life &r&hellip  |  August 13th, 2008 at 9:17 am

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  • 13. Christina  |  August 18th, 2008 at 11:28 am

    I definitely agree with checking if you really need that book for the class. I actually don’t purchase books until about a week or two in, and see how much I really need the book. Usually for non-core classes for general education courses, you don’t really need the book.

    Also, if the teacher has great lectures, all you need to do is pay attention, and you won’t need the book to study. I got a B+ in my graphic technology course and saved $200 by listening to his lectures and not buying the books!

  • 14. Mike  |  November 6th, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I can’t emphasize enough how far away you should stay from the people handing out credit card applications. If you want the card for building credit, get it and then send it to your parents to keep.

  • 15. Saket Jain  |  March 17th, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Just ask your seniors/sophomores for their books…ask almost everyone and one of them will most probably give it for free or cheap…also it allows you to ask them for the books later on too!!

  • 16. Living on a Low Budget &l&hellip  |  March 31st, 2009 at 9:30 am

    […] 50 Smart and Easy Ways to Save Money in College […]

  • 17. Young Pupil  |  July 21st, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Don’t forget about searching for deals on textbooks. I use an online search engine to find cheap textbooks online. It searches pretty much every online textbook dealer and gives you all the prices to do a side-by-side comparison.

  • 18. John  |  August 3rd, 2010 at 1:12 am

    Wow, thanks for all the money saving tips guys, very useful article, should save a fortune if I follow all this advice. John

  • 19. Lisa  |  August 18th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I just found about renting textbooks. I went to

    I was able to save about $120 from the used prices at my campus bookstore. Shipping is free both ways and you are allowed to highlight/write in textbooks. Seems like a good deal to me!

  • 20. +70 Useful Resources For &hellip  |  September 8th, 2010 at 5:15 pm

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    […] is an article called “50 Smart and Easy Ways to Save Money in College” with several new ideas. Go take a look! This entry was posted on Saturday, April 2nd, […]

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