/50 Ways to Save Money in College and Maintain a Social Life

50 Ways to Save Money in College and Maintain a Social Life


College can be overwhelming for students. Paying back tuition can be a hassle, and, for most, it’s the first time they’re financially independent. Unfortunately, the cost of college has increased more than 150% over the past 30 years, making it crucial for students to cut costs on expenses like housing, food, and entertainment. Cutting costs and keeping track of your expenses is a way for you to keep the excitement of college while still being financially cognizant. So, by making small lifestyle changes, you can result in significant savings.

Below are tips to help you develop responsible spending habits during your college years. From saving money on entertainment to prioritizing educational needs, this guide serves as a how-to for living on a budget.

Check out the whole guide or skip ahead to the section you need most:

Cutting Back on Campus

Boy in library studying at the library

Whether you live there or just go for class, there are lots of resources on campus. It’s also a good idea to go to your school’s website to see exactly what the university offers. Check out our list below to see what kinds of things on campus can help you save.

1. Take Advantage of Your College Library

Using your on-campus library not only provides you with endless books to check out, but it also includes printing for free or at a reduced rate. Most provide computer and internet access for free as well.

2. Use the On-Campus Gym

Gym membership rates are extremely expensive, so using the gym on campus can save you thousands of dollars a year. The only downside is that it may get crowded, so going during off-peak hours can help.

3. Stay on Top of Your Schedule

Having a regularly scheduled advising appointment can help ensure you’re taking the right classes and staying on track in your major. This helps to avoid having to pay for another semester of college and taking classes that aren’t necessary for your degree.

4. Rent Textbooks at Your On-Campus Bookstore

The rent option available at any store is usually the cheapest option. Just make sure you keep track of the book throughout the semester and ship it back when you’re done. If you end up accidentally ruining the book, you’re unfortunately responsible for paying for it.

5. Get an On-Campus Job

An on-campus job is useful for various reasons. Not only does it provide you with experience and pay, but it means that you don’t have to travel far for work. Finish up your classes, and walk straight to work after — no driving necessary.

6. Go to Office Hours

Tutoring can be extremely expensive, so taking advantage of your professors and teaching assistants can be helpful. See the times they’re available and add their schedule to your calendar. They’re the best resources available to you when it comes to answering questions about the particular course.

A girl studying outside near her college campus

7. Study On Campus

Pack your own snacks and go to the nearest on-campus study area. This is beneficial since you don’t have to drive anywhere and won’t feel pressured to buy coffee from a cafe.

8. Apply for Scholarships

Colleges usually update their scholarship options each semester. Check out what your college has to offer and see if you qualify to help cut back on tuition costs.

9. On-Campus Counseling

Taking care of your mental health is extremely important. Unfortunately, sometimes counseling sessions can cost a lot of money at an hourly rate. A lot of universities offer a free or reduced-rate counseling center to help you feel your best for less.

10. Writing Centers

Going to a writing center on campus is very helpful. There are professionals that assist you with your writing assignments and usually offer résumé help as well.

11. Financial Aid

Financial aid is funding to help you pay for your college expenses. Applying for financial aid can help provide you with loans, work-study opportunities, and various other options that you may need during your time.

12. Ditch the Dining Hall

When living on-campus, the dining hall is notorious for increasing the price per day of a meal. If a student eats all their meals on campus, they spend 85% more per day than if they cooked at home. Cooking for yourself saves you a considerable amount of money.

Cutting Back Off-Campus

A girl making her own coffee at home

Basically, how to save money when you aren’t worried about textbooks and scholarships. The extra stuff that tends to add up when budgeting.  After you get home from a long day of classes, you may feel the urge to splurge. If you separate your wants from your needs, the extra stuff that tends to add up when budgeting will progressively get lower. Saving money off-campus budgeting is key to saving money in college.

13. Make Your Own Coffee

Paying for a cup of coffee every day might seem harmless, but it adds up. It’s estimated that millennials spend over $2,000 on coffee in a year. By making it at home, you not only save money, but you can also cut down on the amount of single-use plastic you use in a day. 

14. Purchase Non-Perishable Items in Bulk

Purchasing non-perishable items in bulk is less expensive than always purchasing smaller quantities. In addition, by sharing perishable grocery items with your roommates, you can split the cost and get rid of the risk of not using all items by their expiration date. 

15. Public Transportation is Key

In bigger cities, public transportation is an asset that could save you almost $10,000 a year. When you own a car, you’re responsible for gas, repairs, and other miscellaneous costs that add up over time, making public transportation a cheaper option.

16. Create a Budget 

Having a plan on how to spend your money is extremely important. Creating a personalized budget helps you keep track of your expenses and allows you to see where your money goes. 

17. Share a Room

Find a roommate that would be willing to share a room with you, and split the cost of housing in half. It’s definitely a compromise that’s financially worth it. 

18. Live Off-Campus 

The further you are away from campus, usually the lower the cost of rent. If you’re able to catch a bus to get to campus, you’ll be able to save a lot of money. 

19. Get Crafty with Gifts 

If you go the sentimental and DIY route with gifts, it relieves you of the financial stress of buying something expensive. What are things that matter to the people you love that you could make? Photo books and video collages make great and meaningful gifts!  

20. Buy Used, Never New 

When it comes to furniture, decorations, and clothes, thrifting is the way to go. This dramatically cuts the cost of expensive bigger items that you may need.

21. Never Be Late on a Credit Card Payment

Staying up to date on your credit card payments is exceptionally important. Not only does the average late payment charge 1.5% interest per month, but it also appears on your credit reports. This makes applying for big purchases more difficult in the future. 

22. Plan Your Groceries 

Aside from not going to the grocery store when you’re hungry, another big way to save money on food is to plan out your weekly groceries. Knowing exactly what ingredients you need and sticking to that list helps prevent unnecessary purchases. 

A girl at the grocery store looking at a list on her phone.

23. Reusable is Smarter 

The average American spends $266 on water bottles every year. It will save you money if you ditch the plastic water bottles and invest in a filter. It’s also a more environmentally friendly route. 

24. Check Out Free Listings

Websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are places where people post free items that they want gone as soon as possible. Being on the lookout for good items is a great way to save money on things that you need. Also, you could potentially sell the item they posted for free. 

25. Cut the Phone Bill

If your parents cut you off their phone plan, there are a couple less-expensive options when it comes to your phone bill. Using WiFi can help keep you from going over your data. Also, make sure to look for carriers that have the best plans. Some carriers allow you to negotiate the monthly price. 

26. Cook at Home

It is almost five times more expensive to eat out than it is to cook for yourself at home. Since college is a busy time, meal prepping is a great option that can happen on Sundays to help you prepare for the whole week. 

27. Download the PDF Versions of Textbooks 

Going paperless is environmentally friendly and a lot cheaper than the hard-cover version of a textbook. 

Staying Entertained For Less

A girl outside on a hammock enjoying the outdoors.

Enjoying your time in college doesn’t have to be overly expensive. There are ways to better budget to be both money-smart and entertained at the same time. 

28. Join Clubs with Free Food + Entertainment 

Most college clubs are free to join and include weekly meetings with pizza. It gives you time to eat and interact with your peers. Make sure to take leftovers! 

29. Share a Streaming Service 

Cable can be expensive, and so is purchasing a TV. Having a joint account on a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu with family or friends is an inexpensive route. 

30. Ask for Gift Cards + Money for Holidays 

When your birthday rolls around, make sure to tell your family and friends to get you a present you can use for anything, like an Amazon or Target gift card. 

31. Never Forget Your Student ID 

Many stores, music festivals, streaming services, and other forms of entertainment provide a great student discount when you show your student ID. Make sure to get the most out of it! 

32. Join Intramural Sports

Being part of an intramural team provides great social interactions while exercising. This is a great alternative to working out and cheaper than joining an expensive gym. 

33. Explore the Outdoors

Hiking and exploring the city is a great free activity. If you look up hiking near you, chances are you’ll find a hidden gem! 

34. Start Journaling or Blogging 

Documenting your college experience can be a stress reliever and a form of entertainment. Also, it allows you to look back on what you’ve accomplished throughout the years. 

35. Host a Potluck

A potluck is a fun and low-priced way for you and your friends to enjoy each other’s company. Instead of making a reservation at a restaurant, plan a potluck where everyone brings a different dish! 

36. Volunteer 

Volunteering at non-profits is a great way to spend your free time. Find a local cause that you’re passionate about, and schedule a time to go! 

37. Plant a Mini Garden 

Since most college students don’t have a backyard, designate an area in your kitchen for planting fruits and vegetables. Not only is this fun, but you can start growing your own produce which will cut back on costs too. 

Side Hustle

Someone walking several dogs on a leash.

This isn’t necessarily how to save money, but how to make money. It might be hard to get a standard job when taking various hours in college, so consider the list below. 

38. Sell Old Clothes 

Many thrift stores have an option to sell your clothing for profit. If you feel like you’re not getting enough for your clothing, you can always create an Instagram account selling your old clothes. This allows you to name your own prices. 

39. Tutor Others in Subjects You’re Passionate About 

If you find yourself excelling in a specific subject, lend a helping hand to others. You can promote your tutoring services online or on a public bulletin board and get paid for your expertise. 

40. Sell Your Textbooks

When you’re done with your textbooks, make sure to sell them back to the company or to other students.

41. Uber or Lyft on the Weekends 

If you’re over 21, consider being a Lyft or Uber driver. This gives you a great chance to earn tips as well as income. 

42. Dog Walk 

Businesses like Wag make signing up to be a dog walker convenient. It’s an easy way to make money and gives you a great excuse to take a break to play with dogs.

43. Score an Internship

Paid internships are becoming more and more common nowadays. Try and find a company that aligns with your career goals in order to make money to add to your budget.

44. Freelance 

Freelancing means you can control the workload and hours you have, which is great, especially in college. 

45. Be a Brand Ambassador Online 

Being a brand ambassador on social media is a paid position that can bring out your creativity. If you’re passionate about a specific company, you can get paid while promoting it if your following is big enough. 

46. Start a Podcast

It is completely free to start your own podcast and can result in you getting money from sponsorships down the line.  

47. Edit for Your Peers 

If writing is something you enjoy, editing resumes and essays for your peers is a beneficial way to make cash on the side. 

A girl doing work on her laptop at the library.

48. Be a Food Delivery Driver 

Working for Postmates or UberEats is a great way to save up money. You can also take any shift you want during the free time you have. 

49. Start a Business Online 

Platforms like Etsy make it easy to make and sell your own products.  You can also make your own website through WordPress or Squarespace in order to better publicize the product or service you decide on. 

50. Work in the Summer 

Summer’s three-month break is perfect for a working grind. Find a job and try to save up for the next school year.  

While you’re working towards your degree, it’s important to figure out creative ways to achieve financial security. Being fiscally cautious improves your mental well-being during college and in the future. Finding resources around you and budgeting can make college a more affordable and enjoyable time. 

 

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