Most of us have been there and done that, and we want to help you save as much as you can while in college. Follow these top ten ways to save extra money while in college. Who knows – maybe you’ll even leave college with a surplus of cash.
10 Ways College Students Can Save Extra Money
You’re in college.
That means you’re probably broke. Like, scrounge-for-change-between-couch-cushions broke.
Like go-to-boring-club-meetings-just-for-the-free-food broke.
Room and board is one of the biggest expenses you’ll pay. Many merit scholarships don’t cover room and board and colleges typically make you live on campus for at least the first year.
However, there are ways to reduce your expenses in this category. While not usually open to freshmen, explore the option of becoming a Resident Advisor (RA). RAs do more than boss people (usually freshmen) around . RAs are there to mediate disputes, make sure everyone gets out during fire drills, and make first years feel welcome. If you’re social, like to plan fun events, and don’t mind being “the bad guy” every once in a while, an RA is an awesome job that gets you free room and board.
You’ve heard everything about buying and selling your old textbooks online. While that common knowledge still holds true, don’t overlook the best place of all to get textbooks: the library!
Yes, not many people know, but you can borrow textbooks through your school’s library. Even if your school doesn’t have your textbook, most universities have reciprocal agreements with other schools and libraries around the state. You may have to make some calls but trust me: you will save a bundle borrowing textbooks this way.
Note that you can’t write in the book like you own it, but you can’t do that with rented textbooks and you shouldn’t do it if you buy a textbook with an intent to sell. Also, you can’t usually borrow textbooks from your library for the entire semester. However, you can renew. If there’s a hold on your book, request another copy (well in advance!) to have waiting for you when it’s time to return. You may be surprised how much librarians are willing to help you acquire the book you need – for however long your need persists.
Make coffee at home. I know, buying coffee from Starbucks before class is practically a religion, but trust me: home brews are better. Even if you’re in a dorm, you can buy a small coffee pot and brew to your heart’s content. The best part of at-home brewing? You can make as many cups as you want, all for a fraction of the price of a grande latte! Getting more and save extra money at the same time… and who said life is expensive?
If you have to feed yourself, either because you don’t have a meal plan or are on a limited plan, consider shopping at big-box stores. Instead of buying your own individual big-box membership, go in with friends. This will allow you to reduce the cost and allow you to purchase tons of coffee at stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. Top tip: Before you get your own membership, ask a professor if you can get a buddy pass. Often, people with memberships can get one-day access cards to the store. The professor can give you the card and you’ll get to shop – for free – at the store for a day.
Don’t want to shell out for a big-box membership? Check for high-volume discounters in your city, or outlet grocery stores. Simply do a Google search for “grocery outlet + (your city)” to find the closest store with discounted food. Don’t worry, the food is still quality.
There’s a reason you still see 30-year-olds trying to use their old student IDs to get discounted movie passes: your student ID rocks! Your student ID can be used to get discounts on movies, restaurants, drinks, events in your city, and more.
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Not sure if you can use your student ID for discounts off campus? Ask! Many places, particularly in college towns, are accustomed to giving discounts to broke students. The worst thing they can say is no!
Work at the library (get the best books reserved first), gym (no excuse not to exercise at your free gym!), or as a tour guide for your school (you’ll never know who you may run into). Seriously, in almost every on-campus job, there’s an opportunity for you to learn, network, and improve your skills. Even if you end up hating the job, you learned something: that line of work (or that type of boss) is not for you.
Plus, who couldn’t use extra money in school?
Whether you live on campus or off, it’s worth it to check out free events. Many colleges host lectures with eminent scholars and even celebrities. These events are usually completely free to students. You’re paying for all these activities through tuition anyway, so why not use them?
In addition to lectures, your college likely offers all types of free entertainment including movie screenings, intramural sports, and free concerts. You’ll miss having all this free entertainment after graduation. Take advantage of it now!
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only one-third of full-time students seeking bachelor’s degrees graduate in 4 years. More than half graduate in six years. Given the exorbitant cost of college, unless you’re given a very generous scholarship package, you won’t want to spend more money on extra class time.
If you focus and plan your class schedule 2 years ahead, you can graduate on time without taking an insane course load. Once you have your major mostly decided (hopefully mid-sophomore year), sit down with the course catalog and your major’s requirements to determine what classes you need and when they’re offered. Some classes are only offered in the spring, and may have pre-requisites. You have to get classes out of the way first before even taking that only-offered-once-a-year class. Planning is key to graduating in 4 years!
Your college adviser should help you plan out your course schedule too. Beware as good adviser’s often book fast. Schedule a meeting with your adviser early every semester, before your appointment gets lost in the shuffle.
No, I’m not telling you to stop partying, just set limits. If you love to go out and have a good time, by all means, keep doing it (safely). Just how about instead of going out Wednesday–Saturday (or beyond), pick one day to go out and give yourself a budget. You can survive going out with $20 by planning around happy hours and discount drink nights. It might mean you’re drinking $2 PBRs or bottom-shelf rum and cokes, but you’re in college – you can deal.
Of course, the best idea is to just go out once a month and spend the other weekends having less-expensive fun with friends. Why not plan cheap events with your friends? You can have a ton of fun hosting movie nights, planning dinner parties, getting out of town for camping (and s’mores), or attending the tons of free activities put on every weekend by your school.
Even dorms often have kitchens at the end of the halls. Take advantage of your broke-student status and learn a few handy meals. Stir-fry and one-pot meals are best for college students. They’re quick, easy, and don’t require a lot of clean up. Now you’ll never go hungry at 2 a.m. when the cafeteria is closed!
By following these frugal college student tricks, you’re well on your way to enjoying college while saving a little green!