College can be a ton of fun but it can also involve a TON of stress, especially when trying to balance your studies with your finances. So removing one part of that stress with these money saving tips for college students can be insanely helpful. If this sounds like something you could use, keep reading to find out just how to save money as a student at college to help you create your very own money saving plan that’s perfect for students like you.
As at all stages of your life, the best money management tip you’ll ever get as a college student is this:
Spend less than you earn.
That said, that can absolutely be easier said than done when you’re at college.
No matter how you’re getting your spending money – whether it be from working a few hours a week or your parents very kindly giving you some cash to use – you probably don’t have all that much to spend.
So finding some money saving tips for college students to make that money stretch as far as it can is super important at this stage of your life.
It may also be the first time that you’ve had to manage your own money, which can be pretty overwhelming at first.
This is especially the case when you start to realise that it doesn’t go quite as far as you thought – and you suddenly have a payment for something coming up…
But don’t worry. Figuring out how to save money as a student is something we’ve all had to do.
Even better, by thinking about how to save money at college now, you’re giving your financial future a great foundation.
Many people don’t even bother to try to live within their means until their debt has spiralled out of control years down the track.
So by figuring things out now, you’re setting yourself up amazingly well!
General tips for how to save money as a student at college
1. Start a budget
If you’ve read this blog before – or, really, any personal finance website – you may be sick of hearing this tip. But it’s absolutely the key to getting your finances in order, no matter where you are in life.
So this definitely includes if you’re a college student.
Creating a budget is a great first step for showing just where your money’s going in and out.
It will let you see where you may be spending more than you thought and where you can cut back.
Having a budget also lets you figure out your saving goals, which is a great thing to start thinking about when you have years ahead of you.
After all, don’t forget that starting to save just $500 now can easily lead you to becoming a millionaire down the track.
For more information, check out: CREATING A BUDGET: YOUR SIMPLE STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE ON HOW TO MAKE A BUDGET
2. Take advantage of Amazon Prime
Joining Amazon Prime as a student is a no-brainer as, simply put, the deals are incredible.
It’s also free for six months (and then only $59 per year after that, which is less than $5 per month).
Some of the things you get are:
- Free two-day shipping (and free same-day delivery if it’s available in your area)
- Access to streaming of thousands of TV shows and movies
- Bonus deals for students
- Unlimited photo storage
- Unlimited access to over one thousand e-books, audiobooks and magazines
You can also cancel at any time during the free six-month trial period, so I’d definitely recommend trying it out to see how it can save you a ton of money.
Find out more information or sign up by clicking here.
3. Get cash back when you shop online
While you should absolutely be limiting your spending if you’re working out how to save money as a student at college, you’ll still obviously have to buy things from time to time.
RELATED ARTICLE: 9 ITEMS TO ALWAYS HAVE ON YOUR SHOPPING LIST TO SAVE MONEY
So did you know that just by having an account with Swagbucks, you can get cash back on anything you buy?
Signing up takes literally five seconds – just check out the screenshot below! Yep, that’s seriously all the info you have to give them.
All you do is login before you shop online at over 1,500 retailers, including Amazon, Walmart and Target.
Then you’ll earn up to 10% cash back on what you spend, which you can redeem through gift cards (with Amazon, Target, Starbucks and more) or as straight up cash through PayPal.
So it’s essentially equivalent to getting a discount on everything you buy.
And better yet, you’ll get a $10 welcome bonus just for signing up here.
College textbooks can easily cost more than one thousand dollars every single year.
This can be especially frustrating if you find yourself not using all of them for each course or only needing them for one semester.
(I think I have some unresolved anger about this…)
Instead, look into buying used textbooks or even renting them just for the semester.
Amazon Textbook Rentals is a great place for this and can save you serious money.
And if you do choose to buy your textbooks, even if you buy them used, you can use that site to sell them on to someone else at the end of the semester to get your money back.
Free textbooks, anyone?
(And don’t forget to check your campus library before doing any of this just to see if the book is available there!)
5. Get a cheap cell phone plan
Did you know that almost half of all cell phone users in the US spend $100 per month or more on their phones and another 13% pay at least $200 per month (source).
That’s between $1,200 to $2,400 per year just on your phone.
So when you’re trying to save money as a student, this is definitely an area where you can save a ton – in fact, you could easily save at least $1,000 each year!
The main problem for most people is that they’re paying for a huge cell phone contract with massive amounts of data and calls, but only use part of it.
It’s for this reason that I love Republic Wireless.
You only pay for exactly what you use, starting at $15 per month for unlimited talk and text and then $5 per month for each GB of 4G data you use.
Meaning that it’s a great way for you to save stacks of cash on your cell phone costs!
Find out more information on Republic Wireless or sign-up at this link.
MORE INFORMATION: HOW TO EASILY SAVE ALMOST $1,000 ON YOUR CELL PHONE CONTRACT
6. Cut the cable
Not only is cable expensive, but it’s completely unnecessary these days.
Especially, ahem, when you’re supposed to be studying.
But if you do really need your TV fix, then instead of getting cable, look into one of the streaming services.
As mentioned above, Amazon Prime lets you stream thousands of TV shows and movies, so you won’t need anything else to keep up to date with your favourite show.
And when it’s free for the first six months, you’ve got nothing to lose (and a lot of money to gain!) by checking out the shows and movies that it has on offer.
7. Scrap the expensive gym membership
This may be the least surprising thing that anyone’s ever said but: gym memberships can be crazy expensive.
Luckily for those of you trying to figure out how to save money as a student, the vast majority of colleges have a gym on campus that is usually WAY cheaper than anything you’d find off campus.
So make sure you take advantage of the cheapest gym membership you’ll probably ever have in your life!
And to really cut back on your expenses, there are a ton of free fitness options out there.
Whether you’re into cardio, strength training or something like yoga or pilates, there’s a completely free way for you to get your hit of fitness!
For more information, check out: 5 WAYS TO SMASH YOUR FITNESS GOALS – FOR FREE!
8. Save money on a new laptop
These days, you pretty much need to have a laptop to get through college.
But there’s no question that they can be super expensive, especially if you buy one when you become a student at the same time as all of your other expenses come in for setting up your student life.
Instead, consider buying a refurbished laptop.
These are pre-owned products that are fully cleaned out and returned to almost brand-new status.
They also often come with a similar warranty to the new version, so you’re covered if there are problems.
And, most importantly, you can save hundreds of dollars.
For example, a brand new MacBook Air starts at $999.
However, this refurbished MacBook Air on Amazon only costs $474, including a one year-warranty.
That’s more than 50% off the original price – and it works just the same!
One tip is to make sure you only look at computers that are listed as being “certified refurbished” so you know they work.
But other than that, this is a great way to get an (almost) brand new laptop for way less than you’d otherwise pay!
9. Get the best student loan terms that you can
One major downside of college is its cost. And if you’re like most college students, you’ve probably taken out (or will take out) some student loans to pay for your degree.
And when the average student in the US has $37,172 in student loan debt, this is definitely an area where you can save thousands of dollars if you’re careful.
So before taking out the first loan you find because “it sounds good enough”, make sure you shop around.
In particular, a website like Credible can do all the hard work for you.
You may have heard of Credible for its amazing results in student loan refinancing, where it saves applicants an average of $18,668 each.
But it also has a great range of private student loans that you can compare without affecting your credit score.
Better yet, it has:
- No origination fees, which is the fee charged by a lender for processing a new loan application
- No service fees charged by Credible itself
- No prepayment penalty – some lenders charge you if pay off your student loan quicker than expected, but that won’t be the case with any of the lenders available through Credible
Click here to find out more about Credible and see – for free! – what student loans may be available to you.
How to save money at college on food
Food can be one of the biggest expenses in your life – which is something that isn’t true only for college students!
Luckily, there are a bunch of money saving tips for college students that can help you save on food.
10. Meal plan
I’m super careful about what I spend on food as I’ve found that it’s an area where I can save a ton of money with very little effort.
MORE INFORMATION: HOW I SAVED $300 ON MY GROCERY BUDGET IN ONE MONTH
And one of the best things I do to save money here is to make sure that I always have a meal plan.
It means I know exactly what I’m eating this week so I’m only buying exactly what I need at the supermarket.
This means no wasted food – and so no wasted money.
It’s also made me much more likely to eat healthier, as I know that I have all the food I need right there, instead of giving up because of missing a key ingredient and ordering takeout.
That said, it’s true that it – obviously – requires some planning, which can be a bit of a pain if I’m feeling a bit lazy and don’t want to slip into the habit of making the same meals each week.
You can get around this with some Googling – you could even get started with our one week meal plan with seven dinners of only five ingredients each.
Having only five ingredients per meal can obviously save you serious cash.
But another option that I’ve been loving recently is having the meal plans sent directly to me!
$5 Meal Plan costs just $5 a month and sends you meal plans each week, including recipes and shopping lists.
The amount of money AND time I’ve saved is worth way more than $1.25 per week. And better yet, the recipes only cost about $2 per person to make, so my wallet’s even happier about it.
I personally choose the standard version, but there’s a gluten free weekly plan as well if you’d prefer that.
So if you’d like to try it yourself, sign up here for a 14-day FREE trial.
11. Only buy an on-campus meal plan that fits your circumstances
These meal plans can often cost thousands of dollars per semester with a limit on the number of meals you can eat each week.
They may be mandatory if you’re a freshman. But once meal plans become optional, do some calculations to see if it’s worth the money.
Your living situation (or even your studying situation, if you sometimes have class during the hours when meals are available) may mean that it’s more worthwhile to buy your own food.
So just check that what you’re eating is justifying the cost.
12. Bring your own food on campus
There’s no avoiding it: snacks bought on campus are pretty much always expensive.
That sad-looking sandwich can easily set you back $10. It’s like the on-campus shops know that you don’t have any other options…
So an easy way around this is to make sure you’re bringing lunch and snacks to class.
Just add this on to your weekly meal plan, especially if you meal prep ahead of time so that you can grab your lunch from the fridge on the way out.
By taking a few extra moments to have lunch ready to go and to prepare some snacks to throw into your bag, you could easily save over $100 each week.
13. Try to avoid eating out as much as possible
It can be super tempting to go and grab a burger and a drink with friends after class.
But even if you choose the cheapest takeout place around, those meals can really add up.
So try to limit yourself to only eating out for super special occasions.
Instead, try doing things like pot luck dinners at each other’s homes where you each bring a dish.
Not only will you spend less money, but you’ll probably eat healthier too!
And when you do “have” to go out for dinner, sign up for a website like Groupon to get email alerts about great deals on restaurants in your area.
They always have hundreds of restaurants in major cities offering two-for-one vouchers on meals, meaning a quick check on there could immediately save you 50% of your meal!
RELATED ARTICLE: HOW TO GET MONEY FOR BUYING ALCOHOL
14. Bring your own coffee to class
Don’t worry, I won’t tell you to cut your caffeine addiction completely. I remember well those late nights studying where coffee the next day feels like an absolute must.
But buying coffee on the way to class can really add up, especially if you make it a one a day (or more!) habit.
Instead, bringing your own coffee to class can save you literally thousands of dollars each year.
This is the travel mug that I use and I really recommend it – the auto-seal makes it great for not spilling coffee all over my shirt each day!
And when a latte at the cafe around the corner from my building costs $6, the fact that I’m saving over $1,500 a year is pretty good too!
In addition, if you want a “proper” coffee instead of instant, check out the Aicook Espresso Machine.
It costs less than $40, which is significantly less than the Nespresso equivalents. And the coffee it produces is just as good!
Add in the cost of a bag of beans every few weeks and some milk and you’ll easily be saving more than $1,000 each year compared to if you bought the same thing every day at Starbucks.
Accommodation and transport money saving tips for college students
15. Live at home
I know this isn’t the coolest suggestion on this list. But when it can save you between $10,000 to $30,000 per year depending on where you go to college, it’s definitely something to consider.
After all, not only does moving out of home involve paying rent. You’ve got utilities, food and phone/internet, not to mention furnishing your new home and any maintenance you may be responsible for.
Of course, this isn’t available to everyone. But if it’s a possibility for you, you should really consider looking into it.
16. Do the math on living on campus compared to renting off campus
While living on campus certainly has its benefits (I did it for three years so I’m definitely not against it!), there’s no question that it can be expensive.
With room and board costing at least $10,000 per year, if not more, you may find that it’s actually cheaper for you to share an apartment with some housemates.
But when doing the calculations, don’t just consider the cost of rent. As mentioned above, you’ll also have to pay for food, utilities, internet, furniture, maintenance and more.
Make sure you also factor in transport costs for getting to college.
But even with all that, you may find that living off campus can save you a huge chunk of the on campus cost – even 50% or more.
17. Ditch the car
The great thing about most colleges is that they tend to have pretty good public transport connections.
Alternatively, if you’re in a college town, it’s usually small enough for you to get around by walking or by bike.
While it’s definitely convenient to own a car, there’s no question that the costs involved can easily be higher than expected.
Besides the actual purchase price of the car, you’ve got insurance, registration, maintenance, gas…
And on campus parking is rarely cheap, which can really add up if you have class every day of the week.
(Also, you could be like me and try to drive to a major exam, be unable to find a free car park and then have to sprint across half the town once you do find a park to get to the exam late…fun times.)
So if it’s at all possible for you to get rid of your car, you should really look into it.
Or you could carpool with friends and share the cost if a car is absolutely necessary for getting to class.
Other money saving tips for college students
18. Any other ways to save money!
Of course, you can also follow any of the non-college-specific money saving tips to help you figure out how to save money as a student at college.
Many of these are super simple to do in your day-to-day life – and can help you save thousands each year!
Check out some of these for some inspiration:
- 17 Things To Stop Buying To Save Money
- 50 Free Things To Do On a No Spend Weekend
- 19 Simple Money Saving Challenges To Help You Save More
- How To Save $1,000 In 3 Months (And Stop Living Paycheck To Paycheck)
A key part of any money saving plan for students
If you’re trying to stretch your budget as far as you can while at college, then the ways to save money as a student in this article are a fantastic start.
But your budget can also stretch further if you make more money as well.
Here are some great ways to do that for any college student to try!
19. Keep your money in a high-interest savings account
If you’re not keeping your money in a high-interest savings account, then you’re just throwing away money.
So I’d definitely recommend that you look into a CIT Bank Premier High Yield Savings Account.
It has an interest rate of 1.55% – that’s 25 times higher than the national average – with no fees.
Find out more about CIT Bank for free right here.
20. Sell anything you don’t use or don’t need
Whether you live on or off campus, you usually don’t have a whole lot of storage space.
So why keep stuff that you’re not using when you could make some cash from it?
For example, got any old electronics lying around, like unused phones or an old computer you’re looking to replace? Try Gazelle to trade it in for cash or an Amazon gift card.
Or what about things like CDs or DVDs? DeCluttr will pay you for them and will even pay for the postage of the item.
And, of course, there are sites like eBay for selling literally anything.
MORE INFORMATION: HOW TO MAKE SERIOUS CASH CLEANING OUT YOUR OLD STUFF
21. Start a side hustle
You almost certainly won’t have time for a full time job while at college, but you’ll likely have a few hours a week to set aside for some money making.
And having a side hustle can be a great way to add to your budget.
To get some ideas on what you can do, check out 11 WORK FROM HOME JOBS TO MAKE MONEY FROM HOME.
For me, my side hustle of choice is clearly blogging.
While I didn’t start this blog until I had finished college, plenty of bloggers have started while studying – with many now earning six-figures per month.
It’s a pretty perfect side hustle as it only costs $3.95 per month. Which is an amount any college student can fit into their budget!
So if you think you have something to say and are interested in getting paid to say it, take a look at How To Start A Blog In Less Than 15 Minutes.
How did (or do!) you save money as a college student to make your budget last?