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Living on the Cheap: The 5 Best Money-Saving Tips for College Students

Published:May 21, 2021Last updated:Jul 12, 2021
5 mins reading time

Remember the time your friends were going out for drinks, but you couldn’t join them because you barely had money to survive until the end of the month? Yeah, we’ve all been there at some point in our college lives. But don’t worry, with these tips, you’ll be able to join the fun any time.

The 5 Best Money-Saving Hacks for College Students on A Budget

Having champagne taste on a beer budget is relatable to almost every college student. Rising tuition, fees and living expenses can make it incredibly hard for students to live on a tight budget.

But, you don’t need to eat ramen every night to save money – there are plenty of other ways to do it. While it may not be tons of fun, saving money in college can help you manage your finances properly, which is one key to long-term financial success.

Read on to learn about the top five money-saving hacks to help stretch your budget and build your savings account while you’re in school.

1. Rest Your Head: Save Money on Housing

College student or not, you have to take care of those four walls first. But when you’re in college, housing can mean anything from a small dorm room to a luxurious apartment.

The best way to save money on housing is by living at home. Yes, we said it. We know you’re all set to leave the house and bask in your newfound freedom, and living at home is the last thing you want to do. But, if you think about the thousands you’ll save by not paying for rent, utilities, maintenance and food, it’s totally worth it.

If you’re absolutely set on moving out, look at all the options available before making a decision. Compare the cost of campus housing to renting an apartment, because one is not always cheaper than the other. If you decide to go the apartment route, look for one close to campus so you can save on transportation costs. Also, try to find roommates so you can split rent two or three ways and save on the monthly total.

2. Eat Up: Save Money on Food

Food is one of those things you can’t live without (literally), but you should be smart and pay attention to how much you spend on food. You can end up blowing your budget without realizing it.

We’re not saying you should always skip your favorite Thai restaurant or miss coffee with friends, but ordering pizza delivery or picking up sandwiches can really put a dent in your wallet. If you have a meal plan through school, you should use it. Also, make a monthly budget for eating out or ordering in, and stick to it. You can almost always find savings on food delivery with DoorDash promo codes and Grubhub coupons.

You can also save a lot of money on groceries by buying things on sale and in bulk. If you live with roommates, take turns cooking and eating together, because this can help you save time and money on groceries.

3. Be Smart: Save Money on Tuition and Books

This is one of the most stressful things for college students, especially those who are paying for college themselves. But don’t stress, we’ve got you covered.

First, take classes at a community college before applying to your dream school. You can get a lot of classes out of the way, and you’ll pay a fraction of what you’d pay at a four-year university.

Next, look at in-state schools and public universities. Attending school out of state and private school tuition can be quite expensive. While you’re researching schools, check out the different options for financial aid and scholarships to help offset some of your tuition costs.

Once you arrive on campus, stay thrifty. New textbooks can cost a fortune, so look for used books or consider renting them for the semester. You can usually find Chegg coupons for discounts on book rentals, and you get access to a free online version of your textbook while you wait for the actual book to arrive. If that’s not an option and you have to buy a new textbook, take good care of it so you can resell it later.

4. Move On: Save Money on Transportation

If you’re planning to live on campus, you probably won’t factor this into your budget, because you’ll be walking more and driving less. But, truth be told, you’ll have to go off campus for a lot of things, like runs to the grocery store and Target. It’s a good idea to think about this ahead of time and make a transportation budget, too.

If you have a car, you’ll still have to pay for insurance and maintenance, though the amount you spend on gas will likely go down. Plus, you have to spring for a campus parking permit.

One great way to save money on transportation is to get a bike. You’ll never have to worry about gas and the maintenance cost is negligible. Check out all the best bikes sales and remember to invest in a good bike lock to protect your human-powered wheels.

If you’re planning to use public transportation, look at monthly passes instead of paying for individual rides. They cost more up front, but you can save a good amount of money in the long run.

5. Have Fun: Save Money on Entertainment

Life’s not worth living without a little fun, even though entertainment can get pretty expensive. The best way to save money on entertainment is to look at where you spend and figure out how to enjoy yourself for less.

First, cable TV is a waste of money but watching shows is critical for stress relief. There are plenty of cheap streaming services out there that let you pick exactly what you want to watch when you want to watch it. Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime and Apple TV are some of the most popular options. You probably only need one streaming service, so shop around to find discounts and promo codes for Hulu and other streaming service providers.

Next, think about your music streaming service. Do you really need that top-tier streaming plan or can you get away with a free version? Google and Amazon both have free services, and Spotify and Pandora offer free ad-supported listening. If you really can’t stand to listen to ads or must be able to play songs whenever you like, shop around to figure out which service is best for you. Most offer similar benefits for around $10 per month.

6. But Wait, There’s More: Bonus Tips for Saving Money

At this point, you’re probably thinking you’re good to go since we’ve shared the best hacks for saving on all the major expenses. However, even small things can get your budget off track. Here are some bonus tips to help you save money on smaller expenses, too:

  1. Monitor your cell phone use: Use apps and services that can help you monitor your cell phone use, compare plans to make sure you have the best one and look for discounts, such as promo codes from AT&T Wireless.

  2. Always ask for student discounts: From local eateries to tech giants, several businesses out there offer student discounts that can help you save a few money on every purchase.

  3. Pay your bills before they’re due: Late fees on credit card bills and utilities aren’t cheap, so pay your bills on time to stay within your budget.

  4. Make your own coffee: While getting coffee from Starbucks is convenient, you’ll spend an average of $3 each visit. Just two trips a week can cost you around $25 per month. Save that cash and brew your own at home.

  5. Use the campus rec center: We’re all for getting in shape, but you don’t need an expensive gym membership to do it. Use your campus rec center, because you’ve already paid for it in your tuition. If you’re not a gym rat, there are lots of free activities like running.

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