If you’re finding it hard to make ends meet in college, you’re not alone. Rising tuition costs and living expenses make it increasingly challenging for students to stay on a budget. That doesn’t mean you have to be a “starving student” – there are plenty of great ways to save money in college. We’ve gathered some ‘do’s and don’ts’ for how to save money while you’re in college and how to save on college costs.
Read our best tips for saving money in college below.
Top 15 Ways to Save Money in College
- DON’T buy new textbooks. Textbooks can be surprisingly expensive. Before you hit the campus bookstore, see if you can borrow books from a fellow student or from the university library. If not, you can buy or rent used textbooks online or from your on-campus bookstore.
- DON’T leave home without your student ID. Discounts are available on everything from clothing to laptops and computers for those with a valid student ID. For example, Apple, and Adobe offer reduced prices on tech, while hundreds of big brands like Madewell, American Eagle, Urban Outfitters,, and J.Crew give money off on clothing. Local restaurants and chains often give money off on meals, so be sure to ask before you order!
- DON’T buy new clothes. Instead of buying new clothes that are trendy in the moment, consider a clothing rental subscription like Nuuly or Rent the Runway. These options allow you to rent trendy clothing items without the commitment of purchasing those clothes OR cleaning and caring for them. You can also visit thrift stores or consignment shops for gently used and pre-loved clothing at a discount. The best part? All of these options also help minimize your environmental impact by avoiding fast fashion.
- DON’T bring a car to campus. Parking, gas, and insurance (not to mention unexpected car repairs) add up to a substantial amount. You can always use public transit, borrow a friend’s car, or use a Zipcar if you need to travel long distance. Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are also affordable ways to get around when you need to go off-campus.
- DON’T be careless with credit cards. If you do elect to get a credit card, choose one with the lowest interest rate and only charge what you can afford to pay off in full each month. This will help you avoid late fees and costly credit card debt while you establish good credit for your future.
- DO visit your local bank. Ask about checking and savings accounts designed especially for college students. These often have lower fees and no minimum balance required. To track your balance and avoid expensive overdraft charges, use online banking to check your balance regularly.
- DO limit meals out. If you bought into the meal plan at school, use it! Student discounts aside, the costs of eating out can add up quickly. Consider investing in a good coffee maker instead of spending money every morning on lattes.
- DO choose housing wisely. It usually costs less to live in the dorms than it does to live off campus. Stretch your housing budget even further by splitting the cost with a roommate.
- DO explore campus amenities. Check out activities that are available on campus. Everything from movie nights to fitness classes might be offered free of charge.
- DO use cashback and rewards programs. Cashback programs like Rakuten, Ibotta, and Payce can help you earn cash for items you need to buy like fresh food, snacks, laundry detergent, and other personal care items. Other rewards programs can help you save cash or earn money back on necessary purchases.
- DO trim or split subscriptions where possible. Splitting subscriptions for services like Netflix or Hulu with roommates or family members can also help you save money in college. Everyone gets to enjoy the shows they want but aren’t on the hook for the full cost. Even better, some services, like Spotify, offer student-specific rates which make it even cheaper to afford the content you want. Use free versions of subscription services when possible.
- DO start investing if you can. If you have any leftover money, talk to your parents or family about opening a high-yield savings account or putting those savings into a Roth IRA. Making your money work for you will help you save even more money while in college.
- DO stay focused on your studies! Many students don’t complete their degree within four years, and every additional semester is another big expense. To stay on schedule, take advantage of university resources like tutoring and academic advising.
- DO buy in bulk. Get a membership card for a store like Sam’s Club or Costco where you can pick up nonperishable items and toiletries in larger amounts.
- DO meet application deadlines. Some scholarships renew each year. If you take the time to reapply, be sure to get your forms and letters of recommendation in on time. Earning scholarships and grants can help you save money in college by covering more of your tuition and living expenses.
Bonus Tips to Save on College Costs
Start paying off interest now. If you took out student loans to help pay for college, make in-school payments when you can. Even just $10 a month can make a big difference in the long run.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how to save money in college. Saving money at any stage of your life, but especially while you’re in college, takes a little common sense and discipline. Remember that you’re in college to learn and earn your degree. Meeting your academic and budgetary goals will not only help you make the most of your college experience – it will help you start your financial future off right.