100 Ways College Students Can Save Money

Learn to be Frugal While at College

••• Getty / Martin Barraud

Going to college is expensive even after the tuition is paid. The following tips can help college students cut back on unnecessary expenses and take more cost-effective steps to financing what they need to make life comfortable and entertaining.

Save on Textbooks

What major expense comes after paying the tuition and room and board? If you answered "buying textbooks," you are correct. Fortunately, the prices on college textbooks can cost less if you follow these tips.

1) Search for used textbooks online or locally at used bookstores, garage sales and campus bookstores.

2) Check online or at the college bookstore for textbooks that can be rented.

3) Check for e-books that can be downloaded.

4) Sell old textbooks to help fund the cost of buying current textbooks.

In-Depth Reading:
- Cheap Solutions for Expensive College Textbooks
See Also:
- How to Buy New and Used Books for Less
- Selling Old Textbooks - Tips and Resources


One of the few times in life that you can enjoy having a fairly sparse wardrobe is during your college years. But you will need some outfits, and when it is time to go shopping, use these tips to help save money.

5) Browse the consignment stores first, before hitting the malls.

6) Shop the final sale racks all throughout the year.

7) Stick to basics. Basic clothing is generally more versatile than trendy clothes and will last longer.

8) Use stylish accessories to update your basics or to define the tone of your outfit.

9) Develop your own style by shopping vintage boutiques, garage and estate sales and thrift stores.

10) Learn to sew and add your own trendy spin to basics.

11) Wear maintenance-free clothing more often than items that need dry cleaning or ironing.

12) Wash and fold clothing frequently to avoid feeling the need to shop for something to wear.

13) Look for relaxed tops with school logos on sale racks and online stores during big sales events.

14) Check warehouse stores like Sam's and Costco for cheap T-shirts and pull-on knit pants.

15) Have a swap party with friends and trade clothes.

16) Need a new coat? Coats are cheapest during spring and early summer.

17) Design your own T-shirt or team jersey at sites like DesignAShirt.com for savings. Take advantage of buy-more-save-more deals by getting friends to add to the order.

18) Try to always shop at stores that offer student discounts.

19) If family members ask you what you want for your birthday or for Christmas, and you need clothing, let them know and also mention the stores or brands that are your favorites.

Dorm and Off-Campus Living

It's great to have your living space looking great, but buying new furniture and home decor can really add up. There are several inexpensive ways to create your own decorating style without running up the credit cards.

20) Shop garage sales, thrift stores, flea markets and online sites like Craigslist.com and check with relatives who may have old furniture they no longer want.

21) Learn to repurpose old furniture and other odd and ends. Check at local craft stores for free classes and the library for books to find inspiration and instructions.

22) Discarded louver doors make excellent shelves, headboards and room dividers.

23) Chairs and sofas can be updated with paint, a good staple gun, bed sheets or sale fabric to update the upholstery.

24) Inexpensive knobs can replace dated, missing or broken knobs and handles on old furniture.

25) A few good coats of paint will refresh and update walls and furniture. To get the best buy on paint, check out the mismatched paints at stores like Lowe's.

26) Go dumpster diving, if it is legal in your area. Drive around nice neighborhoods and look for furniture that is being set out for trash pickup. The best time to go is the night before trash pickup is scheduled. Also, if there is a college nearby, cruise the dorms and apartment complexes at the end of the semester and school year. You might be amazed at what you will find being left behind by graduating students.

27) Shop garage sales on the final day and in the last hours that events take place. Sellers are much more receptive to buyers bartering for low prices at the final hours of a garage sale.

28) If you have a roommate, compare lists of what you each have to avoid buying something that isn't necessary.

29) Create your own art for the walls. Using an overhead projector comes in handy for dramatic artwork that you paint directly onto large pieces of cheap canvas stiffened with starch.

30) Shop the local salvage yard for architectural pieces that you can repurpose to add interest to a  dull room.

31) Look for carpet remnants and stencil your own area rug.

32) Use cheap solutions for organization like a hanging shoe holder which could be used for personal care items, or computer cords and accessories, or hey, even for shoes!

Kitchen Needs

33) Dishes, pans and other kitchen supplies can be found at garage sales, thrift stores and on Craigslist.

34) Keep a good inventory of cheap plastic utensils, plates and glasses. These can be found at garage sales for under a dime.

35) Shop the dollar stores for cheap mixing bowls, wooden stir spoons and similar kitchen basics.

36) Only buy small appliances (like a blender or toaster) that you know you will use regularly. Avoid trendy items like electric chocolate fondue machines.

Food and Personal Items

37) Buddy up with friends and buy in bulk. Items such as toilet paper, personal grooming products and basic food items can be purchased in bulk for less money than buying the items separately at grocery and drug stores.

38) Learn how to use extreme couponing techniques at national drugstores to score free and almost free products.

39) Check freebie websites for all the free items that are available online. Samples of shampoo, hand cream, soaps, laundry detergent, dish washing liquid and food are easy to get for free.

40) Keep a good stock of coffee, soda and snacks at home instead of purchasing them from expensive vending machines.

41) Purchasing food at the student cafeteria or food court can dig deep into a budget. Pack your lunch instead and save a bundle.

42) Purchase an inexpensive thermal tote to keep soda and water cold and your lunch fresh during class time.

42) Make your own coffee and pour it into a Thermos to take with you.

43) Plan your meals carefully to avoid waste and allow for quick leftovers.

44) Recycle plastic food containers and jars for food storage.

44) Buy generic food. The food is manufactured by the same companies that make the more costly brand name foods.

45) Define an area for eating where you can relax and enjoy a good meal.

46) Instead of eating out, cook with friends. Split the cost and make batches of cookies, soups, spaghetti sauce and other foods which can be divided and used later.

47) Shop at local farmers markets for fresh vegetables and fruits. The prices are often far more reasonable than grocery stores located near colleges.

48) Learn how to freeze food.

49) Stay away from convenience stores. The markup on items at convenience stores is sometimes double what you'll pay at the grocery or drug store.

50) Avoid grabbing items located on the ends of grocery store aisle end caps. Items placed in these areas may look like a good deal, but are generally higher priced than items found on shelves in the aisles.

51) Buy meat that is expiring soon and marked down for quick sale. Either cook the meat immediately or freeze it.

52) Prepare big batches of soup and casseroles and freeze some in portion-sized containers.

53) Save on breakfast by learning how to make your own granola. It is healthy and cheap.


54) Take advantage of campus facilities and events. Many campuses have pools, basketball courts, gymnastics equipment, tennis courts and weight rooms and usage fees may be included in tuition.

55) Find out what is happening around the community. Free concerts, festivals and fairs, parks with hiking paths, art exhibits and museums can be free or low-cost activities and often offer discounts to students if there is a charge.

56) Rather than go to expensive restaurants, invite friends for a potluck dinner. If everyone brings a dish there will be plenty to eat, lots of leftovers and the cost can be manageable.

57) When dining out, get to the restaurant early to take advantage of early-bird specials.

58) Avoid ordering mixed drinks at restaurants and opt for water instead.

59) Always get a doggy bag for leftovers and pack it for lunch the next day.

60) Check out local specials like happy-hour buffets, free ladies hours and two-for-one offers. Local hotels often promote happy hour by offering free food and entertainment.

61) Utilize free music sites like Pandora.com to build your music collection.

62) Swap books, magazines and movies with friends.

64) When going out to see a movie, go during the matinee showings to get the cheapest prices. Also, find out if any movies are being shown on campus for free.

65) Get involved in clubs that focus on free activities like running, biking and hiking.

66) Start a book club and enjoy an evening of discussion.

67) Cruise the internet. Look for fun places to travel to, play music, watch videos or catch up with friends on Facebook.

68) Design your own website or start a blog on a topic that you feel passionate about.

69) Give back to the community by volunteering your time at a soup kitchen, visiting with senior citizens at retirement homes or converting an empty lot into a park.

70) Join the campus theater group and help make props, handle the lighting or perform in plays.

71) Go kite flying, roller skating, play cards or pull out vintage board games.

72) Browse used book stores, old record shops or used CD stores. Set a spending limit.

73) Find out what classes are being given at the DIY stores like Home Depot and go learn something new.

74) Spend a day doing nothing but pampering yourself. Sleep late, take a long bath, pour a glass of wine with your dinner, then sit back and enjoy a good book or movie.


75) Use the public transit system when possible and always check to see if student discounts apply.

76) Purchase transportation tickets seasonally instead of individually.

77) If commuting to college, find out about local carpool or park and ride options in the area.

78) Barter with friends. If you can cook, trade your talent with a friend who can change your oil.

79) Avoid procrastinating on car inspections, license renewals and insurance renewal and follow the rules of the road. Tickets can be costly and are simple to avoid.


80) Find an affordable plan by using price comparison websites.

81) Stay on your parent's plan if possible.

82) Avoid texting if you pay extra for it.

83) Use a prepaid or pay-as-you-go cell phone service.

Your Health

84) Don't assume that the health insurance plan offered through your college is the cheapest way to go. Take time to run a comparison of different plans and how much they cost. If possible, stay on your parent's health plan.

85) Avoid letting your health deteriorate by eating junk food, overindulging in alcohol or avoiding exercise. Make an effort to discipline yourself to exercise at least three times a week and fix healthy meals.

86) Don't smoke. It's expensive, very addictive and extremely unhealthy.

87) Take advantage of the free health screening events going on at the campus or within the community.

88) Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings. The cost of a cleaning is nothing compared to the cost of a $1,200 crown.

89) Most insurance policies cover free flu shots. Don't let this freebie pass you by.

90) Recognize and respond when your body is telling you it needs more rest. Irritable? Unfocused? Muscles ache? It could mean that you need a good night's sleep.

If Money is Tight, You Can Live Without These Things

91) A landline. If you have a cell phone, you don't need the extra expense of a landline.

92) Cable television. You can watch television on your laptop.

93) A car. Cars at college can be a real money drain. Use public transportation instead.

94) A pet. If you are living in the dorm, having a pet won't be an option, but for some reason, ​many times when students live off campus, a new puppy or kitten ends up moving in, too. Pets cost money. Annual shots, heartworm pills, flea control and food, can put a dent in your budget, and a trip the vet costs as much as a trip to your doctor these days.

95) Credit cards. One credit card is good for emergencies. Two credit cards are one too many. Forget the myth that credit card solicitors will tell you about needing to build your credit. You have plenty of time to do that when you are earning a living.

96) Food delivery. It is a wonderful thing to have prepared food brought to you, but it will also run your food bills sky-high. Keep frozen pizzas and prepared dishes around to help ward off the temptation to order out.

97) College meal plans. College meal plans can be much more expensive than planning, shopping and preparing your own meals.

98) Electronic gadgets. A few are okay, but unless you want to pay for a good insurance plan, it is best to keep expensive gadgets to a limit.

99) Clothing that requires dry cleaning. If money is tight, you will likely skip the cleaners and just not wear the items until you can afford to get them cleaned.

100) Being a regular at the bars. Drinking in bars is a waste of money. If you want a drink, have some friends over. If you do go to a bar, don't bring your credit cards and limit how much cash you bring.