1. Don’t buy textbooks
Aside from buying, you have other, less expensive options:
Some websites offer 80% off retail prices on rentals. A university bookstore is the last place you want to rent from if possible.
If you have a cousin or friend who is in college, ask if they have the textbook you need. If they bought it, they may still have it. Did you know that you can borrow from your campus’ library? Not all schools have this option, but most do.Many professors put a limited amount of books on reserve at the school library. Some schools will let you borrow it for a semester and others for a couple of hours. Be sure to check out your school’s library.
You can also exchange books with your roommate if you’re taking the same classes!
Textbooks can cost $200 or more. While it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a free version for all your books, you may be able to find the free version for a few and save $400. There are several websites that offer free downloads. Check out my list of Free Textbook Resources (updated January 2020).
2. Take summer classes at your local community college
3. Apply to scholarships
If you do your research and compile a list of say, 20-50 scholarships (depends on your time) per a year, than you have a chance of at least winning one. The more time you spend looking for and applying for scholarships, the more likely you are to win them.
Even if you only win one, you could end up receiving anywhere from $50 to $5000, maybe more. What’s better than free money? Nothing when you’re in college. Aim to complete 1 scholarship application a week.
Be sure to check on scholarships provided by your school. If your school offers a scholarship, try to meet the requirements so you’ll have money for next year's tuition.
Disclaimer: The photo below is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase using it, a portion of the proceeds will support this blog at no additional cost to!
Not sure how to go about finding and applying for scholarships? No need to fear: for less than a Starbucks coffee, you can buy my eBook A Guide to Winning Scholarships on Amazon.
4. Cash back rewards
Check with your bank to see if they offer cash back rewards. Enrollment is usually free. I bank with Bank of America and they do offer cash back.
If your bank doesn’t offer cash back rewards, consider applying for a credit card that does offer cash back. Think of cash back as getting a discount on stuff you're going to buy anyways. Who doesn't want a discount on clothes, food, gas, etc? That being said, don't spend money on a credit card if you can'y pay it off every month. That's a surefire way to lower your credit score and fall into a pit of debt.
5. Student discounts
It can be difficult to remember to ask about discounts when you’re stressed out, hungry and hoping for an A on your test tomorrow. But make a note in your planner, on your hand, in your phone or somewhere that reads: ask about student discounts!
Now that you have a student ID, you can get discounts at tons of places, including McDonald’s and Chick-Fil-A.
You could also get a Student Advantage card. This will allot you discounts at AMC, Greyhound and even Topshop.
Pro Tip: Sign up for rewards programs, like AMC Stubs!
6. Make smart investments
Although your goal is to spend less money, don’t be afraid to invest in a laptop that will last you till grad school graduation or a pair of walking shoes that will be comfortable for 3 years. Investing in something can save you money. Would you rather spend $100 on a pair of shoes that lasts 3 years or $40 a semester for a new pair?
7. Use your meal plan
If you’re paying $1500 a semester, you should surely be utilizing your meal plan. Your dorm can also have a microwave and a mini fridge. You’re not going to be able to cook steak and you won’t be able to afford it either. Buy food for the times your meal plan won’t come in handy, but make sure to get your money’s worth!
8. Eat free food
Every campus organization hosts different events. Some schools have a weekly movie night with free pizza and soda! Keep track of all the events on your campus. Those events are your meal tickets! If your meal plan doesn't cover snack time, attend an event that does.
9. Use coupons
There is no shame in using coupons, they were created for a reason… If you need to buy food for your dorm, look for coupons.
You can find coupons in the Sunday newspaper, online, directly from manufacturers and even from your friends. Ask your roommate or friends if they have coupons they’d be interested in swapping.
Buy a Sunday newspaper or find a free one and snatch up the coupons. Ask your family too! I buy mine from Dollar Tree, only a $1 and you can buy three.
Check store websites for coupons. Target and CVS have coupons available online along with many others.. You can also check out my Find Free Coupons list to find out what other stores offer coupons! (Updated 2020)
Don't forget to look in your college newspaper for free coupons to local venues and restaurants!
10. Use your free (or included) campus resources
I mentioned earlier that you can get free food on campus. That’s not the only perk. Other free (or included in your tuition, so might as well use it) resources include:
11. Coordinate and split costs with your roommate
How you can save money by coordinating with your roommate:
12. Save your quarters (or dollars)
Don’t ever spend your quarters and make sure to ask your family for theirs. You will need quarters for laundry. Calculate the costs: can I get to the laundromat across town and spend less (transportation+laundry)? If so, save yourself some money!
Bonus Tip: Save your receipts
Let’s say you go out to eat at Krystal or Sonic. You probably throw away your receipt. But would you throw it away if you knew you could get free food or discounts? Fast food restaurants, stores and chains like CVS print off promotions at the bottom of their receipts.
For example, I have a receipt from Krystal. It says I can get 3 free Krystals with a purchase of a medium drink and fry if I fill out a short survey. I went online, filled out the survey. It only took 60 seconds!
Always check and save your receipts!!!
How do or did you save money in college? Did you learn anything from this article? Let me know below!
I'm a twenty-something navigating the adventures of life. I blog about writing, college, post-grad life, food, travel and more! If you're interested in a collaboration, please reach out.