How to Save Money as a College Student

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Student Lifehacks
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Being a college student is an exciting phase of life filled with opportunities. However, it can also be financially challenging, with all those tuition fees, textbooks, accommodation, and other expenses piling up. But fear not! In this blog post, we will explore some of the ways you can save money during college. From the obvious to the less known, these money-saving tips will help you make the most of your time as a student and ease your financial burden.

Embrace the Art of Budgeting

Budgeting is the cornerstone of financial success for college students. Start by listing all your income sources. Next, track your expenses diligently, recording every purchase, whether big or small. Categorize your expenses into essentials like rent and groceries and non-essentials such as entertainment and eating out. This way, you’ll clearly understand where your money is going. Adjust your spending habits accordingly, cutting back on non-essentials whenever possible. By sticking to a well-planned budget, you’ll be able to avoid overspending and have more control over your finances.

Pro Tip: Create a detailed monthly budget to track your income and expenses. Use budgeting apps or simple spreadsheets to record your spending habits. For example, apps like Mint can help you track expenses, set financial goals, and manage your money effectively. Also, explore free budgeting apps like EveryDollar or Goodbudget to manage your finances as a college student without additional cost. By knowing where your money goes, you can identify areas where you can cut costs.

Take Advantage of Student Discounts

Being a student comes with a host of perks, and one of the most significant advantages is the availability of student discounts. Many businesses, from restaurants and movie theaters to clothing stores and software companies, offer special deals exclusively for students. One prominent example is the Spotify Student Premium plan. If you’re a college student, you can subscribe to Spotify Premium at a significantly reduced rate. Find out if your school is listed in their eligibility form, and if it is, you can enjoy free ad-free music streaming, offline listening, and exclusive content.

Pro Tip: Always carry your student ID with you and ask about discounts whenever you make a purchase or use a service. These discounts may seem small individually, but they can add up to substantial savings over time.

Buy and Sell Used Books and Textbooks

Textbooks are another major expense for college students. Instead of buying brand-new books at full price, consider purchasing used textbooks. Many campus bookstores or online platforms offer second-hand textbooks at a fraction of the cost. At the end of the semester, when you no longer need your books, sell them to buyback services like BooksRun. You’ll get cash you can use to buy books for the next semester or other necessary expenses.

Pro Tip: Buy and sell your books with BooksRun to recoup some of the expenses. Besides, with BooksRun’s buyback program, you can always sell almost any textbook regardless of its demand (as opposed to college bookstores). Besides, they offer an easy and straightforward buy/rent/buyback process and the best prices for used books.

Cook Your Own Meals

Dining out or relying on fast food can quickly drain your funds. Learning to cook simple and nutritious meals will save you money and help you lead a healthier lifestyle. Plan your weekly meals and create a shopping list to avoid impulse purchases. If you want to save money on groceries, shop at cheap supermarket chains, such as Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and Costco. 

Buying ingredients in bulk can also be cost-effective (try Club Membership at Sam’s Club). Consider preparing large portions and freezing leftovers for quick and easy meals throughout the week. You’ll be surprised at how much money you can save by making your meals at home.

Pro Tip: Not only does meal prepping save you from ordering expensive takeout, but it also helps reduce food waste by using ingredients efficiently. 

Use Public Transport

If you’re a college student, you may be eligible for special public transportation programs your college or city offers. Many universities partner with local transit authorities, providing discounted or even free transportation passes to students (for example, U-Pass from Chicago Transit Authority, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) U•Pass program, or UTA Student Pass programs). Take advantage of these programs and use public transportation for your daily commute and other travel needs. Check with your college’s transportation office or visit the transit authority’s website to see if they offer student discounts or subsidized passes. 

Pro Tip: Public transportation not only saves you money on gas, insurance, and maintenance but also reduces your carbon footprint. By making public transportation a regular part of your college routine, you’ll also contribute to a greener and more sustainable campus community.

Explore Free or Low-Cost Campus Activities

College campuses are usually bustling with free events and activities. Keep an eye on bulletin boards and campus websites for free or low-cost events like movie nights, workshops, seminars, and cultural performances. For instance, at the University of California, Berkeley, the student-run film club organizes regular Film Screenings at “Cinema Hall.” The film club selects a diverse range of films from different genres and time periods, including classics, documentaries, foreign films, and recent releases.

Join student clubs and organizations, as they often host social events and gatherings with minimal fees. Engaging in these activities saves money and helps you make friends and enrich your college experience. 

Pro Tip: Another fantastic way to explore free or low-cost campus activities is to attend departmental seminars and guest lectures. Most colleges and universities regularly host academic seminars and talks by renowned professors, experts, and guest speakers from various fields, from science and technology to arts, literature, and social sciences.

Rent or Share Textbooks with Classmates

Instead of buying every required textbook, contact your classmates to see if you can share or rent them together. By splitting the cost, you both benefit from significant savings. Coordinate with your peers before the semester starts to arrange the sharing schedule. Alternatively, you can take turns buying and selling the textbooks each semester.

Pro Tip: You can also use BooksRun to rent textbooks. This way, you can save a considerable amount of money. 

Opt for Free or Discounted Software and Tech Services 

Many colleges and universities offer their students free or heavily discounted software and tech services. These resources are intended to support your academic pursuits and personal projects. Some common examples of software and tech services you can access for free or at a reduced cost are Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and more), antivirus software, software development tools, compilers, and integrated development environments (IDEs), statistical software for data analysis (e.g., SPSS or R), cloud storage options (e.g., Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive), video conferencing software (e.g., Zoom), and so much more.

Pro Tip: Check with your college’s IT department to learn more about the services available and how to access them. Taking advantage of these resources can significantly enhance your academic experience and productivity without adding extra financial burden.

Save on Utility Bills

As a student living in a dorm or off-campus apartment, you can save on utility bills by implementing an energy-efficient dorm room setup. Start by using LED lighting, which consumes less energy and lasts longer than traditional bulbs. Utilize smart power strips to plug in electronics and appliances to prevent unnecessary energy consumption. Unplug devices when they’re not in use, as many electronics draw power even when turned off. Consider investing in Energy Star-rated appliances like mini-fridges or microwaves. Manage heating and cooling sensibly, wearing warm clothing during colder months and using fans or natural ventilation in warmer months. Turn off the tap when not in use, conserve water, and wait for a full load before using the washing machine. Create a shared plan with your roommates to reduce utility usage. 

Pro Tip: Be mindful of your electricity and water consumption by contributing to a more sustainable campus environment. Small changes in your daily habits can lead to significant savings over time.

Seek Part-Time Employment or Freelance Gigs

Seeking part-time employment or freelance gigs can be a great way to earn extra money and gain valuable work experience. Many college towns offer job opportunities on or near campus that cater to student schedules. Whether it’s a job on-campus, a local restaurant, or an online freelance opportunity, part-time work can help you cover expenses and build essential skills. 

Pro Tip: Websites like Indeed and Upwork are excellent resources for finding various part-time job openings and freelance projects tailored to your skills and interests. By exploring these platforms, you can discover many opportunities that fit your schedule while boosting your financial independence. It will also provide valuable work experience and build your resume.


Saving money as a college student is more manageable than it may seem. By incorporating these money-saving strategies into your college life, you can create a strong financial foundation for your future. Embrace budgeting, utilize student discounts, cook your own meals, use public transportation, and explore free campus activities to reduce expenses. Consider buying used textbooks and reselling them through book buyback services like BooksRun to save on course materials. Moreover, share textbooks with classmates, opt for free software, and be conscious of utility usage. Finally, if you have the time, explore part-time employment or freelancing opportunities to boost your income. With these tips in mind, you can enjoy your college years to the fullest.

Dina McCartney