55 ways to save money in college 🧐

69% of the students that graduated in 2019 left with student debt averaging almost $30,000.
Allan T
14
min read
Apr 8, 2021

That’s a lot of money, and it could take over a decade for most of them to pay it back. Going to college is expensive, but it’s an investment that can reap big rewards. Leaving with as little debt as possible is a fantastic goal, and this article will teach you a bunch of ways how to save money in college. 

How To Save Money In College - Finances

Avoid Overdraft Fees

Overdraft fees are one of those sneaky ways that banks get you. Banks charge these fees if you overdraw an account (take money when your account balance is at 0). Overdraft fees can cost you up to $35 per instance, so they can quickly add up. Make sure you check the funds in your account so that you don’t pay extra overdraft fees.

Think About Credit Unions

Credit unions are not-for-profit banking institutions that are usually owned by a community. This means that they actually want to help people, not just make a profit. They offer lower fees and better interest rates than corporate banks and have much better customer service. You’ll save money in a lot of ways if you join the right credit union. 

Find a Student Friendly Bank

Banks literally know how to invest money (It’s like...their main thing). Many understand that hooking university or college students early is an investment that’s likely going to pay off in the future. Many of them offer special deals for students which include lower interest rates on student loans, lower fees, and student-centric banking practices. 

Use Budgeting Apps

It might seem like a pain, manually inputting all your expenditures in an app, but it really does help you save money. By tracking your spending, apps give helpful suggestions on how to cut back on spending and how to save more. There are several apps that are completely free, and the paid ones don’t cost more than a few dollars a month. 

Go Over Multiple Insurance Options

Insurance companies offer different prices for many different types of insurance. Some of them even offer student-specific deals. Don’t just buy the first insurance you come across, take a look at several offers and find one that makes the most sense for you. 

Make Your Payments on Time

Interest fees on credit card debt are another way banks get you. Missing just one payment can be a costly mistake, but if it happens a few times in a row you can really rack up huge penalties. Make sure you make every payment you’re supposed to by putting due dates into calendars or by adding them to your weekly schedule. 


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How to Save Money In College On Housing

Live at Home

Do you like having a fully stocked fridge and warm meals? Do you like being around your friends and family? Most importantly, do you like saving money? Well if you answered yes to all (or any) of these questions, think about living at home while in college. It will save you thousands of dollars over the years apart from the many other benefits. 

On-Campus or Off-Campus?

There’s no rule that says on-campus accommodation is more or less expensive than off-campus housing. It depends on the particular college you’re attending and the town that’s closest to it. Make sure to factor in transportation and utility costs to find the most cost-effective situation for you. 

Get a Roommate

Privacy can be fun, but there’s nothing like having a couple of roommates around to entertain you when things get boring. Not only that, college roommates often become lifelong friends, and for the purposes of this article, roommates cut down on the cost of renting an apartment by a massive amount. A single roommate halves your rent and utility costs. Make sure that each roommate signs a contract and knows the landlord though, just in case someone leaves unexpectedly and you end up responsible. 

Reduce Utility Bills

There are lots of ways to save on utilities like water and electricity. Not only is it good for the environment, but the savings can add up to hundreds of dollars. Wash dishes by hand and make sure your appliances and lights are off when you’re not using them. Take a cold shower every now and again, try to use fans instead of the air conditioner, and put on a hoodie if it’s too cold rather than turn up the thermostat or plug in a heater. 

Live Simply

Live within your means. The dream might be to have a huge kitchen with an island and a wood-paneled library, but ask yourself what you really need as a student who’s trying to save money. If you’re going to do most of your studying in a library or at a friend’s house, or just not going to spend a lot of time at your place, then maybe all you really need is a bed, table, and a microwave. Think about your needs and get a place that matches them Save the palace for when you’re financially more stable. 

Buy Secondhand Furniture 

You can get great deals on amazing furniture and appliances through classified ads and social media groups. Students are always moving around, and an entire class leaves when they graduate, which means all of their stuff can be bought at a steal!

How to Save Money In College - Expenses

Take Community College Classes

Like credit unions, community colleges are much cheaper than private institutions. Taking your general education courses in community college and then transferring to the school of your choice will save you tens of thousands of dollars. And at the end of the day, the degree you get will still be from the college you wanted to attend. 

Go to an In-State School

In-state public schools are partially funded by the taxpayers of that state, so if you belong to the state the tuition is highly subsidized. In-state public schools cost $10,560 on average, out-of-state public colleges cost on average $27,020, and out-of-state private colleges cost on average $37,650. You don’t have to be good at math to see how much money you can save by going to an in-state school. 

Get Scholarships and Grants

No matter what your grades are, you should be applying for all the scholarships and grants you are eligible for. These cover not just tuition but can help pay for, books, food, and other expenses. Some scholarships are need-blind, which means as long as you get into the college, they will find scholarships or on-campus jobs to help you attend.

Apply for FAFSA 

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s a form you can fill out every year that makes you eligible for financial aid from the federal government. Many higher education institutions use it to determine eligibility for their own scholarships and grants as well. More than 13 million students file the FAFSA every year and receive $120 billion in federal grant money. Best thing? It’s completely free to file for, so make sure you do it. 

Manage Your Student Loan Borrowing

The best way to stay away from debt and save money is to manage your borrowing. You might be tempted to think that student loans are a great deal because of lower interest rates, and you’ll have time later to pay it back, but student debt can quickly get out of control. You don’t want to be paying back student debt loans when you’re 40, so make sure you’re careful about how much you take on now. 

Print At the Library 

You might have gotten a printer with your laptop, or you live at home and have one easily accessible, but printer ink and paper can end up costing a lot especially when printing thousands of pages of notes, textbooks, etc. Campus libraries either provide printings services for free or at massively discounted rates, so be sure to take advantage of it. 

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How to Save Money On College Textbooks

Buy Used Books

The smell of a new book can be intoxicating, but there’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars every semester on new books. Since books are usually used just for one class, there are always people looking to sell them at the end of each semester. You can get these books for less than half the price of an original!

Rent Books

There are many websites online, including Amazon, where you can rent books. These services are targeted specifically at college students, so renting a book can is one of the best tips to save money in college. 

Sell Used Textbooks

The flipside of buying used books, if you sell them after you’re done with the class, you can get away with getting and using a book for just a few dollars. If you’re a good salesperson, you could even walk away with a profit!

Use The Library

Every college and university library has at least a few copies of every textbook. Some might be for short-term borrowing, some for long-term, some might only be accessible in the library itself, so sign up in advance to make sure you get the book when you need it!

How to Save Money On Food In College

Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk is usually cheaper than buying small amounts, so buy groceries with your roommates and save on larger home-cooked meals. It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s one of the best ways to save money in college and it fosters bonding between roommates. 

Use Your Meal Plan

If you have a meal plan, make sure you actually use it! Be on the lookout for meals that are filling as well as healthy and get as many calories and vitamins as you can. If possible, start cooking wherever you’re staying though, it’s much healthier and will save money in college.

Find Coupons

Coupons may make you think of middle-aged women in the 60s cutting into newspapers and magazines, but coupons have changed over time. You can find coupons online with a quick google search and redeem them with just a click! Websites like Groupon are a great way to save on more luxurious expenses like travel, massages, movies, groceries, and more. 

Use Happy Hours And Restaurant Promotions

It’s important to gout every once in a while, but when you do, try to take advantage of happy hours and promotions. Many places have lunch specials, and many bars have happy hours where alcohol and food are discounted. New items on menus are often on special deals, and all you can at buffets are the dream!

Attend Events With Free Food

Events like talks, seminars, extracurricular meetings, dances, etc. often have free food. This means you can go and learn something new, meet interesting people, and get a meal at no cost! It’s one of the best ways to save money in college. 

Learn To Cook

Cooking is a lifelong skill. It makes you feel like an independent adult like nothing else. Learning to cook in college will help you save money not just now, but for the rest of your life. It’s one of the most fulfilling ways how to save money while in college and who knows? Maybe you’ll love cooking and it’ll end up becoming a passion?

Drink Less Alcohol

You can plan for almost everything, but planning an alcohol budget is tricky. Once intoxicated, you might buy more drinks than you expected, eat expensive food, or go home and buy things you don’t need. Alcohol is expensive and cutting back on just one or two nights a week adds up to saving thousands of dollars a year. 

Carry Snacks and Drinks

It’s quick and easy to pre-prepare snacks and put them in your backpack. They can be as simple as a banana, or you could make a big batch of your favorite snack once a week and keep a ready supply in your fridge. Buying snacks and drinks in bulk and taking them with you is also much cheaper than vending machines or buying snacks on the go. 

How to Save Money As a College Student - Entertainment

Use Video on Demand Streaming Services

Do you really need cable in today’s world of streaming on demand? Probably not. It’s much cheaper to subscribe to a streaming service and share it with family and friends. Check to see what the sharing regulations for each company are, and take advantage of them. 

Use the Campus Gym

Most universities have a gym that’s free for students, so there’s no need for a fancy, expensive gym membership. You can always get a good workout by playing sports, going for a run, or just walking more instead of driving or taking public transport. 

Make Good Friends

Friendships don’t require money, they’re about the time you spend with each other. Strong friendships can be made by playing a video game, studying together, or just by having a good conversation. This is a great way how to save money as a student, and more importantly, might develop into a lifelong relationship. 

Attend Free Events

Extracurricular clubs always host free events for students which can be both fun and interesting. Sporting events are another great way to build school spirit and have fun on the cheap. Stay on the lookout for interesting free events on campus!

Demand Student Discounts

Restaurants, bars, museums, malls, movie theatres, websites, all can have student discounts. They may not advertise it, because, at the end of the day, they are businesses and want to make the most money they can. But don’t be afraid to ask if any student discounts are available wherever you go. 

Get a New Hobby

There are tons of hobbies you can develop that are absolutely free to get into. You could play a free video game, start a new sport, join a board games club, get into debating, and do hundreds of other things that are fun, interesting, challenging, and free!

Be a Volunteer

Volunteering is good for the soul. Helping those less fortunate than you can be one of the most rewarding things in the world. It’s free, a great way to meet other kind people, and it doesn’t hurt that it looks great on a resume too.

How to Save Money As a College Student - Travelling

Ride a Bike

There are so many benefits to riding a bike, it’s almost stupid not to. Riding a bike is a great workout. It allows you to travel to places that are inaccessible by car. A bike is an eco-friendly way of getting around, and best of all, after your initial purchase, it’s basically a free way to travel and a great way how to save money in college. 

Use Public Transportation

This might not be possible for everyone, but some cities and especially college towns have fantastic public transport. Public transport is also much better for the environment than driving yourself, and it often gets you where you need to go faster than driving because it bypasses traffic. 

Make Sure to Carpool

If you and your friends have cars, then drive together in one car rather than take out the entire fleet. You’ll be saving on gas money and be doing the environment a favor. You could also beat traffic by getting into carpool lanes and get where you need to faster. 

Get A Student Pass

Most cities offer student passes for public transportation. You could get this at your student center, or at the very least get information on how to get a student pass made. It will make traveling by public transport even cheaper and could save you hundreds of dollars over your student life. 

Scour Travel Websites

Ever wonder how friends manage to get tickets to Europe for under $100? They probably diligently check travel websites like Cheapflights, Skyscanner, and Hostelworld. Everyone wants to travel, but it can seem exorbitantly expensive. Check websites, Facebook groups, Instagram, and Telegram often to find student-friendly travel options.

Learn To Travel Cheap

You can use a lot of the tips in this article to travel cheaply as well. Apart from using websites to get great travel deals, use CouchSurfing to get a place to stay for free. Get around with BlablaCar, cook wherever you are, use public transport, watch out for happy hours and restaurant promotions, use your student ID to ask for discounts, and you can have an amazing trip on the cheap. 

Take Advantage of Credit Card Rewards

Different credit cards have different rewards systems and some are better for travel than others. In general, getting a credit card in college can be risky, but as long as you make your payments on time, using credit card rewards is a smart way to travel cheaply and how to save money in college. 

Live Close

The closer you live to campus, the less money you’ll spend on getting there - makes sense right? The best-case scenario is that you live close enough to walk to class, it’s great exercise and it’s free! 

Creative Tips On How To Save Money In College

Make coffee instead of buying - A $2 cup of coffee every day might not seem like a lot, but it adds up to over $750 a year. 
Use a water filter - Don’t buy bottled water, it’s bad for the environment and can get expensive.
Download free applications and software - You can often get by with trial versions or free versions of required software.
Go thrift shopping - You can get branded clothes for a fraction of the cost!
Cheaper haircuts - Give yourself a buzzcut, or get haircuts from cosmetology students.
Don’t use disposable items - Not only is it bad for the environment, but they are more expensive than buying dishes, cutlery, and washable kitchen towels.
Go to a grocery store around closing time - Many perishable goods like sandwiches and meats are offered at a steep discount around closing time. 
Get a side gig - There are lots of jobs you can apply for as a college student including micro freelance sites like Fiverr and Upwork.
Don’t fail - Failing a class means paying to take it again.
Share gaming costs - New consoles, games, and accessories are expensive, but sharing the costs with your friends or roommates lets you enjoy them inexpensively. 


You made the decision to invest in yourself and go to college. You’re probably a pretty smart person! Think about which of these tips to save money in college makes sense to you and adopt as many of them as you can so that you can leave college with the smallest debt possible. No matter how smart you are though, everyone needs help now and again. Studyfy is the perfect place to get your work edited by professional essay editors, to get extra homework help,  find study guides, proofreading service, online tutors, resume writers, and a lot more!