The college lifestyle is very expensive but it doesn’t have to be!
Here are 11 ways to save money in college so you don’t end up being a broke college student!
*Affiliate links are used in this post. However, all opinions are my own and are based on products and services that I’ve used and loved. Read more here.
Apps/Coupon & cashback websites to save money in college
Ebates is by far the best way to save money in college and in general because it offers cash back on almost every store you can think of! It also automatically applies coupons to your cart when checking out so you get cash back in addition to the site’s discount!
You can also make money by encouraging your friends to sign up through your link. If you use my link, you automatically get $10 when you spend your first $25!
To learn more about how Ebates works and how you can make money with Ebates read this article.
Unidays is another lifesaver for college students! It tells you all the stores that offer student discounts and how to get them.
This includes stores like Apple (where you can save up to $300 by the way), ASOS, and Bed Bath and Beyond.
I highly recommend signing up to start saving now! A lot of these stores are places you’ll shop anyway, why not save some extra cash while doing so?
RetailMeNot.com (or app) is my third go-to when I’m making both online and in-store purchases. You simply type in the name of the store you’re interested in and it shows you all the coupons available.
I always check RetailMeNot before I make a purchase when shopping online to see if there are any active discounts and sales going on. I would highly recommend it!
How to reduce your expenses to save money
4. Don’t eat out! Meal prep.
Eating out consistently can add up very quickly! Those $5 and $10 fast food purchases here and there will be $200 before you know it, not to mention going to restaurants.
To cut out eating out excessively there’s one thing you need to understand: most of the time it’s due to laziness/convenience of ready-made food that you can get within a few minutes when you’re hungry.
If you had a long day and just got back to your dorm/apartment/house, the last thing you’ll want to do is cook. So what do you do? You buy food.
By meal prepping you eliminate that problem! If you know you have food waiting for you at home when you’re tired, you’re less likely to spend money on food.
5. Avoid the meal plan at all costs
If you’re living in a dorm on campus that does not have a kitchen, a meal plan might be your best option.
However, if you have access to a kitchen, I would highly recommend cooking your own food! The convenience of the meal plan might sound appealing (like it did to me my freshman year when I got it) but I promise it’s not worth it.
Not only is the meal plan expensive (more than if you had to buy groceries) but the food is also not that good! Sure, some days it might be okay, but overall, it’s really not that great.
PRO TIP: One way I’ve avoided spending money on food is by bringing a snack (usually a breakfast bar) to class. That way I can eat it when I get hungry so I won’t run to a fast food restaurant in between classes. Then I eat the food I meal prepped when I get back to my dorm.
6. Buy food in bulk
When you buy in bulk, you tend to get a volume discount versus buying individually at the grocery store.
Last semester I went to Costco and got some of my groceries and necessities in bulk for cheaper than I would’ve gotten it individually.
And you know what happened? I didn’t have to buy them again for the rest of the semester!
For example, I bought the huge 2 pack of shredded cheese for about $6 at Costco. It was so much cheese that it lasted for the whole semester! However, the shredded cheese I usually buy in the grocery store is about $4 per bag and it has about a quarter of what I get in one pack of the cheese at Costco!
7. Take stuff from your house! 😉
When you’re shopping for your college dorm, consider taking items from your house before going shopping.
Not everything in your dorm has to be new. Especially if it’s something basic like plates or towels.
For example, my mom bought a bunch of new towels from Macy’s right before I went off to college so I took a few of those rather than buying extra ones for my dorms. I also took some of the new plates and dishes she got as well.
I’m telling you, there are ways to go dorm room shopping on a budget! For more of these tips, you can read this article.
- 30 Things that will Transform Your College Dorm Room
- The Best Way to Shop for Your College Dorm to Save Money
8. DO NOT, (I repeat), DO NOT BUY NEW TEXTBOOKS!
This is possibly the worst thing you could do. Why? Because unless you absolutely love the subject so much you think you’ll read the textbook for fun, it is not worth it!
You won’t be able to resell it for as much as you bought it, especially not at the bookstore! The bookstore will probably offer you like $0.50 for a $100 textbook. So naturally, you’ll lose money.
Used textbooks and older editions contain the same information (check with your professor for older edition) at a fraction of the cost.
Personally, I’m going into my last semester in college and I have never bought a textbook but I have a 4.0 GPA! To learn how I did this, read this article.
9. Ask for student discounts!
While Unidays tells you about the retail stores the offer student discounts, it doesn’t include fast food restaurants.
It turns out that a lot of restaurants offer student discounts but of course you won’t know until you ask.
For example, you can get a free drink at Chik-fil-A when you buy a meal or 10% off your purchase at Dunkin Donuts! This article tells you about other student discounts at restaurants.
One of the biggest student discounts college students miss out on is Amazon Prime Student.
If you didn’t already know, Amazon gives you a 6 month free trial of Amazon Prime when you verify your student email. Then, you only pay HALF of the regular fee every month!
Save money on travel
In lieu of spring break coming up, make sure you get the best possible deal on your travel accommodations!
One way to avoid paying an arm and a leg when you travel is by staying at an Airbnb instead of a hotel. Hotels are typically not college-student-budget friendly so I would check out Airbnb’s first!
In fact, if you use my link, you’ll get $40 off your first stay for spring break!
11. Use a travel rewards card
Travel reward cards offer miles or points redeemable for flight tickets. You can either get a general one with redeemable points, or a card for a specific airline company. Personally, I have a Gold Delta SkyMiles Card which I absolutely LOVE.
I traveled 10 times in 2018 and part of that was because of my Delta SkyMiles card by American Express.
I signed up via a personalized offer emailed directly to me since I usually fly Delta. They offered me 60,000 Bonus SkyMiles! I will be able to pay for my ticket to Florida for spring break this year using my miles! If you sign with my referral link, you get a bonus offer for 40,000 bonus SkyMiles versus the 30,000 offered on the site!
Leave a comment below if you have more tips, or if some of these tips have helped you save money in college!
Studies show that if you like saving money then you’ll like these posts 😉
- The #1 Tool for Getting Cash Back that You Didn’t Know You Needed
- 8 Ways to Save Money and Get Cash Back When You Shop
Check out my other college posts:
- 20+ College Graduation Gift Ideas Your Grad Actually Wants
- Top 15 High School Graduation Gift Ideas for 2019
- 11 Lessons You’ll Learn the Hard Way in College
- 30+ Dorm Room Storage Ideas to Maximize Your Space
- 3 Post-Grad Entrepreneurs Give Advice on Life After College
- Everything You Ever Wanted to know about being a Successful in College
- 14 Habits of Successful College Students that will Boost Your GPA
- The Ultimate College Shopping & Move-In Day Guide
- 30 Things that will Transform Your College Dorm
- The Hidden Truth about Why You Struggle with Time Management