how to save money in college

College expenses add up quickly and can stretch your budget. The average college tuition is $9,687 for in-state public tuition, $21,184 for out-of-state public tuition, and $35,087 for private tuition. Even if you get financial aid to cover tuition, you’ll have other expenses, such as food, going out, and housing.

Being a full-time college student leaves little time for work. If you’re only working part-time or not working at all, you might need to get creative to save money on a small income.

Keep reading to learn how to save money in college to avoid going deep into debt or having your account overdrawn.

Compare Housing Options

Living in the dorms keeps you close to your classes, but it’s not always the cheapest option. Look at the on-campus housing options to find out the total cost, including any mandatory fees. Some colleges require students to buy an expensive meal plan while living on campus, which increases your costs more.

Check for apartments and rental homes near campus as an alternative. Keep in mind you’ll have transportation costs if you don’t live close enough to campus to walk or ride your bike. You’ll also have utility bills that you don’t have to pay in the dorms, so look at the total cost of each option to see which one saves you the most money.

Furniture is another consideration. Dorms provide the basics, but you’ll need to furnish your apartment yourself, which can add up if you don’t get hand-me-down furniture.

Get a Roommate

No matter where you live, having one or more roommates usually cuts your costs. Many colleges let you choose a single room in the dorms, but you’ll pay more for the privacy. Choosing the option to have roommates often lowers your room and board.

If you rent an apartment, you divide all of your living costs among the roommates. If you have one roommate, you’ll only have to pay half of the rent and utilities. If you have two roommates, you’ll only have to pay a third of the living costs.

Cook for Yourself

Colleges make it easy to grab meals and snacks on campus, but those convenience foods come with a high price tag. If you live in the dorms, you won’t likely have access to stoves and other cooking facilities. However, you can buy your own snacks and pack them to take to classes.

If you live in an apartment, plan to eat as many meals at home as possible. Take snacks to campus with you so you don’t have to stop and buy convenience foods. Decide how many times you can afford to eat out at restaurants, and stick to that budget.

Bike or Use Public Transit

Car expenses can add up quickly for college students. New vehicles cost an average of $554 per month for the payment, and used cars average $391. 

Even if you own a vehicle outright, you have regular expenses, such as gas, maintenance, and insurance. As a college student, you’ll have to buy a parking pass if you want to park the vehicle in campus parking lots.

Taking public transportation or biking saves you money over having a car at college. Many colleges offer students free buses that run to different parts of the city, making it easier to get to off-campus housing or local stores.

Buy Used Items

Buying brand new items costs you significantly more, and you can often find items that are just as useful when they’re used. For college students, buying used textbooks can save you a lot of money. Students spend an average of $1,240 per year on textbooks and supplies, so decreasing that expense can really help.

Furniture and clothes are two other popular items to buy secondhand to save money. Check out local thrift stores and local buying and selling groups online to find gently used items you need.

Check for Student Discounts

Being a student comes with perks, often in the form of student discounts. Local businesses might offer student discounts on purchases as a way to support the campus community. Many national stores also offer small student discounts on purchases.

You can also get student discounts on services and experiences. You might be able to buy discounted tickets for events or get a cheaper membership fee for services. Always ask for a student discount even if you don’t see one advertised just in case the business offers a lower price, and keep your student ID with you as proof if you need it.

Take Advantage of Campus Offerings

Does your college have an on-site clinic, gym, or pool? As a student, you might have access to those facilities for free or at a significantly discounted rate. Instead of paying for a gym membership somewhere else, use the student facilities.

Watch Your Budget

If you’ve never had to pay bills before, going to college and being in charge of your money can be overwhelming. Start by writing down a budget if you don’t have one already. Track what you’re spending to make sure you stay within that budget.

Spending more than you have in the bank can result in overdraft fees, which average around $30 for each transaction. If you have 5 transactions that don’t go through, that’s an extra $150 you’re losing.

If you don’t pay your bills on time, you’ll have late fees. These spending mistakes cost you extra money that you otherwise would have had in your bank account.

Avoid Debt

College campuses get hit hard by credit card companies hoping to lure in new customers. Avoid falling into the credit card trap, which ends up costing you a lot of money in interest. It’s better to cut your spending and stay within your means than to charge things that you can’t truly afford.

If you take out loans to pay for college, borrow as little as possible. You don’t usually have to pay those loans back until after you graduate, but you’re setting yourself up for a stronger financial future if you borrow the bare minimum.

Learn How to Save Money in College

When you figure out how to save money in college, you give yourself a financial buffer. You can also reduce how much you need to borrow or cut back on your work hours to start yourself off on solid financial footing. 

If you come up short in your budget, consider a short-term installment loan from us to hold you over until you get your budget back on track.