Student’s Guide to Saving Money During College

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I'm definitely going to use some of these methods to save money during college. Didn't even think of the third one!

Life as a student has a lot of perks like schedule flexibility and free time. However, having lots of disposable income is usually not a part of student life. So this is the ideal time for learning how to manage your money. You’ve probably already gotten the advice to start a budget, so here are a few suggestions for areas of a typical student’s budget that could stand a little cutting.

Food and Drink

When it comes to saving money as a student, there are two big ways you can cut spending. Learn to cook a few simple meals, and cut back on the nights out. Cooking at home is infinitely cheaper than paying for your school’s exorbitant meal plan or eating take-out. Shop the outsides of your grocery store for fresh fruits, veggies and meats. Avoid the stuff that comes in boxes. Since you’re cooking in your dorm or your apartment, invite your friends over to eat with you instead of going out. Have them bring the beer. Problem solved.


It is easy to spend a lot of money on entertainment without realizing it, especially if you live in an urban area. Conversely, in cities, there are also usually an abundance of free events to keep you busy if you know where to look. Start looking on campus where there are frequently free movie nights and other events put on for students. Expanding your social life off campus gives you a taste of the city you live in, and there are often cheap and free events out there in the community. Check the local entertainment weekly papers for events listings.

Fixed Expenses

Your fixed expenses are your monthly bills like your cell phone bill, your car insurance premium, and things of that nature. To cut expenses and save money, try shopping around for new service providers. It is easy to get a few different car insurance quotes online through insurance company websites, and adjusting your cell phone bill with your current provider or switching to a new cell phone service altogether can save you hundreds of dollars a year. It’s well worth the trouble to spend an hour between classes doing some research.

Increase Your Income

The other way to save some money is to increase your income. Taking a part-time job gives you valuable work experience, builds your resume, and forces you to learn to manage your time more efficiently. Look on campus for work-study jobs or in the local community for something that interests you. If you are an upperclassman, think about tutoring for classes you’ve already taken. You can tutor on campus or online, and you can earn significant money doing so. Even an extra hundred dollars per month makes a difference when you are a student.

Living on a shoestring budget is part of being a student, but you can make yourself a little more comfortable by getting your budget under control. Decrease your fixed expenses by finding new service providers or adjusting your service contract. Save money on food and entertainment by cooking at home and looking for cheap or free entertainment. Lastly, up your income with a part-time job – just a few hours of tutoring per week can net you an extra hundred dollars per month. If living on the cheap starts to get you down, just remember, being a student doesn’t last forever, so enjoy the good parts while you can.



This awesome post on living the college life without going broke is contributed by an outside writer.

11 thoughts on “Student’s Guide to Saving Money During College

  1. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    If you want to live like a student when you’re working as a professional, live like you are earning a professional’s salary when you are a student.

    Part of being in college is minding your money and living on less. Looking back there are several things I could have done differently to save money or would do differently in the world now (as opposed to the late 80s when i went to college.

    1) Avoid vending machines. They are everywhere on campus, and super convenient. They are also seriously expensive compared to grocery stores.. A refillable water bottle and a few snacks carried in your bookbag will help.
    2) You don’t have to buy textbooks from the school book store. You don’t have to sell them back to the school bookstore. You may not even need the textbooks “required” for the class, so talk to the instructor or kids who have taken the class before you buy, and if you need the book, cast as wide a net as you can. Then sell directly to someone who needs the class the next semester.
    3) Your student fees probably cover a number of great amenities, like access to a gym, student health care and student discounts on things like computers and software. Use them when you can, even though they may not seem like the most convenient options.
    4) If your college has a study abroad program, seriously consider it. I did, and got to live in Venice on the Grand Canal for 4 months. Other than the plane ticket and a Eurail pass, the cost was the same as if I’d stayed at school for a far richer experience.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I’ve never heard that part of the saying before! After you put it in context, I like it.

  2. Amanda @ centsiblyrich

    All great advice! I know many of my friends went out (for drinks and food) on a very regular basis and I always wondered how they could afford it. I didn’t go out as often and I worked throughout school to cover most of my living expenses.

    Making your own food is huge, and keeping snacks on hand is a good idea. Also, don’t use shopping as a form of entertainment!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Loooooaaaaannnns! That’s likely how many of them afforded it sadly. Though I’m making vast generalizations there. I love the extra tips!!!

  3. Pamela

    These are great tips. Food, drinks and entertainment were a high expense item for me. Mostly because I had no clue how to manage my finances well when I was in college (smack forehead). These tips are great. Another great way to make money during the school year (fall and winter semester) is to become a Teaching Assistant (TA), if you have the grades. It not only pays way more than minimum wage, but you get to solidify what you have learned in the past by helping others. Its a total win win. I was a TA in my 3rd and 4th year of college, but I was not smart to bank most of it. Great post!!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Love it, Pamela! We may have to chat about that more…seems like an awesome hustle!

  4. Thias @It Pays Dividends

    Looking back. I could have been better when it came to cutting my expenses in college. There are numerous deals that can be had for college students if you show your ID in most college towns. I didn’t take advantage of these as much as I should have.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      So true! In our city you can get into most museums and many attractions for free or a ridiculously reduced price with certain school IDs.

  5. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

    Great tips. I often hear finance advice that says that even when you graduate college, you should continue living like a student to save money. Sadly I noticed many college students who DIDN’T live like college students. They put things on credit cards and used extra money from their student loans to buy things they couldn’t afford. There are plenty of free or low cost entertainment options when you’re in college.


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