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How to Save Money in College (+6 FAQs Answered)

by Milos Djordjevic

Are you a college student struggling to make ends meet? Fret not! We’ve got you covered! 

Times are hard, and now more than ever, expenses can pile up quickly and become unmanageable. Follow our tips, and you can get yourself some wiggling room.

How to Save Money as a College Student

We’ve scoured the internet to find out how to save money in college efficiently, quickly, and reliably. Read on, and you’ll finally be free from the yoke of cheap instant ramen!

1. Ways to Save Money in College

Use your student ID

Your student ID is a powerful tool, and you should never leave home without it. It can help you save on necessities such as food, clothing, or tech items. Whenever you need to buy something, always ask if the store offers a student discount. 

Ditch cars, embrace public transport

For most college students, there are little or no real benefits to owning a car. Public transport, Lyft, and Uber are valuable allies. Sell your car if you’ve got one. 

Be prudent with your credit card usage

Learn to manage your credit card and use it sparingly. You’ll have an easier time saving money in college if you learn to be responsible when using it. 

Learn how to cook

No matter how cheap, fast food is terrible for both your health and wallet. Taking time to cook meals at home is a healthy and convenient way of saving money as a college student. You’ll soon learn that cooking in bulk two or three times a week and freezing portioned meals for later is not only good for your stomach and your savings but also a guaranteed time saver. 

Study hard

The best way to spend less money on college is to spend less time in it. Keep up with your schedule and don’t waste any semesters, and you’ll graduate as planned and stop paying tuition. 

Buy used

You can find almost anything used or secondhand at lower prices but still as good as new. Look online or use apps like OfferUp or Facebook Marketplace to find offers near you.

If you consider buying used stuff, you should know more about thrifting. In this guide, you will learn what it means and which things you can find at thrift stores.

Reconsider your bad habits

How much money do you waste on bad habits like too much alcohol, smoking, or junk food? If you’re serious about sticking to your budget, immediately cut these down to a minimum. 

Streamline your subscription services

Whenever possible, split your subscriptions expenses with friends or roommates. Better yet, go ahead and ditch them. There are plenty of ways to keep yourself entertained for free. 

Check out campus activities

Replace some of your paid activities with campus alternatives, like using the campus gym or library. 

Find a side hustle

Even if you don’t want to get a traditional part-time job, get a side hustle going. You can start by considering if you can turn any of your interests into hobbies that make money.

2. How to Save Money for College Tuition

We’ve found a few tips on how to save money on tuition. It’s not rocket science by any means, and everything listed below is available to every student, so let’s get to it. 

Apply for a scholarship

Scholarships are a perfect way to subsidize your studies without sacrificing anything. You can apply for multiple ones at the same time, and there are many websites, such as, that can help you find the right scholarship. There are literally no downsides to this method, and with enough effort, you’ll get what essentially is free money. 

Apply for a campus job 

One of the best ways to save money as a college student is to land a campus job. You’ll still be living on a budget, but your financial situation will be much easier to manage.

Rent or borrow textbooks

Look into book renting websites to obtain required texts for the semester, or borrow from somebody that you know won’t be using them. 

Pass the CLEP exam

Passing a College Level Examination Program (CLEP) can reduce your tuition costs. The College Board organizes these tests, and their purpose is to let you earn some credits that can go a long way in reducing both the time and the money you spend in college. 

Consider different housing options

Cutting down housing expenses is a crucial part of any money-saving plan for students. You should always consider splitting your rent with roommates or, if possible, living at home altogether. You won’t feel as independent on a day-to-day basis, but your wallet will appreciate it.

3. How to Save Money While in College

Limit eating out

Naturally, if you’re on a budget, you should always cook for yourself instead of eating out, especially if you don’t have a job or a side gig. 

Get a free checking account 

Free online banks, like Discover Bank and Chime, have special promotions for college students. Go ahead and check them out. 

Fill out your FAFSA

The key to getting any college financial aid is filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Make sure you do that each year. Even if you don’t qualify for aid one year, it doesn’t mean you won’t make it the next one.

How to Save Money in College - Ways to save

4. How to Save Money on Textbooks

There are a couple of tips you can follow to save substantial amounts of cash on textbooks.

Check out Project Gutenberg

If you’re struggling to find primary or classic texts, you’ll find Project Gutenberg very helpful. This platform offers thousands of free ebooks without requiring any registration. You probably won’t find actual textbooks there, but you can download classic course materials. 

Try an older textbook edition

Buying older editions of required textbooks is one of the most reliable and essential money-saving tips for college students. Publishers may update the graphics or reshuffle some page numbers, but everything else stays pretty much the same. 

Try out Open Education Network

The Open Education Network is just like Project Gutenberg, but with a focus on actual textbooks. You can find hundreds of textbooks that could turn out to be what you’re looking for. 

Share your textbooks

Try organizing a sharing program with your friends and classmates. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.

5. How to Save Money on Food in College

Plan your meals

Take a couple of hours on a Sunday and plan your meals for the week to come. You can use apps or websites such as Eat This Much or Healthy Meal Plans. You’ll be less wasteful, grocery shopping will be more straightforward, and you’ll learn how to cook!

Buy less meat

There’s no shame in ditching beef now and then. Vegetables—especially frozen ones—are cheap, nutritious, and filling. There are hundreds of vegan and vegetarian dishes packed with flavor, vitamins, and even proteins. Give them a try!

Buy in bulk

One of the most convenient ways to save money during college is to buy groceries in bulk once or twice a month. Canned, frozen, or dried foods are perfect because they are cheap, long-lasting, and easy to cook.

Buy off-brand products

Calling such goods “off-brand” is unfair. Most often, they are of similar quality as their name-brand counterparts. Sometimes they are even manufactured in the same plants! Always opt for in-store brands unless special deals are available. 

The bottom line is to not be scared by off-brands. 

Take advantage of deals and coupons

You should always keep an eye out for deals on foodstuffs included in your weekly meal plan. Grab some fliers, or visit your local supermarket chain’s website. Couponing is not so complex, and this guide can teach you more.

6. How to Save Money on Transportation in College

With gas prices going through the roof, it’s no surprise that more and more college students are trying to save money on transportation. You can do that too.

Ride a bike

Bikes are cheap, efficient, and will keep you in shape. In urban areas, they often get you to your destination quicker compared to driving there with a car. 


Carpooling has always been a cost-effective solution to daily commutes, and you’ll be helping save the planet as well. 

Optimize the way you drive

Take care of your car to prevent unexpected, costly mechanical failures. Pay attention to speeding, parking, and everything else that can get you fined by the police.

How to Save Money in College - Ways to save on transportation


We hope our tips to save money in college will turn you into a wiser and more frugal version of yourself. Good luck and happy pinching!