How To…Save Money While at College

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When you live at home with your parents, there aren’t many things you’re responsible for buying. When you go to college, that all quickly changes. Suddenly, there are a million and a half things you need to buy, and more often than not, you’re probably job-searching at the same time. Read on for tips on saving money while you’re at college!

Make a list

Make a list of everything you need to buy, and stick to it. Don’t buy something if it’s not on the list. Make sure you include everything – books, clothes, groceries, toilet paper, toiletries. Then decide what you can buy the generic brands of, specifically on groceries, toilet paper, and toiletries. Oftentimes, the generic brand is the exact same thing as the more expensive name-brand items. (The only time this might not be true is with toilet paper – you’ll probably get 2-ply as opposed to 4-ply or something.)

Clip coupons

And by “clip,” I mean search online for printable coupons. (Come on…does anybody in college seriously get the Sunday paper?) There are tons of good coupon websites, such as redplum.com, coupons.com, and, for clothing websites as well as groceries, retailmenot.com. These websites usually require you to download the (free) coupon-printing software. But what if you don’t have a printer? Download the software and a picture of what you’re printing should come up. Take a screenshot of this and paste it into Paint. Save the document to your USB drive and print it for free at the school library. And speaking of the library…

Take advantage of the library

Free printing, free access to academic material, discounted or free copy machine usage…you get the picture? Having your own printer is sometimes more convenient, but it’s expensive. Ink is not cheap, neither is printer paper. It’s worth the walk to the library when you think of how much money you’ll save.

Save on the essentials

So you’re taking 18 hours and each course requires at least three books? Those add up, and quickly. Before you order (or pre-order) your books online, talk to your teachers. Ask if you can get the previous editions. Sometimes, the syllabus will say the 13th edition, but your teacher will allow you to use the 12th edition. This can save you literally hundreds of dollars. Case in point: I had two books that cost me $128 each. My teachers said I could use the previous editions, which I got for less than $13 each, including the next-day shipping. If your teachers won’t allow you to use the old editions, go used. You’ll save at least a couple books. You might also check if your school library has the textbook. You can check it out and keep renewing it until the semester is over – completely free!

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Raid your house

When you go home for a visit, stock up on essentials. Whenever I go home, I add stuff like feminine products, chips, whatever to our shopping list so I can take it back to school with me. It’s not expensive stuff, so my parents don’t mind, and it saves me $20 – $30.

Eat cheap

If you have a meal plan – take FULL advantage of it. Some places (like my cafeteria) don’t allow you to take food out for future meals or snacks in your dorm. (But if you’re sneaky and you have a bag big enough to stick some Tupperware in… ;) ) Eat in the cafeteria any chance you get. If you have “money” on your meal plan card, see what places on campus accept it – the bookstore, perhaps a convenience store, etc etc. If you don’t eat on campus, steer clear of fast food. It leaves you hungry not too long afterwards, it’s not healthy, and it’s expensive. Instead, stock up on (generic-brand) essentials at your local grocery store. If you can, get a Sam’s Club membership. You can buy in bulk and for less than the grocery-store price!

Splurge a little

I know, I know – this goes against everything I’ve been saying. While I’m not telling you to go out and buy the $200 pair of shoes the minute you see them or get a $4 latte from Starbucks every day, allow yourself a little wiggle room. You’re saving a lot of money – have a little bit of fun and reward yourself! A latte once a week? Go for it! $200 shoes on sale for $50? How can you say no?

What Do You Think?

How do you save money? What are your best tips? Leave us a comment and share! Let’s get an even bigger list going with all your best kept secrets to help other college girls out, and pick up a few for yourself!

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12 Comments
  1. Charlotte Charlotte says:

    this is fantastic!!
    i have a part-time job at home, but my visa over here means I can’t have a job so I find this hard sometimes.
    I am a HUGE list fan though, so I definitely agree with that, and our bookstore sells used books which is great, although they are still pretty expensive!!
    thanks for the advice on the coupons though!! we don’t really have them at home in the UK but that sounds like a great idea :]]]
    another fabulous post :]]]

    Charlotte xxx

  2.  meaghan says:

    I think the best advice I can give is don’t spend all your money at the bar. PRE-DRINK if you are going to be drinking, spending $20 on a bottle of vodka at home is much cheeper than 7.50 for a vodkacran at the bar.

  3. Sari Sari says:

    Thank you for this! I definitely agree with a lot of your tips, and I already use some of them, like list making. I would also recommend searching online for used textbooks- it’s even cheaper than the bookstore. And don’t forget to sell back the ones you don’t need once the semester is over. As for what Meaghan suggested, also apply that to eating out. It’s great every now and then, but sometimes it’s better to eat on campus before heading out to the city or whatever. In regards to splurging, know which clothing items are worth it (you know, investment pieces) and which ones can be bought really cheap.

    And I have a question for you girls: does anyone here ever make a serious budget? I’ve been wanting to start a mint.com account because I’ve heard great things about the site. I think it’s a really important skill to have, being able to budget your money and to spend accordingly.

  4. Jessica Jessica says:

    Sari, I’ve been budgeting pretty seriously since I was a kid (well, as serious as a kid can be about budgeting…). I know, nerdy, right? :) My dad is a businessman, and my parents were both intent on making sure my siblings and I knew how to save/budget our money. It may sound crazy/unnecessary for a college student, but I think it’s an essential life skill that’s worth developing as soon as you possibly can. Think of it as preparation for life after college–you want to learn these skills now before it’s do or die.

    As far as tips for saving money… Well, I’m pretty much a tightwad, so that makes a big difference. I can’t bring myself to spend $50 on a pair of shoes, even if they were $200 originally! I say don’t be afraid to shop thrift stores (Goodwill, Salvation Army, other secondhand stores). You can find some real treasures if you’re willing to look hard enough and be patient.

  5. ugg boots ugg boots says:

    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post

  6. Sharon Sharon says:

    thnx 4 the post. I will be movin away frm home soon and definitely want to save up some money :D

  7. Angela Angela says:

    I just graduated, but I still check out your site every once in a while. Some other things you can do to save money on textbooks is buy them earlier. As soon as you register for classes, email the professor of your course and explain you’ll be taking their class next semester and wanted to get a head start buying your books. Usually they’re psyched that you’re so excited (or in my words, “cheap”) that they’ll email you the syllabus. That way you can go to ebay or wherever and get your books 2-3 months ahead of time instead of having to pay more for 2 day shipping. Shipping it media mail is cheaper, but slower, although I personally don’t recommend it because I had a bad experience with it. Also, make sure you do this for required classes, or classes you will definitely not drop, because I ended up leaving an elective that I bought all the books for. Also, if your school has a professor reviews site, check it out because usually students will say whether or not the teacher makes you buy a textbook that you never end up using. Lastly, if your friend’s taking the course the semester before you, you can ask to use their books when you take it the next semester. I always offered to do the work (packaging, shipping) with selling them back to a used books site or lugging it back to the school bookstore for them when I was done with them. That way they get the cash back with none of the hassle and you get free books. I also threw in dinner as a thank you too.

  8. thank you for this! I definitely agree with a lot of your tips, and I already use some of them

  9.  becca25 says:

    An easy way to save a few dollars is to buy a stainless steel drink bottle, it saves buying a plastic one every day and is better for your health! xx

  10.  Beauty says:

    I love this post! I’m a house-rider myself, and always make sure to stock up on things when I’m at my parents house. I’m also a real “discount hunting girl”, I always hunt for coupons and I LOVE making good deals! Therefore I’ve signed up for this great new startup called Statricks, which I’ve found to be fantastic if you (like me) use online marketplaces to sell stuff you don’t use or browse for good deals.
    This site provides you with price trends and fair market values for almost all used goods so you’ll know what the going price is for an item. I find this very useful and reassuring, as I’ll know I’m not overpaying or underselling my stuff.
    You should check it out, and I highly recommend this site for bargain hunters ;)

    http://www.statricks.com/craigslist-used-pricing-tool.html

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