Resourceful Ways to Save Money While in College

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College can be expensive. Over the last two decades, private and public college tuition and fees have increased by 132%. Luckily, there are workarounds students can use to cut costs, save cash, and still have a fun, fulfilling college life. How? By using this list of resourceful ways to save money while in college!

Resourceful Ways to Save Money While in College

From working part-time to buying used textbooks, there are plenty of ways to save money in college so you don’t exhaust your entire spending budget. Here are a few ways to save cash while in college:

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People browsing books in a warehouse

Look For a Job

To save money in college, students need some cash to start with. According to US News, 74% of part-time and 40% of full-time college students work. 

Based on their financial situation, students may qualify for the Federal Work-Study Program, which helps them land campus jobs. These jobs are great because they’re easy to access and don’t require you to travel far. Plus, on-campus managers usually understand that studies come first and are flexible with your class schedule.

As a college student, you can also check out jobs at local spots such as cafes, restaurants, or stores. Just make sure the job can fit around your classes.

Minimize Textbook Costs

When a student seeks ways to save money during college, it’s best to start by looking at where they spend the most. Textbooks can be a significant financial drain each semester. On average, first-year students spend around $1215 on books and supplies. 

However, there are simple ways to save, such as:

  • Buy or rent used textbooks
  • Check online prices against the campus bookstore
  • Consider older yet relevant editions
  • Check the campus library for textbook copies 

Plus, if you end up buying books, you can sell them after you are done! Even though it won’t be much, every extra dollar counts for a college student on a budget. 

Set Weekend Spending

One of the easiest ways to manage your finances is by setting a cap on your weekend spending. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun; just be a little more mindful when you’re spending money on fun. 

College is the time you meet new people and make lifelong friends, so don’t miss out on that opportunity just to save some bucks. A part-time job, even if it only covers weekend expenses, can help keep your finances stable and allow you to have fun without worrying about money.

Eat on Campus

Another effective way to save cash in college is to leverage the meal plan. Instead of spending money eating out every time, use your prepaid on-campus meals.  

If the cafeteria food doesn’t suit your taste buds, make home-cooked meals to limit dine-outs. Students can even turn it into a fun group activity with friends, taking turns hosting and splitting the costs. 

To have more options, you can look up easy recipes online and cook something new each day. This isn’t only an efficient way to save cash; you could also become a master chef while studying in college!

Two male students having a pizza at school grounds

Track Your Spending

Another way to not go over your budget while in college is to track your spending. Jerome L. Rekart, Ph.D. a former Vice President of Research and Insights at Southern New Hampshire University, shares,

“As I reflect on school, I think one of the best ways for students to save money while in school is for them to actually itemize and keep track of what they are spending money on every day. It might seem simple, but it is so easy today to get caught up in subscriptions and apps that chip away at our finances.

For students in particular, it can quickly start to become overwhelming if they aren’t careful. Ride shares, food delivery, and other apps can quickly and, in some ways, too easily, drain one’s bank account.”

Apps such as Mvelopes or Mint can make this very easy for you. You can simply connect them to your credit card and bank account, which will allow you to monitor your spending, set savings targets, and even receive a warning if you spend too much.

Become a Resident Advisor

Housing costs become a huge part of the general cost of attending college. However, a way to cut down on this expense and save money is to become a resident advisor (RA). You will need to work some nights and do administrative tasks, but many students find it worth it to get free housing.

Ditch Your Car

Not every college allows students to have cars on campus. Even if yours does, think carefully before bringing your vehicle to college. It can cost a lot — you must pay for car insurance, gas, repairs and maintenance, and parking passes every semester.

These costs can add up to a large amount of money. Instead, students can save money and the environment by using buses or bikes. If you need a ride, you can take a taxi or use a service like Uber or Lyft.

Get Students Discounts

Your college student ID does more than just provide access to campus. You can use it at stores, on buses, museums, and even restaurants to get discounts. It’s best to check with your college if they have a list of businesses that offer students special deals. Plus, whenever you find yourself shopping, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they offer student discounts.

Look For Second Hand Furniture

Furnishing your house, apartment, or college dorm can get expensive, especially if you don’t have roommates. It’s also not very financially wise to splurge on a TV or coffee table when you only need it temporarily.

With this in mind, reach out to your friends and family. Ask if they have any old furniture they don’t use or plan to upgrade. Their unwanted items might be just what you need.

You can also check out Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Students can easily find some good deals instead of paying full price. Split the cost with your roommates, and if you can’t agree on who keeps it, settle it with a fun game of rock-paper-scissors after graduation. Or you could just sell it!

A cozy bedroom with a desk and a laptop, perfect for work or study

Use Your Credit Card Wisely

Credit cards can be great, only if you use them wisely. If not, they can become a problem. Even if you have a credit card with excellent student rewards, be smart about how you use it. Students should save it for necessities or emergencies. 

You should also avoid taking out cash from a credit card because that can cost a lot in interest. These kinds of transactions add up fast. Here are some tips to keep your credit card debt under control:

  • Pay at least the smallest amount due each month
  • Don’t spend more than your credit limit allows
  • Try to pay more than the minimum amount every month
  • Don’t get more cards than you can handle paying for
  • Track your accounts to catch any fake charges

Monitor your credit score by using apps like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma. They can help students stay organized and know what’s happening with their cards.

Apply for Financial Aid 

One of the most common ways students cut down on expenses in college is by optimizing their financial aid opportunities. This allows you to lower your tuition fees and reduce your student loan. This begins with learners filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

FAFSA helps determine what grants, scholarships, and federal loans a student can get based on their needs. Many schools even use it (or the CSS Profile, which is like its private version) to decide which need-based, school-sponsored aid you qualify for.

Apply for Grants and Scholarships

Grants and scholarships (funding students don’t have to repay) aren’t only for first-year students. Many colleges and private scholarship-granting organizations reserve some cash for enrolled students.

Here are some tips to consider when seeking grants and scholarships:

  • Start early: Many grants and scholarships are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Starting your search early means you’re more likely to qualify.
  • Look everywhere: Don’t just focus on big, well-known scholarships. You may overlook many useful smaller scholarships. Believe it or not, they can add up and save you money in college online.
  • Customize your applications: Take a little time to show how you meet the requirements for each scholarship or grant. This has the potential to make you stand out from other applicants, improving your chances of getting the funding you need.
A group of students chatting and laughing while standing in a busy hallway at school

Get a Student Checking Account

A student checking account is an account with extra features meant to cater to students’ specific needs and money goals. If you choose a college checking account, you may get some valuable tools to manage your money, such as:

  • Low balance requirements: Most college checking accounts keep little to no minimum balance requirements. 
  • Fewer fees: Some checking accounts may waive specific fees, especially when you first open the account.
  • Handy digital tools: A student’s college checking account will likely have tools to help keep track of money and even save automatically, which is great when you’re busy.
  • Payment apps: Many college checking accounts can link with various peer-to-peer payment apps that let you easily split bills and pay friends.

Remember, the benefits of each student checking account can differ, so read the details before opening one.

Related Questions

Why Should Students Save Money?

Saving money while in college helps students reach their future dreams. Whether you want to fund your higher education, start a business, travel, or buy a house, having savings means you can start making those dreams come true.

How Can You Earn a Passive Income in College?

There are several opportunities for students to earn a passive income in college. You can work part-time or become a resident assistant. Students can also provide tutoring, campus tours, or explore popular online platforms for remote freelance gigs.

How Can You Save Money on Transportation in College?

You can use a carpool, bike, or take public transit to the campus to save money on transportation.


Saving money during college not only helps make your learning experience smooth and worry-free, it also sets you on a path to financial success after you graduate. From working part-time and buying used textbooks to eating on campus and planning your weekend spending, there are numerous ways to slash costs and save money without sacrificing on fun.

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Aya Andrews


Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

Find your perfect value college is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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