8 Easy Ways To Save Money on a College Budget

Posted September 17, 2012

College is definitely a time for learning, and we’re not just talking about learning how to cram for tests or what skills you’ll need to be employed. It’s also a time for learning how to live within your means and stand on your own two feet. College students often have tiny budgets that make paying bills, eating, and having fun seem close to impossible, but if you’re in this situation, stay calm and make a plan. There are plenty of ways to cut your spending so that you can live well on your college budget. Here are some examples.

  1. Use your meal plan:

    Many colleges require you to have a meal plan your freshman year. Others may have packages that give you pre-paid credits to campus eateries and stores. If you’ve got these options, use them as much as you can. If you’ve got five meals a week already paid for in the cafeteria, it’s a double waste of money to go buy a meal somewhere else instead of eating all five. Use the money that you or your parents have already paid for services on campus before you spend money out-of-pocket elsewhere.

  2. Buy used textbooks:

    When you get to college, you quickly learn that books are worth a lot more than you expected. A semester’s worth of textbooks can easily set you back $500 depending on the number and types of classes. If you buy your books early, you often have the choice of purchasing a new or a used book, assuming the textbook has been used for that class before or isn’t a new edition. Buy used every time. New books are much more expensive and don’t earn you much more if you sell them back later.

  3. Don’t use your car:

    Depending on where you live, you may not have this option, but if you’re within walking or biking distance of your campus, this is an easy way to save money. Not only do you avoid the high prices at the gas pump, but you also save the cost of the parking pass, which on some campuses can be several hundred dollars. Many colleges also have bus systems free of charge for students, so you might consider that option if you live farther away.

  4. Use coupons and rewards cards:

    Clipping coupons might seem like something your grandma would do, but taking advantage of coupons and deals can save you some serious coin. You don’t have to clip them out of the newspaper every day with all the options available today. Using deal sites like Groupon or LivingSocial, you’re likely to find products or services that you want or need (we’re talking everything from haircuts to movie tickets) for deep discounts. Buy the deals that you know you’ll use and skip the ones that seem like luxury items. Using a rewards card at the grocery store you visit most can also save you money in the long run, especially if you try to buy only items that are discounted with the card. Some stores even give you a discount at certain gas stations when you earn points for shopping at their store.

  5. Brew your own coffee:

    Between pulling all-nighters for exams and your boring 8 a.m. classes, you’re going to need your coffee fix more than ever. But if you typically turn to Starbucks for your morning cup of Joe, you will be broke by the end of the first month of classes. By brewing your own coffee at home before heading out in the morning, you can save hundreds of dollars a semester. If you can’t kick your name-brand coffee addiction, buying that brand of ground coffee or coffee beans instead of having baristas brew it up for you can be a financially smart compromise.

  6. Skip the movie theater:

    Unless you have one of the deals on a movie ticket mentioned above, outings to the movie theater can take a toll on your wallet. Student discounts often aren’t offered during the most common movie-going times, and even with a discount, tickets can cost you $8 or more. And forget buying snacks or a soda from the concession stand! Instead of blowing $30 for a date to the movies, consider renting a movie instead. With Netflix and Redbox, you don’t need to lose much money for a little entertainment.

  7. Cancel your cable:

    Whether you’re living in an apartment or the dorm, cable probably costs you extra money each month. Luckily, with the technology available in today’s world, cable isn’t the only way for you to watch your favorite shows. As long as you keep your Internet service, you have several options. Through Hulu.com, you can watch dozens of current shows just days after they air or gain access to even more shows by splurging on a Hulu Plus account, which will still cost you less than a cable subscription. Netflix is a great option for older shows and movies. With the right equipment, including some Blu-Ray players and video game systems, you can even access these services on your TV, making cable totally unnecessary.

  8. Let your mom wash your clothes:

    OK, maybe every mom out there doesn’t want their college kids bringing them loads of laundry, but if your mom is willing, take advantage of her kindness! Doing laundry at a laundromat or in your dorm or apartment’s laundry room will normally cost you about a dollar a load, which can add up if you wash your clothes as often as you should. If your parents live relatively close by (or you’re going home anyway) or you have friends that will let you use their washer and dryer, bring a load or two whenever you’re visiting. You’re clothes will be clean and you’ll save some money in the process.

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