White male in green sweatshirt in library looking at stack of books bored

11 Life and Finance Hacks for the Lazy-Smart College Student

As the popular saying goes: Work smarter, not harder. Here are 11 tips on maximizing your time, your wallet, and just about everything else in college.

College can be tough—you’re experiencing the pressures of adult life, going to school full-time, taking care of yourself, and paying bills for what is most likely the first time ever. Real life can make you feel like no matter how you’re making the grade, you’re just not smart enough. There’s book smart and street smart…but then there’s lazy smart. Lazy smart isn’t about being lazy—it’s about being smart with your time, money, and energy for optimal results. You’re busy with your classes, studying, work, socializing, and all kinds of new responsibilities. Everyone could use more hours in the day. With a few time-saving hacks, you’d be surprised at how many hours you can bank. It’s not just time either! Money and space are in short supply for students too, but with a little knowledge and minimal effort, you can make college life a lot easier.

1. Use your student discounts

You’d be surprised to know how many student discounts you can get with your college ID. When moving to a university town, it’s common to find discounts on everything from movie tickets to transportation to even groceries. Find the discount days in your city and keep your student ID on you at all times to make use of the best opportunities! Also keep a look out for online discount codes and Groupons when you're back-to-school shopping. There is always money to be saved! 

2. Rent or buy used textbooks

Textbooks aren't cheap, but luckily you have a lot of cheaper alternative options these days. Most schools have a buyback program for books and equipment, which can save you hundreds of dollars. Checking online can save even more. Websites like Chegg.com allow you to buy or rent your textbooks at a fraction of the cost. If renting, you mail them back when you're done at the end of the semester, or you can buy them later if you change your mind about wanting to get rid of them. Another option is buying eBook versions of your textbooks, which will always be cheaper than a hard copy. 

Related: How to Save Money on College Textbooks

3. Work at school for extra cash

It can be tough to find a part-time job as a full-time student. Getting a job on campus is a great way to earn extra cash in a position that will let you put your studies first. If jobs in administration or at the campus cafeteria aren’t available, try setting yourself up as a tutor. It’s a great way to make money, you'll utilize what you're learning in your courses, and you can set your own hours.

4. Stay in to socialize

Making friends and having new experiences is a huge part of the college experience. Being broke, though, can sometimes make socializing tough. Try to make plans that don’t include spending money when you can. Hang out at the beach or in the park. Have a movie night on your living room floor. Just get creative and save some money! Combining these casual get-togethers with study dates ensures you're spending plenty of time on your studies, friends, and finances. 

Related: 13 Ideas for a Fun Night Right From Your Dorm Room

5. Get versatile furniture 

Dorm rooms are tiny, and so are apartments you can afford at student rates. It’s handy to get furniture pieces that are multifunctional—futons that offer a bed and a couch and stools/footrests that double as storage are a great start. Using comfy bean bag chairs as your seating also means you have something useful, easily transportable, and potentially even storable when it gets in the way. 

6. Hang things for organization 

This is one of the best hacks for your dorm space: Treat your walls like extra storage. A shoe caddy full of pockets on the back of your room, wardrobe, or closet door is a great place to keep shoes or anything else that clutters up your living area. Hanging storage can be cheap, and you can even find adhesive hooks for only a couple of dollars a pack to maximize useable wall space.

Related: 18 Easy Dorm Room Hacks You Need to Know

7. Use microwave trick

Microwaves see a lot of use in college. Cut your microwave cleaning time in half with one simple trick! Take a measuring cup and fill it halfway with equal parts vinegar and water. You can also use a microwavable dish, but it has to be about half full. Boil the mixture in the microwave for about five minutes. Dump the mixture in the sink and use a sponge to wipe out the microwave. Everything will wipe right off, and it’s a lot faster than scrubbing it the hard way.

8. Use a towel to cut drying time

When you’re doing your laundry, stick a dry towel in the dryer with your wet clothes to suck up excess moisture. This will cut your time in the laundry room in half—because who has time to wait around? You sure don't! But you also don't have time to be fighting with your RA because you left the laundry area and came back later to find someone stole your clothes or took them out still wet and they got all musty. Save yourself time and the headache with this hack. 

9. Invest in a slow cooker

Want to save time, money, and a lot of effort in feeding yourself? Get a slow cooker, the ultimate lazy student item! You can make big batches of almost anything in the slow cooker: soups, pulled pork, even full chicken dinners. Batch cooking means you can set the slow cooker before you leave for class and come home to a delicious meal (heavenly smells) with plenty of leftovers. They come in every size, will save you money, and ensure you’re living on something other than coffee and fries as you study. Just be sure to check that your college dorm allows them; a lot of schools are more lenient with appliances in dorms these days but there are still some schools with more strict safety precautions. 

Related: The Best Ideas for Dorm Meals Without a Kitchen

10. Color code everything

There are plenty of study hacks on how to color code, but the quickest and easiest way to keep track of everything is to choose a color for every class and stick to it. Two colors for highlighting notes are ideal, and using the same colors to mark your class schedule or choosing particular colored notebooks, binders, and note cards will help cement those classroom associations in your mind. It makes staying organized feel like second nature!

11. Use the time you have

Never overestimate how much time you have. Most college courses give you a syllabus at the beginning of the term so you have an idea of your assignment requirements. Just because that big assignment isn’t due for two months doesn’t mean you have all the time in the world. Budget your time wisely and schedule your homework in proportion to your class time; for example, if you spend five hours a week in a communications class, chances are your homework is at least five hours a week.

Related: Better Time Management in 3 Simple Steps

College is a lot to take in all at once. Balancing study and work schedules, living in a small space with a lot of people, eating, and keeping yourself healthy—it’s a lot for anyone. But it doesn’t have to be tough. The lazy-smart student lifestyle is all about saving time and effort now so you can use all that time and energy where you really need it.

Want to save even more of your time and money in college—use our Scholarship Search tool to find easy awards to apply for and win!

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About Alex Avery

Once a serial student, now an online nomad, Alex leaves blog posts in every place that peaks his interest. When he’s not devouring obscure French graphic novels, he’s hunting yard sales for quirky teacups and learning to play the ukulele from YouTube vids.  


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