7 Money Hacks for College Students Trying to Save

Looking for some off-the-beaten path ways to save (and make) money? We've got seven great ideas to help you get started.

As a college student, you are not only pressed for time, but money as well. There are several ways to be frugal during college, but some decrease your quality of life. Here are seven money hacks for college students trying to save that won't make you feel like a stick in the mud.

1. Rent your textbooks

Purchasing used textbooks is one option to save money. However, it may be cheaper to rent your books via sites such as CampusBookRentals.com or eCampus.com.

If you have purchased books already, you can earn a pretty penny too. Sell your books back to the campus bookstore or sites such as Amazon or eBay. Alternatively, you can rent out your textbooks to a company called RentBack.com. They will handle all the work for you, and you continue to collect revenue from your rentals.

2. Become a resident assistant

If you feel pressured for time and you're not sure about getting a campus job, stay on campus and become a Resident Assistant (RA) in the dorms. RAs organize activities and assist students with campus life. You need to be available around the clock, but in return you get free housing and meals. Think of the money you’ll save over the course of four years. You’ll have many skills to add to your résumé as well, such as leadership, management, and organizational skills.

3. Become a mystery shopper

Not all mystery shopping companies are scams. ABC News covers a few tips on becoming a mystery shopper with legit companies. Mystery shopping not only offers paid opportunities, but it saves you tons of money.

As a mystery shopper, you may purchase your meals or retail items up front. However, most of your purchases are reimbursed, so choose your assignments wisely. Their partners include oil change companies, fast food restaurants, five-star restaurants, hotels, financial institutions, and more. You can’t beat getting reimbursed and paid for something you were going to do anyway.

4. Use your reward cards and loyalty points

There are several stores that offer loyalty cards for free, giving you a percentage off of certain items every time you shop! Credit cards are also a way to earn cash back. If your card offers rewards, take advantage of each one. The most popular programs are cash back and airline miles. This is a great way to teach yourself responsibility and money management.

Loyalty points work just as well. You could get them for frequently visiting your nail salon, a clothing store, or a coffee shop. You’ll receive instant discounts or certificates for a dollar amount off your next purchase. For even more savings, ask the store associate if you can combine the offers in one transaction.

5. Find the right wireless plan, then find discounts with it

Our society is too advanced for you to pay retail price for anything. Use apps such as Groupon, RedLaser, and the Walmart Savings Catcher to take advantage of discounts or find other deals as soon as you walk into an establishment. There is no need to come back later and waste gas just to find a coupon. Smartphones can pinpoint your location and offer you savings on the spot! Always log into your phone and take advantage of that.

Not only are smartphones great for finding deals, there are great deals from carriers like T-Mobile that offer affordable and reliable coverage to communicate with loved ones back home. You're getting double the savings. With a constant flow of innovative apps in the Google Play store, there are always new ways to save.

6. Buy discounted gift cards

Before you go shopping, check out GifCcards.com, GiftCardGranny.com, and Raise.com for discounted gift cards to your favorite retailers. In some instances, you can save up to 35 percent off the retail price. You can find these cards for establishments such as Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, Apple Store, Chili's, Macy’s, and Lowe’s. Don’t forget to combine them with other coupons you have.

7. Pay down student loan debt

A final way to save money is to pay down your student debt as you go. Taking out government-backed student loans ensures your interest does not accumulate while you are in school. Wouldn’t you like to have less to pay back anyway? An easy way to pay down debt is through a site called Gradible. You can perform tasks such as completing surveys, writing essays, or uploading ads to craigslist to earn money to pay off your college debt. This piece from Real Simple offers some additional tips to help you pay off your student loans.

Hopefully these seven tips will get you started on saving money. They're easy ways to earn some extra cash while also putting some away for those impending student loans. Now that you have a savings plan, you can concentrate on passing classes and getting out of college with as little debt as posisble.

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