Student loans can amount to large quantities of debt that can leave a student financially scrambling after graduation for years—and even decades—into the future.
While student debt is a normal part of life for most, any responsible student should look for ways to save money while they’re still in college. Below are some of the best money-saving tips college students can utilize in order to save hundreds and even thousands of dollars as a student.
1. Create a budget
The first thing any savvy student should do is create a budget consolidating all of their income and expenses into one easy-to-access location. If you take the time to create a budget—and stick to it—you’ll be able to track your spending and gauge what you truly can and can’t afford while you’re in school.
2. Utilize money-saving apps
If you have a smartphone, you have access to dozens of money-saving apps that can have a huge impact on your spending. Apps like Mint can help you keep tabs on your budget, while others like Coupon Sherpa and Grocery IQ can help you save time and money with your food expenses.
Related: Budgeting 101 Infographic: Saving Money in College
3. Buy your textbooks online
A quick trip to the campus bookstore could cost you thousands of dollars—literally. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can show up to class without your textbook in tow. As an alternative to your expensive campus bookstore, consider ordering used textbooks online at a fraction of the price. You can even rent textbooks for even less if you don’t think you’ll need (or want) them after the class is done. Just make sure you order the right edition!
4. Avoid impulse buying
Impulse purchases can be the bane of a student’s existence. If you’re at a store late at night and feeling mentally exhausted from school, it’s easy to break down and buy that funny shirt you don’t really need. To avoid this waste of funds, try taking up the habit of always writing down what you want to purchase when you see it at the store, including the date you saw it, the location, and the price tag.
Then wait one month. After 30 days or so, allow yourself to revisit the item and consider if you really have a need for it since you first saw it. This method can help you think through any impulses before you put down cash and have buyer’s remorse the next day.
Related: Are There Situations Where It's Appropriate for Students to "Splurge"?
5. Mentally separate money and fun
You don’t have to spend money to have fun. If you can separate these two things in your mind, you’ll open up a whole new world of affordable activities. Look for free events, like a public concert or movie. Go hiking on a local public trail. Visit a park or join a pickup soccer league. The point is, there are plenty of ways to have fun for little to no money.
6. Take advantage of student discounts
You’re a student now—take advantage of your situation and always be on the lookout for student discounts! Often, businesses that operate in college towns have student discounts that can half the price of a movie ticket or make the entrance fee to a park significantly cheaper. If you’re not aware of them, start doing some research and asking around, and always keep your student ID handy.
Related: The Best Student Discounts: Food, Clothes, and More
7. Consolidate your streaming platforms
If you feel the need to binge-watch The Office again or watch the latest episode of The Walking Dead on a regular basis, it’s understandable that you might have a streaming service or two as you try to survive college classes and dorm life. That said, there’s no need to pay for 10 streaming services at once. Narrow your options down to one or two services at a time based on what you want to watch, cancel the rest, then set up a rotation.
8. Use alternative forms of transportation
While having your own car may be a rite of passage when you turn 16, that doesn’t mean you need to bring your own set of wheels to campus. Instead, utilize apps like Uber and Lyft to get around for a fraction of the cost or walk if possible.
9. Get a side gig
If you’re feeling a crunch for cash, you can solve the problem by picking up some freelance work or applying for a part-time job. While this won’t pay off your debts entirely, it can provide a trickle of cash that can at least help cover living costs until you graduate.
Related: All About Campus Jobs
10. Graduate early or get your degree online
Finally, consider ways that you can reduce the cost of your college itself. Can you graduate early by taking extra classes? If you can cut your time on campus down by a semester or two, it can add up to significant savings.
You may even want to ditch campus entirely and take your education online. There are many online options that provide a quality education for everything from Business degrees to Nursing majors and more—just make sure this learning style is for you before you commit to a program.
Related: Online Degree Programs: The Pros and Cons
There are a lot of ways to save money while you’re in college. The most important part is committing to actually saving where you can. If you don’t buckle down with your expenses, you’ll have a hard time reigning in your spending. Focus on options like these, set a budget, then do your best to keep your expenses down. Your older, graduated self will thank you for the effort.
To help ease your financial burden, try using our Scholarship Search tool!