Dollar bill standing up on white table in front of white brick background

Top 10 Money-Saving Tips for College Students

Saving money in college is hard with how expensive everything is these days. Here are our top money-saving tips to get you through the school year.

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: Infographic: Budgeting 101: 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!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

college expenses finances money saving money student life

About Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness, and how they merge. He is from Boise, Idaho, and enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time, he likes running, reading, and combining the two to run to his local bookstore.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Caitlin Eaton

Caitlin Eaton

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2021

I first discovered CollegeXpress during my sophomore year of high school while researching colleges that interested me. My SAT prep class the following year further familiarized me with the opportunities available through the organization. CX has personally helped me by exposing me to a diverse selection of schools as well as scholarships and life tips that have provided valuable guidance in my college search.

This scholarship will help me adjust to college life without worrying as much about tuition. This gives me more room to truly explore and benefit from all aspects of higher education. I plan to study Conservation Biology and work protecting species/ecosystems. I’m looking forward to getting field experience and seeing firsthand the problems research is solving.

Sarah Armstrong

Sarah Armstrong

High School Class of 2022

I am a deaf student, and I had always dreamed of going to Gallaudet University. CollegeXpress helped me search though other qualified universities. They helped me know for sure that Gallaudet University was the right choice for me!

Chris Bell

Chris Bell

Bell College Consulting

The college lists on CollegeXpress are indispensable for sussing out creative additions to a student’s list, and the college-specific pages provide terrific commentary and suggestions for related schools. CollegeXpress is among the most trusted sources I use for information for my students.

Ida Akoto-Wiafe

Ida Akoto-Wiafe

High School Class of 2022

I wanted a school that wasn't too far away from home and could provide me with a full-ride scholarship. CollegeXpress helped me put into perspective the money I had to pay to attend those schools, which ultimately drove me to choose to attend a community college first to get used to being in college before transferring to the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, one of the colleges I was able to research further on CollegeXpress.

Jeannie Borin, M.Ed.

Jeannie Borin, M.Ed.

President and Founder, College Connections

I frequently visit CollegeXpress to answer questions from students and parents. There are countless hot topics in admissions that need to be addressed. I enjoy reading what my colleagues post and gain additional insight from different perspectives.

College Matches