These 4 Apps are Guaranteed to Help College Students Save Some Money

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Many moons ago, I piled everything I owned into a car and drove 10 hours to my new home.


(And by many moons, I mean seven years ago.)

I thought I’d lead a minimalistic life, eating meals at the dining halls and spending most of my time with my nose buried in books.

But that’s not exactly what happened that first year. I wanted to be social, not eat greasy pizza and wilted salads every night. I wanted to explore my new grounds.

Wondering how to save money in college? In the spirit of my fledgling adulthood struggles, I’ve compiled a list of easy-to-use tools that’ll help new — and existing — college students save a buck or two.

1. For Grocery (and Beer) Runs, Use Ibotta

This app is perfect for college students who have little time to screw around with coupons.

Download Ibotta (for free), and find your preferred grocery store. You’ll also find online retailers, restaurants and bars. Peruse cash-back opportunities.

Target was my go-to spot in college, though it required a solid 30-minute trek over to the neighboring town. Right now, here are a few cash-back offers available at Target:

  • $5 back on two packs of Bud Light aluminum bottles
  • 75 cents back on Clif Crunch bars
  • $1.25 back on Purex laundry detergent
  • $2.25 on K-cups
  • $2 back on Advil

After you check out, scan your receipt for your selected rebates, then score the cash back. Within a few months, I’ve earned nearly $50, which is a hearty chunk of change I could have used back in college.

Get started with our Ibotta 101 overview. Once you claim your first rebate, you’ll get a $5 bonus.

Bonus: Here are more ways you can save on groceries.

2. For Cafes, Bars and Restaurants, Use Swagbucks Local

I didn’t expose myself to coffee until my junior year of college. Then I was hooked, and I frequented the same coffee shop. Over and over and over.

My bill there racked up.

The same thing happened at the local pizza joint and the ice cream shop.

If you frequent the same spots, at least see if they’re paired with Swagbucks Local so you can earn money back.

Swagbucks Local is a free app you can link to your debit and/or credit cards. If you swipe your card at a Swagbucks-affiliated spot, you’ll earn Swagbucks, or SBs. You can then exchange these SBs for gift cards to spots like Amazon, Starbucks or Target.

After you set up the account, you don’t have to do anything but occasionally check in.

Many eateries in my area offer 7 SBs per dollar. I’ve racked up 268 SBs so far without really trying. Once I hit 500, I can cash out for a $5 gift card.

Bonus: Here are more ways to save the next time you treat yourself to a nice meal.

3. For Emergencies, Use Acorns

I had no idea what an emergency, or rainy day, fund was back in college. However, I could have certainly used one.

Living in an old, poorly ventilated dorm building with hundreds of girls, staying healthy is tough. Also, it never failed that my car had issues requiring hefty repair fees.

For that, I should have started an automated savings account through an app like Acorns. Acorns is actually a micro-investing account that rounds up your purchases to the next dollar and moves the digital change to a savings account. However, you can also choose to have your money automatically invested, ideally earning you more.

You don’t need much to get started, just download the app and connect your account. Plus, when you make your first investment, you’ll bank $10.

If something ever happens and leaves you strapped for cash, you can dip into Acorns to get the money out.

4. For Clothes and Other Necessities, Use Earny

Whenever I needed new clothes for a job, internship or just because I didn’t want to go to class in holey T-shirts all the time, I’d shop online.

A super easy, passive way to earn money back when you shop online is to use an automated personal assistant like Earny.

With Earny, everything is automatic. You just need to connect your inbox, then it’ll issue you a refund when an item’s price drops.

For example, if you bought a Keurig K50 Brewing system from Amazon, Target or Walmart for $109.99, the price recently dropped $40, which Earny would put back in your account (minus a 10% commission).

Another example: Maybe you bought a Dyson AM07 Cool Tower Fan for your room. The price dropped $50 from $399.99. If you had Earny, it’d be right back in your pocket.

Don’t worry, price drops happen all the time.

Here are its affiliated retailers: Amazon, Best Buy, Bloomingdale’s, Carter’s, Costco, Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta, J.Crew, Jet, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Newegg, Nike, Nordstrom, Overstock, Sears, Staples, Target, Walmart and Zappos.

Your refunds will automatically appear in your account.

I’ve got to say: These four apps only touch the tip of the iceberg of the cash-back realm. However, in my opinion, these are the easiest to use — which is perfect when you feel like you have a million and one things to do before class tomorrow.

Bonus: Here are some other legit ways to make money in college without skipping class.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. If you’re a college student who has a favorite cash-back app, let us know. We’d love to feature you!