21 Awesome Freebies and Deals for College Students on Tight Budgets

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It might seem weird to think of businesses vying for the attention of college kids — after all, students aren’t exactly flush with cash.

But businesses know that getting on your good side as you’re gaining your independence can result in a lot of money for them over time, starting in just a few years when you graduate, get your first full-time salary and figure out how to manage your finances on your own. Plus, college students are tech savvy and love social media, which makes them an asset for businesses.

Savvy execs know how to get your attention: discounts. So grab your student ID and make sure you know your .edu email address, and check out the many deals reserved just for students.

21 Deals for College Students

Be it entertainment — and that includes sports and art museums — or computer hardware and software and even travel, there are deals to be had that can stretch a college student’s budget.


College kids gotta have fun. Why not hook them in early with great deals?

1. Movie Tickets

Movie theater chains that offer student discounts include AMC Theatres, Cinemark and Regal (discounts vary by all at location) and Marcus Theatres ($6 Thursdays). Independent theaters often have student discounts, too — just call or check websites.

2. The Arts

Students get discounted access to museums, including major ones such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which asks students to pay what they can. Smaller museums in cities across the country also offer discounts, such as the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, which knocks $7 off the adult price when you flash that student I.D.

Other museums like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston offer passes for four years of free admission to students at nearby colleges and universities.

And the savings on the arts go well beyond museums. The Philadelphia Ballet often has $10 tickets for students who go online or show up one hour before the curtain goes up while the Nashville Symphony gives students 10% off or more.

So always ask for any student discounts before you expand your mind and heart at the arts.

3. Professional Sports

Some pro sports teams offer special student rates or offer them on certain dates. Check their websites for promotions before you go.

The National Hockey League often offers Student Rush Tickets. Teams put a limited number of tickets on sale for $20 or so the day of the game to save students $30 or more. Subscribe for the emails here.

Major League Baseball teams also offer discounted tickets for area college students on various nights. Here’s the link to subscribe to the Tampa Bay Rays, for example. Check your nearest team’s website.

4. Streaming

There are many deals for students to stream movies and music. Hulu offers a student deal for $1.99 a month. You might get the subscription that allows ads, but hey, you have to go to the bathroom or make popcorn at some point.

Spotify also has a student discount while you can get YouTube Premium for $7 a month instead of $13.

It’s your birthday! You can get birthday freebies and deals at more than 100 businesses. Can you say Dunkin’ drink at no charge?

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Computers, Software and Education Stuff

Students need computers, gadgets and all other goodies to complete their school work. Companies know these college years are the perfect time to get them hooked on their brands with discounts.

5. Hardware

Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Best Buy, HP and Lenovo Students can score discounts on an array of computers, so there’s no reason to pay full price. Lenovo offers 15% off the going purchase price. Apple and Dell give students $100 or more off the retail price. HP guarantees students get at least 35% off all products. Microsoft also has its share of deals that vary.

6. Software

If you need software, check for deals at your campus bookstore or IT programs. If that’s not enough, look at these discounts:

  • Save 60 percent on Adobe Pro and Photoshop.
  • Microsoft Office 365 is free for college students with a valid school email address
  • Amazon offers a variety of student discounts for software.

7. News

Being up on current events from reputable news organizations can help students contribute in class discussions and also provides fodder for essays. Students can save on digital and print subscriptions to newspapers and magazines such as the The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and The Economist. Local papers such as The Los Angeles Times, also offer discounted or free digital subscriptions to students.

8. Textbooks

Even as ebooks and tablets become the norm, plenty of professors still require old-school, physical textbooks. Barnes & Noble has a textbook rental program, Direct Text Books offers amazing deals along with Abe Books.

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Travel and Transportation

Whether it’s for a spring break trip or heading home to see the parents, students can save big on travel expenses with these tips.

9. Lodging and Airfare

Travel is opening up again. Wear your mask and look for deals. Check out TripSavvy and Jen on a Jet Plane to get daily info on saving money on flights, cars and accommodations. Here are more tips for getting the best deals on flights. You also need to keep up with Student Universe, which offers info on tours and locations that have student-friendly prices.

10. Car Rentals

Show your student ID at major car rental dealers such as Budget, Avis and Hertz to get up to 20% off. Remember, there are some age restrictions when renting a car.

11. Buses, Trains and Planes

Amtrak and Greyhound offer student discounts, although the Greyhound discount requires you to purchase a Student Advantage card. Some public transit authorities, such as the MTA in Chicago, also offer reduced rates for students. If you’re planning a trip in Europe, Eurail passes can be had for up to 25% off for travelers under 28.

12. Cars and Insurance

Every major car insurance company offers a good student discount. Almost every major car insurance company offers a discount of about 10% to 15 for students who can show they make good grades. Both high schoolers and full-time college students below age 25 are eligible. Here’s a good way to find the best rates.

While buying a used car is the most cost efficient way to go, students can get a deal on a new car with General Motors.

Shopping Deals on Clothes and More

Saving on day-to-day items is a huge part of a college student’s life. Here’s how you can save a few bucks here and there.

13. Amazon

Check out Amazon.com’s student program for free two-day shipping and special discounts on certain items. Along with the free shipping, you also get Twitch Prime, Prime Video, free delivery from GrubHub, discounts on Amazon Music, Showtime, Sundance, apparel, groceries and more

14. Clothes and Retail

UNiDAYS is a discount website that’s available for free to students worldwide. In fact, it’s the gateway to many retailers offering their student discounts through UNiDays. Many retailers offer their own savings programs for students. Banana Republic and J. Crew give all those folks striving for a diploma 15% off while Asos offers 10 percent off its prices.

Banking, Budgets and Credit

Properly handling money is just a part of growing up. Here are a few places that help students learn just that on the cheap.

15. Banking

If you need a new checking or savings account, many banks offer good deals such as those at Bank of America, U.S. Bank and Chase. However, pay attention to maintenance and overdraft fees — those will cost you more over the long term.

Shopping around for a bank? Check out our picks for the seven best banks for students.

16. Credit Cards

Many companies such as Discover, Capital One, Bank of America offer credit cards with good introductory offers just for students. But don’t be fooled by introductory offers that don’t last. The ongoing interest rate is more important.

17. Budgeting

You Need a Budget (YNAB) budget software is free to college students for a year, so there’s no excuse not to use it.

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Freebies on Campus

Sometimes, you don’t even have to stray off campus to get a great deal. Here are a few deal ideas you can score near your dorm.

18. Food

Are you paying for a campus meal plan? Make sure you get your money’s worth! Grab some fruit or cereal on your way out to take home for later, if your dining hall permits this. You’ll also find other free food on campus at open house events, public lectures and club activities.

19. Events

You probably already know about campus entertainment opportunities like pep rallies and intramural sports, but don’t forget that you also have access to free educational events and lectures.

20. Health and Fitness

You won’t get free access to that nice campus rec center after graduation, so make sure to use it while you’re in school. Also, take advantage of university health center services, along with complementary bandages, condoms, period supplies and tissues.

21. Promotional Stuff

Here’s a weird tip: Most academic departments on campus have their own promotional pens — you can start quite a collection! They might even stock notebooks to give to their majors. Also keep your eyes open for opportunities for free T-shirts and other spirit gear.

Remember: You’re only a college student for a few years. It never hurts to ask if a business offers a student discount, so always keep your ID handy.

Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance editor and journalist living in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps and Lessons Learned. Reporting from Lindsay Luebbering was used in this report.