35 Ways to Save Money in College, According to College Students

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Students know better than anyone how to save money in college, so The Penny Hoarder checked in with frugal students at various schools including the University of Florida, the University of North Carolina and the University of Vermont.

They offered tips for saving money on books, clothing, partying, traveling, eating and more. Here are 35 of the best tips for saving money from college kids.

35 Ways to Save Money in College, According to College Students

1. Brew Your Own Coffee

According to the Education Data Initiative, college students buying a cup of coffee every day spend an average of $63 a month. Making it at home with a $24 coffee maker costs about $15 a month.

2. Get Free Clothes by Volunteering for a Sports Team

Most schools need student volunteers to help sports teams with numerous tasks that can include laundry, organizing equipment and keeping stats. It’s hard work and practice may be early in the morning, but the perks are free clothes, even shoes, with the school logo. Plus, it also looks great on a resume.

3. Use Your Student Discount

Show your student ID to get discounts on movie tickets, free drinks at Chipotle and savings of $100 or more on computers at the Apple store. Target offers up to 20 percent off and there are plenty of other discounts from retailers. 

4. Renew Your College ID Senior Year

Get a new College ID your senior year so you can use those savings a few more years.

5. Work Out for Free

Colleges have one or more recreation centers where students can use gym equipment, swim and take fitness classes.

6. Get a Regal Unlimited Movie Subscription

With a Regal Unlimited movie subscription movie pass, students can see as many movies as they want for $18 a month and get a 10% discount on drinks and snacks.

7. Find Free Contraception

Many colleges give out free condoms at hubs such as the student union, health facilities or even dorms.

8. Go to Free Games

A student recently asked if there was a student discount to see a women’s basketball game and found out students get in for free. Also, some schools have systems that give students points for attending less popular sports and this ups their chances of getting seats at a sold-out basketball or football game.

9. Attend Campus Events for Perks

From fall festivals and internship fairs to guest speakers or resume-writing workshops, colleges often provide pizza, sandwiches, bagels or some sort of perk to draw students to events.

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10. Shop at Thrift Stores

Ever wonder why they’re called “thrift shops” ? Thrift is defined as “using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully.” Shopping at thrift stores saves money and results in less clothing going into landfills.

Looking for old treasures at the thrift stores? Here’s our guide to thrifting for vintage stuff.

11. Stage Your Own Clothing Swap

Reserve a free space on campus then put up signs instructing students to bring clothes to donate to the mix in exchange for picking up free items of their own. Just because you’re tired of it doesn’t mean someone else won’t love it.

12. Get Insomnia Cookies for 33 Cents

Insomnia Cookies has more than 200 locations around the country with stores in college towns. Students can join its Cookie Magic program for $9.99 a month and get a free cookie every day. That figures out to about 33 cents a cookie instead of the average price of $2.50. They make a great little gift for a friend, security guard, housekeeper or cafeteria worker. Members also get 20% off on certain purchases and free delivery. (But not for that daily cookie.)

13. Take the Bus

College transit systems are free. Many have wifi access and play good music. Plus, you may meet a friend sitting next to you or run into someone you already know.

14. Take the Train

If you’re going home, heading to a big city or visiting a friend at another campus, the train can be much cheaper than flying or even driving. For example, one University of North Carolina student made the six-hour trip to Washington, D.C. for $120 roundtrip. Amtrak also offers a 15% discount to students up to one day before travel.

Seats are roomy and comfortable with two outlets per every two seats. Often you sit by yourself and can charge both your phone and laptop the whole way. And, yes, trains have wifi.

15. Stream Music, Movies and Shows for a Student Discount

Spotify Premium offers students a package of music, Hulu and Showtime for $4.99 a month.

16. Get Gift Cards for Donating Blood

Would you think $50 an hour is a good hourly wage? Well, often you can get a $50 gift card in exchange for giving blood. Students account for the biggest segment of the population that donates blood. Not-for-profit blood banks want to show appreciation and have a lot of perks that are donated to them to pass along to blood donors.

Here’s how blood donors can score free gift cards and other perks.

17. Follow a Budget

Knowing where you spend money is key to knowing how to save it. Apps such as Mint, Goodbudget, and PocketGuard make it easy to track your spending and find places to cut and ways to plan ahead.

18. Save on Textbooks

Renting your textbook from sites like eCampus.com., which touts savings of up to 90 percent when you rent a used textbook instead of buying a new one. If you want your own that you can mark up, buy a used one from the same site, Amazon, CampusBooks.com or a friend.

19. Don’t Use a Textbook At All

On the site RateMyProfessors.com, past students often say they didn’t even need the textbook. Often teachers offer thorough notes, slides or PowerPoints and most of the test material comes from those, not the textbooks.

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20. Don’t Lose Your Security Deposit

For all the efforts to save $2 here or even $20 there, you can save $250 to $500 by taking care of your apartment or house throughout the year then cleaning it well before you move out. Losing a security deposit is a big hit, but getting it back is a big wad of money to put down on your next place or spend on a summer trip. Keep parties under control so no windows or walls get broken. And before you move out, spackle over nail holes, clean baseboards, dust fans, scour toilets and throw away all trash. Landlords love this.

21. Try a Clothing Rental Service

Instead of shopping every time you want a great outfit for the game, a birthday outing or big party, try services such as Rent the Runway, FashionPass or Nuuly.

22. Make Cash Renting Out your Own Clothes

Social Closet is the Airbnb of clothing rental. Anyone can post their own clothes and rent them to a user by meeting in a public location in your zip code or mailing through Social Closet’s delivery system. The cash goes to your account but you also get a $10 credit for sharing clothes on Social Closet for each item you post, up to $50.

23. Try At-Home Beauty Treatments

Those slumber parties in middle school when you painted your own nails and tried avocado facials were a blast. Well, they can be just as fun or more so with college friends and a little wine. Have everyone bring their polish, buffers, masks and moisturizers. If this sounds too cumbersome, just treat yourself to a night of at-home treatments. Either way you will save bucks and have fun.

24. Check Out What’s at the Library

Remember the library isn’t just a place to cram for exams or make copies. You can check out books for pleasure or academic reading, audio books, video games and many more items at no charge.

25. Save and Earn on Facebook Marketplace

If you’re looking for a guitar or coffee table, there’s probably one posted on Facebook Marketplace for a lot less than you’d pay for a new one or even at a thrift store. And if you need to sell a guitar or coffee table, that’s the fastest and easiest way to do it.

27. Be a Guinea Pig

Universities are known for research and often need humans, not animals, for studies. Look for flyers posted on bulletin boards in academic buildings, coffee shops and other public places. You can often earn $50 for a one-time interaction and in the hundreds of dollars for longer studies.

28. Eat What You Have

Every trip to the grocery store to get just one thing, turns into a purchase of 10 or more things. If you’re out of your favorite Ramen or grapes, finish those apples and the peanut butter and jelly before going to restock.

29. Bring a To-Go Box to the Dining Hall

Meal plan rules vary. But taking home your leftovers in a to-go box or carrying out those apples and bananas at the door can save you from spending on a snack or food delivery later.

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30. Pack a Snack

If you know you’ve got classes all day or are going to a lecture for extra credit and will miss dinner, plan ahead. Pack a simple sandwich in your backpack or create a fun snack pack. Assemble hummus, veggies, crackers, grapes and cheese cubes in the empty plastic box that held your strawberries. Pack hummus or guac in extra salsa containers you grab when you are paying for a meal, or just use plastic bags for all your goodies.

31. Pregame

Alcohol is cheaper at home or at a friend’s apartment. Have a drink or two before you head out instead of paying for drinks at bars from the start of the night.

Looking to stock your home baron a budget? We’ve got the guide.

32. Look for Weekly Deals at Bars and Restaurants

Plan your nights out around drink specials or happy hours. You can also sign up for restaurant rewards to maximize your savings.

33. Pool Resources

Get a pitcher of beer, margaritas or mimosas for the table to share instead of buying individual drinks. Same goes for that pizza or plate of wings.

34. Walk Instead of Uber

If you are in a safe area with three or more people and it’s not too cold, try walking 15 minutes instead of paying $15 for that Uber.

35. Don’t Drink

Be the designated driver and people will buy your non-alcoholic beverages all night, plus food and you’ll end up with more money in your pocket the next day.

Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance editor and reporter living between Florida and North Carolina. She is the author of “Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps and Lessons.