Frugality for College Students – 13 Ways to Save Money While In College

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With so many websites and blogs discussing ways to be frugal and save money in any way you can, such as Get Rich Slowly and No Debt Plan, I started thinking about ways that college students could save money and be more frugal.

When you’re in college you don’t really think too much about saving money or figuring out ways to be more frugal. Its more about pulling out the plastic, saying “charge it”, and having a good time. While there are tons of different ways to save money, here are some of my top ones that I tried to do or wished I had tried to do.

  1. Don’t go to the bar – Of course this only applied is if you are of the drinking age. But if you are, consider not going to the bar and staying at your place and drinking. Getting a case of beer or some liquor is going to be a lot cheaper than going to the bar and paying a few dollars a beer/drink. Invite your friends over and have a party – for the price of a great night at the bar, you can throw a great party at your apartment/house. When I turned 21 years old, my bank account started dropping by going to the bar. You’re friends will nag you for sure to go out with them, and its fine to do once in a while, but if you can, save the money by getting your own beer and chilling at a friends place or your own. You can take it one step further and not drink at all of course.
  2. Don’t have a gym membership – Probably every university has some sort of gym or workout area that, as a student, you can utilize for free. Take advantage of it! There is no point in paying $50+ a month on a gym membership to a place like Gold’s Gym or Balley’s when you can go for free on campus. If you are going to the gym for the benefits of working with a personal trainer, start asking around campus for people to recommend another student to you. I would imagine that you could find someone within the health/foods/nutrition department that is interested in staying fit, working out, and would be willing to help you out. If it makes you feel better, you could offer to pay this person, but obviously not as much as a gym membership!
  3. Don’t have magazine subscriptions – Many college library’s carry subscriptions of the most popular magazines. So, after you figure out where your campus library is and visit if for the first time as a Senior, check out what magazines they have on display and read them there. Also, many magazines are offering their content online for free or for a smaller paid subscription fee. Your other option would be to borrow from your friends who may have a subscription to whatever you are interested in. If you are looking to read something that is specific to your major, for example business majors reading Entrepreneur or Money, check with your professors to see if they subscribe to it and would be willing to give the edition to you after they read through it. Most people throw away the magazine after reading it, so just ask around and I am sure you will find what you are looking for.
  4. Get a meal plan for on campus dining – As a student living on campus, you are probably required to have a meal plan for on campus dinning. However, when you move off campus, you usually have the opportunity to continue purchasing a meal plan or some sort of different packages for your on campus dining options. If your parents are paying for your college bills or it is covered by your loans, get a meal plan and save money by not having to purchase as much food at the food store. Having a meal plan could easily save you a couple hundred dollars a month depending on how much you eat! Many will argue not to get a meal plan because you can purchase your own food in bulk, on sale, with coupons, etc and usually get more of it for the same price. It just depends on what you are interested in doing – spending time cooking or enjoying the conveince and extra time available.
  5. Share the cost of Internet with your neighbors – If you are living in an apartment complex where everyone is paying for their own internet connection, you can probably pick up someone else’s wireless connection that is not secured. Now, I do not encourage stealing someone elses internet without them knowing, so consider offering to split their bill with them so that you can save on the costs of internet and still get a good connection from your neighbor. If someone approached you with the idea of splitting the cost of internet (say $40/month) by 4 people instead of just you and your roommate, wouldn’t you be interested?
  6. Share Your Textbooks – Depending on your courses and the demands of your professors, you should be able to share a lot of your textbooks with your friends and other people in your class. Textbooks are way too freakin’ expensive to just purchase, use it for a semester, and sell it for a fraction of what it cost. So hook up with your friends to share books. It may get a little tight when tests and midterms come up or assignments in the book, but you can work it out. Plus, it gives you a study partner for all of your exams for that class! Another way to approach this is to check with your professors to see if they have any copies of the book that you could borrow, even an older edition. Many professors have copies of the books they use (besides the Instructor editions) that just sit on shelves in their office – so it does not hurt to ask! Finally, search for your books online at eBay or Amazon. I paid $5 for a $100 business book last semester for one of my classes that I got from Amazon so it’s a good way to save some money.
  7. Walk, Do Not Drive – If you live off-campus and are close to campus, walk to campus or take a bus (if available). Walking and not driving is a simple and effective way to save money and also get some excersize; you could also consider buying a bike. With driving to campus you have many different costs you are dealing with: gas prices (a big deal right now), parking permit costs, and added costs of tickets/towings/violations. My roommate in college had a big problem with parking in the wrong lots or on streets that were limited to only a couple hours and getting tickets and towed. He spent close to $300 on tickets and towing in a matter of a couple weeks. Also, by not driving, you don’t have to worry about the chance of being in an accident or having your vehicle damanaged, which would extra costs such as repairs and insurance.
  8. Speaking of Insurance – Stay on your parents insurance for as long as you can. Most of the time you can stay on your parents insurance policies until you turn 25 (this depends on your provider and plan of course). Your parents should be able to keep you on their policy as long as you are a time student and possibly after that to a certain extent. Again, this all depends on your provide and policy. Once you start working, you will have the chance to sign up for insurance and benefits through your company. If you can avoid having that money deducted by being on your parents insurance, do it.
  9. Stay Connected To Your Family Plans – This goes for just about anything. Have a cell phone? Be on a family plan with your parents. Again, be on a family plan for insurance, car insurance, etc. If you feel bad about having your parents pay for it or they say that they won’t pay for it, offer to pay for some of the bill. Paying a a partial amount of a family plan will still be cheaper than having your own plans to pay for.
  10. Print on Campus – Most universities supply students with “printer money” that allows them to print on campus for free up to a certain amount. If you have this opporunity, print as much as you can on campus. This will cut down on the costs of having your own printer, needing to purchase more ink cartridges, and more paper. Obviously you won’t be able to print everything on campus, but try to print as much as possible to low your expenses.
  11. Scholarships/Grants – Do your research and look for scholarships and grants that you can apply for. There are so many out there that there are a ton that go unused every year. Even by just applying to some, you could get some money. If you are paying your own way through school, this is an excellent way to cut down on student loans or the amount of time that you have to spend working to cover the bills. You can also find grants or scholarships for your books, on campus housing, meal plans, and just about anything else!
  12. Use Membership Discount Cards – When you go to a store a lot and they have a membership card (such as a foodstore) then sign up for it. These cards will help you to get discounts, even if they are small, on just about anything you buy. Sign up for them at places like CVS, Walgreens, Food Lion, Safeway, Kroger, Dicks Sporting Goods, etc. Many of them you can even earn cash back or extra rewards (say $10 off your next purchase) by using them.
  13. Print Coupons From The Internet – There are tons of coupon websites out there that display coupons for anything you can think of. They also offer discounts on many different products such as computers, electronics, and sports equipment. You can print tons of coupons for your local drug stores and foodstores to help you save more money. If you evaluate the price savings and coupon usage enough, you could find up get a lot of toothpaste at 54% off. Just be careful with how much you use these coupons, many stores are starting to not accept them because of people buying a lifetime supply worth of dish detergent or tuna fish.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg really. There are sooo many different ways to save money in college it is rediculous. So, what is your favorite way to be cheap frugal? Leave some comments with your favorite method and I’ll update the post with your ideas.

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4 Responses to Frugality for College Students – 13 Ways to Save Money While In College

  1. Paul June 19, 2008 at 5:37 pm #

    Great post. College is one expensive experience… Also, referring to number one, you can always drink before you go out, so at the bar you dont have to spend much on drinks. Just keep sipping on some gin and tonic (hold the gin 😛 )

  2. Brett June 19, 2008 at 9:37 pm #

    Good stuff as always Chris. Can’t begin to say how huge number one is. Even now that I’m out of college it still applies – especially here in NYC where beers are 6 dollars a piece everywhere you go!


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