8 Ways to Save Money When Going to College

Mark O'Neill 21-07-2015

It’s been 22 years since I was last a student, but I can still remember the lifestyle well. A lifestyle where every penny counted, and a lifestyle where I ate so much Pot Noodle that I haven’t been able to eat it since.


Student loans can be crippling, and scholarships pay for just the essentials. Therefore, in between studies, students need to find ways of staying financially afloat. Well, here is Mr Mark Moneybags to show you how you can achieve that. Being Scottish, I am obsessed with making and saving money.

Discount Coupons & Season Passes

Discount coupons are a student’s best friend, as they can save you a lot of money over the long term. So it would pay to start accumulating them for when you need them.

Since every country is different, I can’t tell each of you definitively where to find offline printed coupons. You may find coupons in newspapers and magazines. I personally get coupons in my mailbox. But as usual, online is where you will find the best offers.

8 Ways to Save Money When Going to College retailmenot 640x420



One of the biggest, if not THE biggest, is RetailMeNot, which claims to have 500,000+ coupons for 50,000 stores. They also have a “Back To School” page.

If Amazon is your thing, there are a few places you can check 5 Online Sources for Amazon Promotional Codes and Coupons Finding promo codes and coupons for Amazon can save you a lot of money. Check out these five great sources and start saving right now. Read More for discount codes. Other possibilities include Rather Be Shopping, and these 10 possibilities Top 14 Sites for Online Coupons & Promotional Codes Online coupons can make a difference in your savings and budget. Try these promo code websites to find the best discount coupons. Read More we looked at back in 2010. And if you’re wondering whether these discount codes actually work, Yaara tested some out Automatic Coupon Finders - Do They Really Help You Save Money? Like many good things in life, coupons and promo codes are elusive. Saving money is never an easy thing, after all, and when you’re trying to find valid codes for something specific, you usually end... Read More back in 2013.

As for season passes, if you are travelling to college every day on the bus or train (don’t use a car!), then it would be silly to pay full fare every day. Instead, invest in a monthly pass. It works out cheaper in the long run, and it would give you unlimited travel during that month. Just ask at your local bus depot or train station.

Budgeting Tools



The only way you are ever going to organize your money properly and make it last through the month is to make a proper budget plan. Otherwise you don’t know what’s coming or going, and you will end up using up your monthly allowance in the first week.

To keep things really basic, use Excel Make a Personal Budget With Microsoft Excel in 4 Easy Steps Do you have so much debt that it will take decades to pay off? Make a budget and use these Excel tips to pay off your debt sooner. Read More . If you don’t have a copy of the desktop Excel, check out the next section where we discuss that. But in that situation, the free Office Online version of Excel would do very nicely instead. Or its open-source equivalents, Open Office Useful Free Open Office Templates To Make You More Productive Read More and Libre Office The 7 Best Free Microsoft Office Alternatives Microsoft Office is the king of office suites, but that doesn't mean it's the right one for you. Here are some other office suites you might like better! Read More .

Note down in minute detail every single thing you spend every monthy – the rent, the groceries, electricity, gas, water, phone, Internet….you get the idea. The bare essentials that you need in order to live your life and do what you need to do. Then stick to the budget religiously. If there is any money left, you can allocate some of it to going out, entertainment, and so on, but that isn’t a bare essential. So it may be that your budget forces you to entertain at home with a pizza, and a movie on TV. Maybe you might find the money for a Netflix subscription The Ultimate Netflix Guide: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Netflix This guide offers everything you need to know about using Netflix. Whether you're a new subscriber or an established fan of the best streaming service out there. Read More every month? $8 a month is much cheaper than going out for dinner and a movie.



If you want to use web tools for making a budget, then you could use Mint How To Use Mint To Manage Your Budget & Spendings Online Read More  (which is the crowd favorite). Other options include BudgetSimple, MoneyStrands, BudgetPulse, and BudgetTracker.

Lastly, do NOT use a credit card for anything. Yes, it’s good to build credit, but it is not good when you can’t make the repayments, and the interest starts building up.

Websites Where You Can Use a Student ID For Discounts


As a student with a student ID and a student email address, you are in the enviable position of getting huge discounts on stuff online. Take for example, Microsoft. You can get a Windows 8 license for only $69.99 How to Get Windows 10 for Free or Cheap Windows is expensive. Here's how to buy a Windows product key cheaply or get a license for free legally without breaking the bank. Read More , and students get Office 365 for free Students Can Get Microsoft Office 365 for Free Starting on December 1st, Universities that license Office Education for their faculty and staff can offer students Office 365 ProPlus for free. Read More . Phones, laptops, and tablets How To Make Sure You Get The Best Deals On Back To School Tech Going back to school can be stressful, not only because it's school but also because students often find themselves having to spend money they don't really have. After tuition and books, there's often very little... Read More , are also things you can get student discounts on, if you know where to look.


Even places like Dropbox offer free space to students Dropbox Offers Up To 25 GB Free Storage Space To Students And Schools [Updates] You really have to give it Dropbox, they seem to always find a way to give users more and more free storage space—from the free 500 MB space for referral sign-ups to additional 500 MB... Read More every now and then. It really is just a case of keeping your eyes open for special bargains.

Cheap Accommodation Sites & Ways Of Lowering The Rent


Deciding whether you are going to live on-campus, or off, is going to be one of your major decisions. Living on-campus may work out cheaper than the rent on an apartment off-campus, but the advantage of living off-campus is that you can leave the college grounds every night, and feel you have a life outside of studying. So there are advantages and disadvantages either way.

If you decide to live on-campus, see if there are any part-time jobs in the college that would allow you to trade for room and board (or at least a significantly reduced amount). Maybe they need help in the library? Or maybe as a “Resident Advisor”. Apparently a Resident Advisor is a very sought after and lucrative job in US colleges.

If you want to live off-campus, then there are a few things you can do to minimize the cost. First, don’t accept the first place that comes along. Look around at different places, and see if you can negotiate with the landlord. Don’t sign anything until you are absolutely sure you can afford it. Secondly, see if there is anybody willing to be roommates with you to split the rent. Third, try and rent everything, or buy extremely cheaply on somewhere like CraigsList Get the Most Out of Craigslist and Stand Out While Doing It Craigslist has become the go-to site for anyone looking to buy, sell, hire, be hired, etc. However, at the same time, it has the reputation of attracting “sketchy” people. But this article isn’t just about... Read More . You could even strike lucky and get free stuff on FreeCycle Get Free Stuff, Give Away Your Junk & Save The Planet The Freecycle Way Freecycle is the world’s largest network of recyclers who, instead of throwing away, selling or otherwise disposing of their unwanted goods, give it away instead. It’s both an environmentally and pocket-friendly way of picking up... Read More . This would include furniture, kitchen equipment, carpets, etc.

Don’t get a phone line installed. Instead use your cellphone The Best Prepaid Cell Phones on the US Market Mobile phone contracts suck. Everyone knows it, but we accept them because often we don’t seem to have much choice. The selection of pre-paid phones is poor and off-contract phones are expensive. But perhaps you... Read More (call your cellphone company and ask if they have any special deals for students. If not, start threatening to go to a competitor and see if that entices them to haggle with you), and/or use Skype 10 Tips to Make You a More Efficient Skype User Skype can do more than you think. With this article, you'll learn all about its best hidden and advanced features. It's the Skype productivity manual. Read More . Have you seen the cost of landlines lately?

Second-Hand Books & Study Materials


One of the biggest expenses you are going to face for college is textbooks and study materials. The cost of buying new will eat into your bank account like corrosive acid going through metal. Therefore it makes financial sense to try and buy old used textbooks. This is no time to get snobbish and say you’re not using someone else’s hand-me-downs. The amount of money you would save buying used makes it worthwhile, so swallow your pride!

The first port of call for textbooks would be students finishing their course, who are departing the college. They probably wouldn’t mind earning a few bucks, offloading their books, if they haven’t sold them already BuyBackTextbooks: Sell Your Books to the Store Offering Highest Price [iOS & Android] Read More . If that isn’t an option, then there are websites specializing in used student textbooks. Some sites offer rental and some offer outright sales The 10 Best Sites To Rent Or Buy College TextBooks Cheaply Today's generation has the best of the online and offline worlds. We didn’t have websites which told us where to find (rent or buy) cheap textbooks. But today’s generation just has to type in a... Read More . Amazon is a good place The 11 Best Sites to Get College Textbooks Online Don't let college textbooks empty your pockets every semester. Use these websites to buy or rent cheap college books. Read More to start looking as they have a huge used bookseller sub-section. Other options include Chegg, Buying Textbooks? Chegg And Should Be Your First Stops Two of the most used sites for getting textbooks are Chegg and, but which should you use for your next college textbook buying excursion? Read More , BookRenter BookRenter: Save Money by Renting College Books Online Read More , and DirectTextbook. You could even save money (and a lot of heavy carrying) by seeing if the books are in eBook format 3 Websites To Purchase Electronic College Textbooks One of the biggest shocks for me when I first enrolled in college was the insane cost of textbooks. Unfortunately, there is really no way to cut out this problem, but if you don't want... Read More .

Cheap Food & Drink

8 Ways to Save Money When Going to College epicurious

Cooking is where you are going to have to get a bit creative, as food can be extremely expensive. But there are some ways you can cut down on the bill, apart from stacking up the discount coupons.

Buying ready-made meals cost a lot, but you can instead make everything fresh at the weekend, and cook in bulk for the entire week. A few carrots here, a few potatoes there. Some pasta, a sauce. When it is done, freeze most of it, and have the rest for dinner.

If you are stuck for recipes, there are many online cooking resources The 7 Best Online Cooking Guides for the Beginner Cook You can learn how to be a great cook. These cooking guides for the beginner cook are few of the best places to start. Read More . You can take a look at places such as Epicurious, Yummly Yummly Lets You Share Recipes Just by Saying "Yum" Fans of online recipe sites may have heard of Yummly before as it's been around for a while. But recently it's had one hell of a spruce-up and added a whole lot of new social... Read More , AllRecipes, SimplyRecipes, and MyRecipes. If you have an iPad, you can prop it up in the kitchen and follow along with the recipe, as you go. Not Just Recipes: 4 iPad Apps That Teach You To Cook [iOS] Owning an iPad has changed the way I cook and bake in my kitchen. I can now load everything on my iPad, place it in the closest spot where it still wouldn't get dirty, and... Read More

As for lunches, don’t go to the college canteen all the time. Instead, make packed lunches at home.

It’s the same deal with alcohol. Drinking out at bars is going to drain your wallet in no time. Consider buying what you like to drink from a supermarket, and drink at home with your buddies. You would end up saving yourself a fortune.

Working Part-Time & Making More Money


It sucks having to work a part-time job, when ideally you should be studying. But if the loan or scholarship doesn’t cover all the costs – and your parents are unable to bridge the financial gap – then you would be left with no choice but to find a job.

Obviously, all the usual ones come to mind – waitressing, pizza delivery, dish washing, McDonalds, Walmart. But try and see if you can get something a bit more interesting. For example, if you have any writing talent and tech knowledge, MakeUseOf may hire you (or a similar site). Other websites often have “write for us” pages. If that doesn’t appeal, check out Craigslist, and look at the jobs sections 5 Tips for Navigating the Craigslist Jobs Jungle Unemployment is an issue in much of the world today. There are many people looking for work, but not enough companies hiring. As a result, job hunters are trying to find ways to find and... Read More . Sometimes there are things like writing, editing, web design….things that don’t even require you to get dressed.

Or provide services that other students may want. Offer to type up essays (do NOT do the essay, just type up their notes and check for grammar and spelling errors). Offer to print out their work. If any of them are applying for a job, offer to make their resume 10 Creative Resume Ideas to Help Land Your Next Design Job If you're aiming for a career in creativity, your resume is a great place to showcase your skills and flair. Make a good first impression and the offers will flood in. Read More . Anyone having a computer issue? Then you are the resident computer repair technician. You get the idea. Think outside the box.

Finally, if you don’t need anything anymore – whether it is your books, your furniture, clothes, DVD’s, whatever, then sell it and make some money! The Internet is the perfect place to do it. eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist are the top three to consider, due to their large in-built customer base. Just bear in mind the fees you will have to pay eBay and Amazon for listing something.

See What You Can Find For Free On-Campus


A lot of students pay for things off-campus, not realizing that those same things are probably offered for free, or a vastly reduced charge, on-campus. For example, gym memberships. Many colleges have gyms that students can use for free. So why pay for a costly membership for an off-campus gym?

Also, freebies may be getting handed out on campus by promotional companies, to entice you to sign up for something (just be careful what you sign). Campuses may also have free movie night, and other social events. Libraries will take care of your recreational reading needs, they may even have DVD rentals.

Even something like condoms are probably given away by the campus. Hey, you’ve got to have a sex life, right?

These are just some ideas, meant to spark your creativity. Put on your thinking cap, and try to find ways to make that student loan last the 3 or 4 years you need to graduate.

What other ideas do you know of to save money at college? What did I miss?

Image Credits: Tired student Via Shutterstock, Financial Accounting – Shutterstock, Woman Shaking Hands With Estate Agent – Shutterstock, Pizza Guy – Shutterstock, Free Euro Coin – Shutterstock

Related topics: Save Money, Study Tips.

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  1. John
    June 23, 2018 at 6:58 am


  2. Drake Frost
    January 11, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Excellent article. Training in a college or university in the United States is very expensive. Using the tips that are described in the article can help you save money. For me, the most effective method is work in my spare time. There are a lot of ways of earning for students. Personally, I work in freelancing. But this type of work requires certain skills. I write articles. For this one needs good writing skills. Also, It is also very important to be able to write informative and logical articles in short time. I always liked writing essays. To improve my writing skills, I began to study additional materials on the Internet. I found many useful articles on the websites - After writing many essays, I managed to improve my writing skills. The income from work helped me significantly reduce the costs of study. Also, I have money that I can use at my discretion.

  3. Anonymous
    July 24, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Most of the websites listed above are for US and Canada only. Can you list some websites that offer discounts worldwide?