How to Save Money in College: 5 Easy Ways | Top Universities

How to Save Money in College: 5 Easy Ways

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Felix von Wendorff

Updated Mar 06, 2016



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So you finally made it to college! You move out (even abroad if you are lucky), meet new people and are having a great time when… it happens. There is just too much month left at the end of your money. You’re broke.

Instead of begging your parents, selling your kidney, or getting a job (after all, the only thing you have less of than money is time), all you need to do is learn how to spend more wisely and make your dollar, or euro, or rupee go further. Learn how with these five easy methods, and make sure you have more money left at the end of the month.

1. Always buy used textbooks

Reading lists can be a real money-drainer – which is why you should always buy used textbooks, instead of new. Before buying any, check whether you can get them from the university library – just make sure you get there before everyone else!

Especially in the 101 classes, it’s safe to assume that the fundamental principles of your major have not really changed so much that it warrants a whole new edition (remember, publishers also have to get their kids through college). So you can probably buy last year’s edition cheaply from a student in the year ahead. Just check with the professor beforehand.

Pro tip: if the professor is the author of the book in question (don’t even bother trying to get out of buying it!) or for whatever other reason says no, get a few people together and create a money pool. Then buy a copy to share, and create scanned copies. Or see if there’s an online version available, either via the university library or elsewhere – that may also be cheaper.

2. Use public transport

Typically, university students get heavily discounted or free tickets for public transportation. Make good use of this. Fuel costs a fortune and parking can cost an arm and a leg. In summer, fall, and spring, you could also consider getting around by cycling (or walking, depending how far the distances are) – with added benefits to your health.

3. Move off campus as soon as possible

This depends on where you’re studying, but campus living can be expensive, especially in the US. Living on campus is often mandatory for the first one or two years of your degree, but after that you may be able to save some money by getting some friends together to move off campus and rent a flat. (Besides, you don’t want to be known as “that senior who still lives in the dorms”.)

4. Quit expensive habits

Yes, this includes smoking. There are better things to do with your money than lighting it on fire. But also other less obvious expensive habits can also be a drag on your bank account. Buying your twice-daily fix of caffeine at Starbucks can easily set you back $8 a day. Buy a reusable coffee cup, a $150 coffee machine, and you will be saving money in less than a month.

5. Don’t miss the enrollment deadline

The easiest way to save money in college – and potentially a lot – is to make sure you don’t miss the enrollment deadline for any courses you need to take. I have met someone who had to study a whole extra year and pay an extra $30k, just because they overslept and could not get into the last class they needed to graduate. The individual in question’s education was financed by his parents, who were so mad, that they made the $30,000 grand a loan (with interest), not a gift. As a wise man once said, learning from your own mistakes is smart; but learning from other people’s mistakes is brilliance.

Bonus tip (If you have a job). When buying something, don’t think of it in terms of dollars but in hours of your life. Assuming you earn $8 an hour, a $4 coffee costs you 30 minutes of your life. While that might seem OK, think about what a $60 jacket means, or $30,000 for that matter. This has personally saved me more money than any other tip on the list… except for the DIY coffee one.

What are your top tips to save money in college? Share your ideas in the comments below.