6 Fast and Affordable Recipes for College Students

College is expensive and so are apartments. Finding a college apartment that fits into your budget is possible with a few simple tricks.

Cooking for yourself in college can be a struggle, especially with hundreds of other things constantly on your mind. Some dorms come with kitchens, while others don’t. Some students have fridges, while others don’t. Some people love having piles of snacks in their room, while others don’t. If you want to feed yourself in a healthy and inexpensive way straight out of your dorm room, we’ve compiled a list of quick, easy recipes that require minimal equipment and, honestly, minimal cooking. If you have a mug and a microwave—or a fridge and a Tupperware container—you can make a combination of most of these recipes. Some require a little more prep than others, but all of these dishes are perfect for college.

1. Scrambled Eggs

Did you know you can make eggs in the microwave? If you have a fridge in your dorm room, you can easily go through a dozen eggs a week making just about anything. We love classic, protein-packed scrambled eggs because they’re just so easy. You’ll need all the usual ingredients—eggs, milk and cheese. Mix the milk and eggs in a microwave-safe cup and microwave in 30-second increments until the eggs are cooked. Then add the cheese and microwave a few seconds more if it doesn’t melt right away. As long as you have a mug, microwave, and fridge, you’re set for college breakfasts.

2. Peanut Butter Overnight Oats

If you have a sweet tooth, you can try this trendy breakfast idea. Overnight oats are popular right now, mostly because they’re so convenient to make and (almost surprisingly) delicious. The Minimalist Baker adds peanut butter and chia seeds to the oats to add healthy fats and protein. Use a mason jar or small Tupperware container to store this dish overnight. Rolled oats are super cheap and will last forever under your bed, just like peanut butter, so you’ll need to worry only about storing the almond milk in a fridge. If you want to save a bit more money, you can substitute almond milk for regular milk.

3. Riceless Risotto

Risotto might sound like something way out of reach for a college student, but it’s actually reasonably priced if you make it without rice in a microwave. Instead of traditional Arborio rice, Bran Appetit suggests the use of quick oats for your risotto. Oats are extremely cheap (and can also be used for the aforementioned overnight oats), so they’re a great pick for this hearty dish. You can add some vegetables, cheese, and chicken stock to finish off this rich, microwaveable dish. With minimal prep, you can wow your friends when you tell them you’re eating risotto in your college dorm room.

4. Mac and Cheese

We all know, and either love or hate, that bright orange, pre-packaged microwave mac and cheese. You can make a more natural version of this comfort food easily in the microwave, minus the packets of “cheese” powder. Made by Monique proves that a mug full of water can cook some dry pasta in just a few minutes. If you add your favorite cheeses and a little butter or onion powder, you can have your very own rich mac and cheese in under ten minutes.

5. Burrito Bowl

It can be difficult to cook chicken fully in the microwave, but if you can find some cheap precooked chicken at the grocery store, then it’s super easy to throw it on top of any microwave concoction. We’re loving burrito bowls because they’re high in protein and flavor. With a microwave-safe bowl, you can cook some minute rice and warm up some canned beans, then top with store-brand salsa, cheese, and that precooked chicken for a quick and very affordable meal. If you have a few extra bucks to spend for the week, make your own guacamole with an avocado and a little lime juice.

6. Chickpea, Avocado, and Feta Salad

Speaking of avocado, you can make some great salads in college without really cooking at all. Besides some minor prep, Two Peas & Their Pod’s version of a chickpea, avocado, and feta salad doesn’t require much work or any heat at all. If your dorm has a small kitchen, this recipe will work perfectly because you’ll need somewhere to chop the onions, cilantro, and avocado. You can also borrow a friend’s kitchen in return for feeding them some of this delectable salad.

If you’re a college student, finding easy meals to make is only part of the battle—you still have to account for buying all the ingredients. Check out our Best Student Credit Cards in America to see if there’s a card that can help you manage your weekly food costs. What are your go-to recipes for keeping your belly happy on a tight budget?

Image: Geber86

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Ingredients to Buy in Bulk and Keep for Years

A great way to reduce your grocery spend is by planning meals ahead.

Everyone who goes grocery shopping knows that buying food weekly can become fairly expensive—especially when you add in how much money we waste on food. Luckily, there are many foods that’ll last for years and save you money in the long run if you buy them in bulk and store them properly.

Check out these 12 ingredients that can help you save money on your groceries for years to come.

1. White Rice

It’s hard to find a food that’s more versatile than rice: you can eat it on its own, with vegetables or beans, in soup, with meat, in sushi, and so much more. You can even use it to help save your electronics from water damage. Plus, rice is super cheap and often comes in bulk. Even better, white rice can last more than 30 years if stored properly—in the pantry, in the fridge, or in the freezer—so don’t throw it out unless it has spoiled through improper storage. (Brown rice has a higher oil content, so it’ll actually spoil after six months, unfortunately.)

2. Honey

Scientists have found perfectly preserved honey in the Egyptian pyramids—even at over three thousand years old, that honey is still edible and safe to eat. Honey’s high acidity and lack of water help it last indefinitely. It may crystallize over time, but don’t worry; it is still safe to eat. You can warm it up to soften and de-crystallize it for easier consumption. Honey can be used as a sweetener, in salad dressings, in desserts, as a home remedy, and even for facials.

3. Oats

If you love breakfast foods and baking, buy bulk portions of oats to store in your pantry. Rolled and instant oats can last several years when kept in airtight containers—some estimate that oats can be safely eaten for 30 years if stored properly! Keep oats on hand and make your own flour, granola bars, or cereal whenever you want.

4. Hot Sauce

From eggs to salads to pizza, anything can benefit from some added spice. Whether you’re a Tabasco or Tapatío fan, your favorite hot sauce can last for three to five years thanks to its high vinegar content and the capsaicin found in chili peppers. Just make sure you follow proper storage directions, and keep in mind that the taste will change as time passes. The sauce may even get hotter as the peppers age! Buy a large bottle on sale and keep it for years—or until you run out.

5. Dried Beans

You can find a great source of protein in beans, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Flavored and canned beans will last you a while, but dried beans can last for up to 30 years. They do begin to lose their moisture after a few years, so cooking times may vary depending on how long you have been storing them. If you love black beans in homemade burritos or homemade barbecue chili, keep bags of dried beans in your pantry—they’re super affordable and go with pretty much anything.

6. Quinoa

Contrary to popular belief, quinoa is a seed not a grain, so it actually keeps two to three years past the expiration date. Though it lasts several years, you do need to keep quinoa in a cool, dry area or it could grow mold—and you should never eat quinoa that has grown mold. Quinoa is super filling and can be used in tons of dishes in place of less-healthy carbs. Make soups, salads, or protein bowls with this superfood.

7. Pure Vanilla Extract

Imitation vanilla extract will last you a while if you’re in a pinch (about two to four years), but we highly recommend finding a big bottle of pure vanilla extract. The high alcohol content of the extract makes it stay good indefinitely—just keep it away from heat and light and keep the cap tightly closed when not in use—so it’ll always be ready to use when you’re baking or cooking.

8. Soy Sauce

If you’re a fan of Asian food, don’t throw out your open bottles of soy sauce. Due to the large amounts of sodium, soy sauce can last over three years when stored properly. It keeps its flavor and freshness better when stored in the refrigerator, but it is safe to keep in the pantry as well. Save money on takeout by making your own stir-fry, Chinese chicken salad, or noodle dishes with your long-lasting soy sauce.

9. Apple Cider Vinegar

Due to its high acidity, apple cider vinegar can last for up to five years when stored in a cool, dry place (in the pantry or in the fridge) with the lid tightly closed. If you see a dark, cloudy substance in the bottom of your bottle, don’t worry—that’s just the “mother,” formed by naturally occurring pectin. The mother is actually the most nutritious part of the cider, so feel free to consume it! Add apple cider vinegar to soups and salad dressings for an acidic finish.

10. Dried Ramen

It might seem obvious, but dried ramen noodles will last for many years in your pantry, though the taste is best if consumed within a few years. The noodles are extremely dehydrated, so they don’t usually spoil. Use this cheap staple to make soup or cold noodle bowls.

11. Pure Maple Syrup

Unopened, pure maple syrup will last indefinitely if stored in the freezer (it won’t freeze solid) and up to several years if kept in the refrigerator. Syrup lacks water and is relatively acidic, which contributes to its long shelf life—though it can develop mold, in which case you should not consume it.

12. Baking Soda

One of the most versatile ingredients you can buy in bulk is baking soda. While not super exciting, this extremely cheap ingredient is perfect for making homemade toothpaste, freshening up your fridge, leavening anything you bake, washing your counters, and removing stains from your clothes. Stock up on baking soda and don’t throw it away because it will last you multiple years without going bad. You can test your baking soda to determine whether it’s still good: just add a few drops of vinegar to your baking soda and see if it bubbles.

Whether you’re a cash-strapped college student or just a conscious spender, every little bit helps. Buy these ingredients in bulk and enjoy them for years.

As with all food, check to make sure these ingredients haven’t spoiled before you eat them, and never eat food that has not been stored properly.

Image: RoBeDeRo

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5 No-Heat Meals That Will Save You Money This Summer

It’s hard to justify using heat to cook when it only makes you lose money, and time, so read on for some great no-heat meals to make now.

This summer, try preparing no-heat meals to save money on air conditioning and expensive foods that require heat. Using your stove and oven in the summer can release extra heat into your home — the last thing you want during the warmest months. This extra heat means turning up your air conditioning, resulting in extra expenses. Even when grilling, the cost of coals or fuel can quickly add up.

If you want to avoid using heat to cook because it cuts into your comfort or your budget, read on for some great no-heat meals to make now.

1. Barbecue Chicken Sandwich

If you can’t stay away from meat, opt for a previously cooked option like rotisserie chicken because it’s easy to pick up from your local store. You can slice, pull or shred it to add protein to any no-heat dish. Additionally, a rotisserie chicken can serve four to five people for only $5. You can make a barbecue chicken sandwich using rotisserie chicken, store-bought barbecue sauce and pickled vegetables, like cucumbers, to create a hearty meal perfect for a quick dinner or lunch in the summer. Even if barbecue isn’t your thing, food website Delish has plenty of sandwich recipes that use rotisserie chicken. Bonus: All the components can be prepared ahead of time, making them perfect for picnics or travel.

2. Tomato Gazpacho

Summer is tomato harvesting season, so take advantage of the cheaper produce offerings with a refreshing tomato gazpacho. This cold soup is perfect because it’s vegetarian, low-calorie and has 10 or fewer ingredients. RealSimple.com has a version of gazpacho that features corn and cucumbers, two more staple summer vegetables. If you like, you can serve the gazpacho with garlic-rubbed crostini to add an element with contrasting texture.

3. Vegetable Salad With Peanut Butter Dressing

Salads are a great healthy option and the slightly decadent peanut butter dressing adds just the right amount of sweetness and richness to the dish. The Kitchn has a recipe for tofu and broccoli salad that also uses peanut butter dressing. The salad is so fun and colorful it might help persuade your kids to eat their vegetables. Some recipes call for baked tofu, but for a no-heat version of this dish you can use raw tofu. Opting for vegetarian meals will also help you cut costs, as tofu is cheaper than meat and just as versatile.

4. Unicorn Summer Rolls

One of the hottest trends right now is rainbow, or unicorn, food. From bagels to sushi to cake, people are making all their favorite foods colorful. No-heat unicorn summer rolls are perfect to make to keep up with trends while maintaining a budget. Today.com has a great version of this easy recipe. Fresh, seasonal produce can be inexpensive, and it’s easy to chop and shred everything on your own. Plus, a key ingredient, rice paper wrappers, are only 10 cents each. With their color and veggies, these rolls are fun for everyone and filling enough for an affordable summer lunch.

5. Picnic in a Glass

One of the greatest summer pastimes is having a picnic. Nothing beats heading to the beach or park with friends to enjoy fresh air and a flavorful meal. A “Picnic in a Glass” is an ideal no-heat dish to bring to a real picnic, or enjoy from the comfort of your own home. Made in a mason jar, this dish is convenient and pre-portioned, which makes serving and cleanup a breeze. If you’re looking for a recipe, MyRecipes.com has an easy one. A tangy yogurt dressing adds dimension to leftover or store-bought shredded chicken. Load the jar up with vegetables to complete your no-heat meal.

While shopping for ingredients for these no-bake summer meals, consider using rewards cards for extra value. There are plenty of great grocery store rewards cards but they often require decent credit. Before applying, see where you stand. You can check two credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Image: Geber86

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8 Common Credit Card Mistakes You Might Be Making

Credit cards are a super convenient financial tool, but they can often be confusing.

Do you have a credit card in your wallet? Chances are, you do. And if you’re one of these plastic carriers, you probably want to be using that card the best possible way, right? Well, you may be making some mistakes without even realizing it. To help, we’ve rounded up eight common mistakes to help you discover if you have one of these habits and ultimately correct it.

1. Paying Your Bills Late

“What can do you the most harm is paying late, or not paying at all,” credit score expert Barry Paperno said.

Late payments affect your credit score, plus the late fees and interest quickly add up. Besides all of the effects that hit you right away, Paperno said it can take years to recover from numerous late payments. And if you let it go too long, you could be hit with a charge-off (the point, usually after six months without payment, at which the lender writes your account off as a loss), which stays on your credit report for seven years.

2. Closing a Card You Don’t Really Use

Despite the fact that you never use a particular credit card, closing that card isn’t necessarily the answer. When you close cards, you affect your credit history, usually negatively.

“Don’t make the mistake of closing cards,” Paperno said. “Especially if you think it will help your score, because that will never raise your score.”

When you decrease the amount of credit available to you, you end up increasing your credit utilization ratio, which can hurt your credit. Instead of closing a card, consider simply using it every so often and keep the account active. There are times when closing the card may make sense, like if it carries an annual fee that is hurting your budget, but you’ll want to think about it carefully before making a decision.

3. Not Requesting Changes to Your Terms

While card issuers might seem intimidating, you could be making a mistake by not attempting to change your terms. You could potentially negotiate a lower interest rate or annual fee, helping out your budget in the process. If you’re trying to rid yourself of a balance quickly, call your credit card company. They may help you get a lower interest rate if you just ask.

4. Spending Money Just to Get Rewards

If you find yourself using your credit card unnecessarily to earn rewards, it could be costing you. Rewards are fantastic, but altering your spending habits just to get free stuff isn’t going to be as beneficial as it may sound. If you overspend and carry a balance, you’ll likely lose all those rewards to interest charges.

5. Not Knowing Your Credit Score

If you don’t check your credit score regularly, you’re not educating yourself as much as you could be. Your credit is considered in a lot of situations, from when you apply for a mortgage or car loan to a version of your credit reports being reviewed by a potential employer as part of the application process. Haven’t checked yours in a while? You can see your free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.

6. Only Paying the Minimum Balance

If you only pay your minimum balance each month, you’ll likely end up having to pay more interest down the line. While it might seem like a quick fix to save your money and pay the minimum, in reality you’re dragging out how long it’ll take to pay your entire balance. Keep avoiding those late fees, but if you can, you’ll want to pay more than the minimum.

7. Applying for Out-of-Reach Credit Cards

“Another common credit card mistake is probably applying for too many cards, the wrong cards, or both,” Paperno said.

By applying for a card you aren’t qualified for, you end up without a card and with a “hard inquiry on your report for the next two years,” he added.

While your credit score isn’t directly affected by being denied credit, the more hard inquiries on your credit report, the more dings you’ll see to your scores. Make sure you are a good candidate before applying for any type of credit card.

8. Spending More Money Than You Actually Have

Having a credit card often allows people to make the mistake of overspending. It’s a mistake to charge your credit cards close to their limit, Paperno said. Just as closing a card will raise your credit utilization, so will coming close to your credit limit. Either move can hurt your credit score.

Making Positive Credit Choices

To avoid these eight mistakes from the start, make sure you educate yourself. You don’t have to know everything, but you should be aware of how to be responsible with your credit cards. When a car, house or student loan is on the line, you should be knowledgeable and ready, not hurting from your previous credit card mistakes.

“If you pay on time, keep your balances low and apply for new credit only when you need it,” you’ll be in good shape, Paperno said.

Image: Peopleimages

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10 Money Mistakes College Students Should Avoid

Most students don't have a ton of margin for financial error, so be sure to avoid these mistakes.

College is the first time many teenagers are in charge of their own finances, which can be a recipe for mistakes. I know I was definitely nervous to keep of track of my finances on top of being overwhelmed by school and making new friends.

Most students aren’t swimming in money when they head to college, so they don’t actually have a lot of room for financial errors if they don’t want to be stressed about money for the rest of the year, or even their entire academic career. If you’re going to college soon, are in college or have kids in college, read on to learn more about the solutions to the 10 common money mistakes college students make.

1. Overusing a Credit Card

While swiping a credit card all the time might feel painless, this method of spending money can become harmful. Failing to pay off your credit card balance can lead to high interest payments if you’re not careful. (See how your spending affects your credit with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com)

2. Going Out Just Because Your Friends Go Out

In college you can make friends with people who come from different backgrounds. Some of your friends might be super wealthy, or they may just spend their money irresponsibly. Either way, “going with the flow” could end up costing you a lot. Find ways to say no to your friends’ constant requests to order pizza delivery, or try to get a job so you have some extra cash to use when you hang out with your friends who are a little more careless with money.

3. Not Looking for Scholarships

College counselors will tell you that scholarships are like free money. If you don’t take the time to apply for scholarships, you’ll never realize how much money (that you’ll never have to give back) you could be receiving. Even small scholarships can add up if you receive several of them. You can win scholarships even if you’re not a freshman.

4. Skipping Classes

Sleeping in every once a while or skipping class because you just don’t feel like going is actually costing you a lot of money. At some of the country’s most expensive colleges each hour of class can cost upwards of $150. Going to all of your classes helps diminish your chances of failing a class, which is ideal because if you fail you’ll only have to pay more to take the same class again.

5. Missing Out on Free Stuff

Going to college gives you a ton of perks — think of the libraries, gyms and cultural experiences all around you. Instead of leaving campus to go to a gym, the movies or a restaurant, you should use the gym at school, go to movie nights that clubs host and scout out free food to save money. (Here are 50 things you can get for free.)

6. Buying All Your Supplies at the Campus Bookstore

New textbooks already cost a ton, and after they’re marked up at the campus bookstore they cost even more. You should buy used versions of your school books if you can, but always check Amazon and other online marketplaces, as they might be even cheaper than anything at the bookstore. Renting books is another solution, too.

7. Not Doing Your Research When Shopping

Students need to learn the art of comparison shopping so they don’t just buy the first thing on the shelf at Target. If you take a few minutes to check the price of your favorite body wash on a couple of sellers’ websites, you’ll find it easy to always buy the cheapest products.

8. Spending All Your Money

Budgeting is something many college students neglect to do, and that comes back to bite them. If you finally have a supply of money and no parents telling you to what to do with it, the first thing to cross your mind probably isn’t “I should save half of my money!” You’ll probably be tempted spend it all. Think of all the things you want to do in the future: have a job, own a house and maybe have kids. If you don’t save your money, it’ll be harder to make those dreams a reality.

9. Confusing What You Want With What You Need

Many students struggle to tell the difference between what they need and what they want. I sometimes feel like I need Starbucks, but in reality I’m just overspending by buying a shaken iced tea every day.

Instead of spending on things they only want, students should think before they buy, or find cheaper ways to get what they want—like making their own coffee or buying tea bags in bulk.

10. Staying in School Longer

Education is amazing, but the cost of staying in college for an extended period of time? Not so much. If you have student loans, your debt will only increase. On top of that, students with more debt are already putting themselves behind for life after college. Make sure you plan for the future, and try your best to graduate on time so you don’t have to lose extra money by staying in school longer.

Image: andresr

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16 Ways for Broke College Students to Cut Costs

Budgeting can be a struggle for many college students.

Every college student is familiar with the struggle of budgeting. Between tuition, housing and dining hall meal plans, college doesn’t come cheap. Unfortunately, many of these mandatory expenses make college students pressed for money the moment they step on campus. According to the National Center for Education Statistics about 85% of four-year college students receive some type of financial aid, which suggests most students on campus don’t have the financial resources to splurge whenever they feel like it.

To help you during your time at college, here are 16 tips that can help you save money, and in some cases, time or the environment.

1. Show Your Student ID While Making Purchases

College students spend a lot of money, so small business owners are very appreciative of the presence of a university. Many local businesses in college towns, and surrounding cities, give college students discounts so long as they show their university IDs.

2. Buy Things in Bulk

Toiletries, food, water, cleaning supplies, socks — you name it, college students should buy it in bulk if their living situation has enough storage space. Making bulk purchases at stores like Costco, Target or Walmart can help you save in the long run. Plus, if you end up with extra food or supplies, you can sell that inventory to friends or hall mates.

3. Use Groupon or Other Online Coupon Services

Groupon currently has an offer where college students get 25% off local deals. Taking advantage of these discounts can help college students save on services like haircuts, yoga classes, manicures, fitness gyms and more.

4. Take Public Transportation

It’s true we’re living in the age of Uber and Lyft, and sure, it might be faster to drive most places, but you’ll save so much cash in college if you take public transportation. Plus, utilizing buses and trains is better for the environment.

5. Use Cash Instead of Credit

Research from NYU professor Priya Raghubir and University of Maryland professor Joydeep Srivastava shows that using physical cash makes people less likely to overspend because they “feel the outflow of money” more directly. Spending too much on a credit card can also lead to high interest charges if you don’t pay the balance in time. Cost-conscious college students may want to trade plastic for paper. (See how your credit card spending affects your finances with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)

6. Find Free Food on Campus

College campuses are overflowing with student organizations and sports teams, so there’s usually something happening on campus all the time. One of the main ways clubs get people to come to their events: free food. Scoping out events with complimentary food will save you a few bucks, and you might meet new friends by checking out a performance or club meeting.

7. Buy Online or Used Textbooks

New hardback textbooks are some of the expensive required materials a professor can expect you to buy. Instead of buying an actual textbook, go for an online version, which can be much cheaper. If an online version of a textbook doesn’t exist, try to buy a used version from a friend or an online site.

8. Sell Your Textbooks at the End of the School Year

When all your books pile up after finals, don’t just take them home and let them collect dust on the shelf. Instead, sell them to underclassmen you know, or use services like bookscouter.com or half.com to sell them. Some university bookstores buy back textbooks as well.

9. Track Your Spending

College students often go wrong when they make numerous purchases but eventually lose track of them due to having so much on their minds. Utilizing an app like Mint or even a trusty pen and notebook, students can track their spending and see if they’re adhering to their budgets. If you are constantly aware of how much you’re spending, you’ll be less likely to spend money on unnecessary items.

10. Don’t Sign Up for Subscriptions You Can’t Afford

While Netflix and Hulu might seem reasonably inexpensive, those seven to ten bucks a month quickly add up! If you really need a binge-watching fix, you can always borrow DVDs from the library on campus. Other subscription services like Amazon Prime, Spotify and Pandora can also cause you to lose money over time. Canceling those services can help students avoid monthly payments that rack up.

11. Borrow Books From the Library

Along similar lines, some English or humanities classes require five or more books per semester. To save money, borrow the books from the library instead of buying new paperbacks every time.

12. Get Free Refills on Coffee & Tea

It can be super difficult to stay away from caffeine, especially when you’re a college student spending long hours in the library. To save money, head to a chain that gives out free refills on your favorite caffeinated drinks. Starbucks offers free refills of hot, or iced, brewed coffee and tea. Most McDonald’s and Panera Bread locations also provide free refills on hot drinks, and soft drinks, too.

13. Keep Snacks on You During the Day

Food at campus cafes or markets, or even in vending machines, can be overpriced. So when it’s time for an afternoon snack, make sure you’re prepared with snacks of your own. This way, you’ll save a few cents or dollars each time you get hungry, and eventually that money accumulates.

14. Go Thrift Shopping

Besides being a fun activity to do with friends, thrift shopping is a great way to save money. It’s a smart move to save money on trendy clothes you might not wear for very long, especially in college towns or cities with ever changing weather.

15. Skip the School Supplies

Instead of wasting money on pencils, notebooks and highlighters, take notes on your laptop or tablet. Not only does this trick save the environment, but also it allows you to avoid unnecessary spending on school supplies you’ll just have to repurchase for the next school year.

16. Cut Back on Buying Music

Sure, iTunes is great, but constantly buying the newest songs from your favorite artists can be a big hit to your wallet. To save, consider using a service like Spotify or Pandora to get free music whenever you want. If you really can’t stand advertisements, Spotify offers a student discount for its premium subscription that comes without ads!

Want a few more ways to save money? Here are 50 free things you can get this year

Image: gradyreese 

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