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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