College Life 101: A Student’s Guide to Saving Money in School

Posted August 07, 2015 by
happy student with a money at the school desk on the white background

Happy student with a money at the school desk on the white background. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Students need to be their own personal financial managers. They also need to be financial planners, looking at future expenses. How can you survive the money pit of college? By planning and managing your money vigilantly. Avoiding overspending and accumulating high credit card balances are important goals for success.

Books and Materials

One of the first major expenses is textbooks. You can save significantly by renting your books. Many students buy used books and materials. Make sure that any interactive materials, such as CDs, website codes, and more, are transferable. Some students share books, especially when they have different class periods.

Materials, such as art supplies, can wreck a budget. Ask your instructor if any stores offer student discounts. Sometimes, you need a voucher or coupon from the college; but, generally, your student ID is sufficient. How much can you save? Up to 25 percent on average.


Check with other students to see if you can carpool. If you live close to school or on the campus, consider getting a bicycle. Students who attend school during harsh climate seasons, such as Wisconsin in the winter or Arizona in the summer, may need to arrange for alternative transportation when the weather prohibits bike riding.

Don’t forget public transportation. Often, companies offer special discounts. For example, New Jersey students can save 25 percent on NJ TRANSIT Monthly Passes and Miami-Dade Transit offers College EASY Ticket discounts for students at most area colleges.

Simple Savings

Sometimes, students can find savings in unexpected areas. Consider your money management habits. That debit card makes it too easy to spend your hard-earned cash. Switch to writing checks for expenses. The act of writing out the check may make you reconsider extravagant expenses.

You can save on checks by skipping the ones the bank offers and using online sources like Checks SuperStore. If you want to know exactly where and when you wrote your checks, get the duplicate check option. Watch for specials, coupon codes, and other discounts when buying items online.

You can find ideas for other simple savings through websites geared to frugal living. Many of these sites offer ideas for saving money on food. Addicted to fancy coffees? Consider learning to make exotic coffees at home using tasty syrups and common kitchen flavorings. If you want to buy coffee or soft drinks at a store, ask if they have a customer loyalty punch card, such as “buy 6 and get the 7th free.”


With movie and concert costs skyrocketing, many students are choosing other sources of entertainment. Find activities that allow you to split the costs with others, such as camping, renting DVDs, doing scavenger hunts, and more. Take advantage of any student discounts, such as half price zoo entrance, discounted restaurant meals, cheap movie tickets or free popcorn, and more.

Looking for an activity that is both fun and beneficial? Consider volunteering. For example, you may spend a day at an animal shelter, working for Habitat for Humanity, helping at a food pantry, building paths for nature parks, or doing other activities. Not only is volunteering a free activity, but often students can gain valuable networking contacts at these events.

Saving money while attending college is difficult; but with some careful planning and savvy money management, you can stay within your budget. Changing a few habits, such as writing checks instead of swiping a credit or debit card, can help you watch your expenses. Saving money on the items you buy, including textbooks, supplies, checks, and more, also makes it easier to succeed.

My name is Lizzie Weakley and I am a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. I went to college at The Ohio State University where I studied communications. I enjoy the outdoors and long walks in the park with my 3-year-old husky Snowball.

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