Saving Money While at College

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Attending college is quite expensive. Finding ways to save money on such things as food, books, and housing can help reduce your financial burden. This is a page about saving money while at college.


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September 16, 2010

What are some ways to save money and manage it while going to college?

By chantel from Portland


September 18, 20100 found this helpful

1) Learn the difference between needs and wants.
2) If you don't go anywhere, you won't need a car.
3) Get used to cheap meals. Get a rotisserie chicken and a head of cabbage and make soup, sandwiches, cole slaw, burritos, etc. I have a friend who does this and he finds it quite satisfying. The two items can last you all week for lunches.
4) Of course, buy books and other necessities second hand whenever possible.
5) Trade tutoring for goodies. Or give it away. What goes around comes around.


6) Attend the free events on campus for entertainment.
7) Don't go to stores unless you have a list, coupons for most of the stuff you're buying, and have already eaten.
8) Use what you have to the fullest extent possible. For instance, if you are an art major and can only afford pen and ink, push yourself to do the best work ever with that medium. Even Michaelangelo started out with the basics.
9) Choose your dorm mate carefully. Get someone who shares your values and can be trusted to not walk off with your stuff.
10) Treat your classes as pure pleasure, even when they seem over your head or not in your field of interest. Attitude of gratitude, etc. Attitude is 90% of everything. If you're determined to go the course, you will.
Have a fabulous time learning!

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September 19, 20100 found this helpful

Get a small slow cooker. Find one with a removable container, this will make clean up easy. Now take the bones from last nights barbecue chicken with some onion, garlic and veggies of your choice and water to cover. Now your free to study, go to class, chill, dinner will be ready when you are.


Remove the bones and discard. You can add rice at the start or quick rice about 20 min. before finished. Pasta only takes about 10 min at the end. One problem, the smell will have half your dorm clambering for the left overs. Now that you have made your first slow cooker dinner get ready to use anything you can think of to make dinner, slow and oh cheap.

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October 12, 20100 found this helpful

Get an air popcorn popper; healthy, and delightful and actually nutricious to snack on! You can easily put taco seasonings; make your own parmisian cheese and garlic salt seasonings; this always smells delightful and lifts your mood! You will never feel deprived with this treat around! Rice cooker is wonderful as well; get from bulk; get jasmine wonderfully aromatic; and balsmati; get your seasonings by the tablespoon in bulk; far cheaper; take a steel water bottle with you and fill from fountains; can also take a thermos (stanley) with you; full of hot water/hot chocolate/coffee; carry tea bags with you.


Learn where you can sit and enjoy a cup of tea etc in a place where it is like a picnic! Instead of bemoaning the fact you can't get starbucks, love the fact that you have great beverages and enjoy them! Glean from other students what they were able to do; and what appeals and works for you, incorporate into what you do.

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December 14, 2017

This is a page about saving money on meals at college. Here is some great information to consider, if you are looking into using a meal plan for your college student.

College Students Being Served in Cafeteria

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April 28, 2016

This is a page about cheap meal ideas for a college student. Many college students need to eat on a budget.

Pile of coins on a white plate with a knife and fork on a wooden table

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February 22, 2012

This page is about saving money on textbooks. A major cost of attending college is purchasing the textbooks needed for your courses.

Saving Money on Textbooks

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

September 16, 2010

Saving Money At College
Saving Money in College

I am back in college after a bad illness at age 35, and my husband ditched me, so pickings are slim. I have a few suggestions to stretch those dollars, which are very few these days.


How to do college cheaper:

  1. Pack your lunch, most community colleges charge a lot of money for food and drink. Buy an insulated lunch bag and use it for snacks and water. (Refill water bottle at fountains, but bleach bottles after a day or two to prevent listeria or any other bacteria!)

  2. Books-find used online or at school book swaps. Sometimes old editions still work, the very few differences can usually be made up with in-library copies (Most schools keep some on hand).

  3. Carpool, if your school charges for parking, try and find a buddy to drive every other week or whatever. Even short trips add up in gas, which isn't so cheap at the moment.

  4. When at all possible, e-mail assignments or check if colleges have print allowances-most do, and ink seems to run out all the time. Also see if your ID can be loaded with money-some schools deduct from the price if it does. (My parking is cut in half, and my food is cut by 5%)

  5. Don't lose tuition/financial aid/scholarships. If you don't get it, get a tutor, right away. Most schools offer some free tutoring, or have labs with people to help you.

  6. Look for scholarships, most of the money never gets applied for, and it can really help. All kinds are available, and you don't need straight A's to get them, as is thought by many.

  7. Save all of your work, because it often applies in other classes in one way or another. If you can't sell books outside your major, use them for future references. Save books on your major-they will also be great references that are scholarly, and will help you in the future.

  8. Ask the phone company about student or low income discounts (I pay for $20/month for higher speed than my college has!). Ask all of your service providers, even the gas and electric companies may make exceptions. Too many people overpay for necessary expenses.

  9. Check out the dollar stores for supplies, from pens to poster board. Buy rolling bags and toes at the thrift store.

  10. Carry a small emergency kit of aspirin or Tylenol, antacid, Imodium, tissues and safety pins-the kind of things that you get gouged for in your purse or book bag. It's really expensive to buy lip balm or headache medicine in a book store.

  11. If you are already employed and want to further your education, see if your employer will pay for your tuition. A lot of places will-and a lot of businesses offer employee scholarships.

  12. Finally, if you get good grades, and you have down time on a non-residential campus, see if your school needs student tutors. The pay is not great, but you get paid for your spare time and not spend money killing time in the cafeteria or coffee shop.

I had to adjust to a lot less income, and these are some of the ways I was able to do it. This list applies mostly to adult students, but with economy the way it is, there are more of them. Most also apply to students of all ages. Don't get too far into debt before you get a good career, and good luck!

By Amy Crowley from Dayton, OH

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August 17, 2009
By Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

Save Money While You're At College

Paying for college is a major headache, but the costs incurred while studying there are also high. There are ways to save money while you're at college, which can help pay for the next semester. All it takes is a little knowledge and a lot of will-power.


Try to find options other than the college bookstore when purchasing books or other materials. Often art classes load up on supplies at the book store which can be purchased at the local art supply store at much lower prices. The books themselves are also available other places than the college bookstore. With the help of the Internet, textbooks can be found at incredible prices.

Check out sites like and other book sale sites for used textbooks. Even with the shipping, these can be $40-$60 less per book, and many which are listed in the used listings are actually still in the shrink wrap. Can any be download as e-books? The downloading fee will be much less than the text itself.

For some courses, the library can be the biggest budget saver. English courses require books which are stocked in local and college libraries. Try to borrow what you can and avoid buying expensive books.

Frugal Food

Food is a big part of the college student's budget. The key to frugal food is self-control. Eat at the cafeteria and snack on simple, healthy foods such as fruits, crackers, and cereals. Ordering pizza, eating out, and buying expensive convenience foods is a tug of war with a college student's cash. While your wallet wants to pull it inside, your hunger pulls it back outside. Don't purchase sodas at $1 a piece, and don't spend $15-$20 on each meal when a pre-paid cafeteria meal awaits.

These cutbacks include expensive drinks as well. Lattes and sports drinks add up quickly, as much as $25 a week. Multiply that by the number of weeks on campus, and you can spend a quarter of your cost for textbooks for the semester on glass bottles of caffeine. Instead, keep it simple and splurge only once in awhile.

The Unessentials

It's hard to hear, but some of the best known aspects of college are unnecessary. Rather than creating an expense account for yourself, limit yourself and your studies will improve.

Attending the college is advertisement enough that you're a student; you don't need to wear expensive collegiate sweatshirts daily. One or two t-shirts are enough, and even those are available on the sale racks after the semester ends.

Expensive field trips aren't a necessary for any course. While a Yeats seminar may be enhanced by a trip to Ireland during the off-semester, it's not a requirement. Spring break, similarly, is not a requirement. Instead, head home for the vacation and take some time off of your studies.


Editor's Note: What are your tips for saving money at college? Post them below.

About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines as well as online newsletters. She teaches writing in the public school as well as at the collegiate level.


Save Money While You're At College

We used to sell our used text books to each other at the end of the semester. We'd post notices in the halls. Get a pay as you go cell phone to limit minutes and just use it as a PHONE. Get a used lap top/computer rather than a new one. Re-ink your printer cartridges if possible. Save unused/partially used printer paper to print on opposite side. Don't waste your $ on alcohol except when partying on weekends! Get an electric coil to heat water in your room for coffee/tea. Use all the student discounts you can! Read this site and learn to be thrifty! (03/27/2007)

By pam munro

Save Money While You're At College

Go to a community college your first two years! save so much money.

Also, an idea for parents. let them pay for the first two years. They have to get a job - no loans. If they do this and get good grades, you will see how serious they are. When they are ready to transfer, you step in and help them out. If they can't "handle" school, then they are not ready for it and need a few years to work before they go. And this way you find that out right away rather than after you spent 10 grand on the first year and it's blown by them. (03/27/2007)

By mindy

Save Money While You're At College

For taxes - take advantage of the tuition deduction and tuition credits.

Buy bulk from discount clubs like Costco and split them with dorm/room/suite mates.

Check out prices on Ebay/ - we got a new Toshiba laptop for my husband at half of what it would have cost us at Circuit City (for ebay, make sure the vendor is a PowerSeller with excellent rating)

If you're moving out of a dorm room and need furniture, check out garage sales/goodwill stores

Instead of meeting buddies for drinks at a bar, collect money from house/dorm mates and have a house/dorm party

Have fun


By Anna W

Save Money While You're At College

My sons buy most of their books online. I can not remember the site. They keep track of what they pay and end up selling the books back online for the same price. Make sure you use Media Mail when shipping books(at the post office) it is a lot cheaper. They sometimes will make even extra money from other kids who do not want to deal with reselling their books by selling their friends' books. The college book store pays very little for buying back books. (03/31/2007)

By Tami

Save Money While You're At College

I think I posted this last year, but before your son/daughter goes to college, go to a nearby college at the end of the semester or year. Go to the dumpsters behind the residence halls. Students cannot move all their furniture so they often will throw away good furniture, and working microwaves and fridges.

Best day to go is the Friday, Saturday, or Sunday before the semester ends. Students will do their cleaning after finals, just before they leave. Be at the dumpster by 8am and wait for students to bring things out. Help them carry the stuff out, and they'll give it to you.

Don't be embarrassed. You're the one saving money, they are the ones racking up student loans.


By Chuck R.

Save Money While You're At College

As a student in Louisiana, I was able to receive "food stamps", which are the tax-exempt, government supplemented dollars used to purchase all things edible. For years, I thought only low-income, single mothers were eligible. However, as a full-time student working a part time job, I was able to get enough to pay for my "dorm food" while I lived on campus. Once I moved into my own apartment, the allowance increased, and I never have to spend cash on food, which is definitely a blessing! (01/01/2008)


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August 17, 2009

Tips for saving money in college as suggested by our ThriftyFun community. Do you have any advice to share? Feel free to post your ideas below.

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