It’s no secret that college can be expensive. Between tuition, room and board, textbooks, and all of the costs that come with making the most of your college experience, it’s easy to either go into debt or be broke the entire time.

But you know what? It doesn’t have to be this way! There are ways to save money while you’re in college. And, if you’re disciplined, there are ways you can make money too!

And, in this blog post, we’re going to show you how. We’ve compiled 30 of our favorite tips on how to save money in college on everything from tuition to your entertainment budget. And, at the end, we also share some ways you can make some extra cash too! 

Sound good? Let’s jump right in! 

Ways to Save Money on Tuition and College Expenses

Here are 6 tips to help you save money in college on tuition and other education-related expenses.

#1 Complete the FAFSA early every year

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. We know you’ve probably heard of it and, hopefully, filled it out at least once so far. So you know, it can help cut down your costs for college by qualifying you for free money from the government to fund your education. 

But did you know that the best financial aid packages (i.e. more grants and scholarships vs federal student loans) go to students who complete the FAFSA application ASAP? Well, you do now! 

Every year the application opens in October. Set a reminder in your calendar right now for every year that you’re in school so that you can maximize your chances of getting the best financial aid package throughout college.

#2 Apply for as many scholarships as you can

The FAFSA isn’t your only way to get financial aid. You can also get financial aid in the form of scholarships. And you know the best part? There’s no limit to how much scholarship money you can win. You may even win enough scholarship money to graduate debt free

You just have to do the work and apply for as many scholarships as you can. You also have to know how to find all the scholarships you qualify for. How do you do that? Download the Scholly App! It instantly matches you with hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships based on your interests, accomplishments, and traits!

#3 Get a job that has a tuition reimbursement program

If you’re going to work while in school, consider getting a job that has a tuition reimbursement program. What’s that? A tuition reimbursement program is an employee benefit offered by companies who want to support their employees who pursue higher education.

By taking advantage of this employee benefit, you can get some of your education expenses reimbursed by your employer. Not sure how to find a job that offers this type of education assistance? Check out our list of 50 companies that offer tuition reimbursement programs!

#4 Take general education courses at a community college

If you’re looking to save money on tuition, consider taking some general education courses at a community college. You can usually transfer those community college courses toward your degree at a 4-year college and pay a fraction of the cost.

How much money can you save? Well, according to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost per college credit at a 4-year college is $636. On the other hand, the average cost per college credit at a community college is $141. That’s a lot of money that can be saved!

#5 Don’t buy new textbooks from the campus bookstore

Textbooks can be expensive. Well, perhaps it’s better to say that NEW textbooks purchased at the campus bookstore can be expensive. But guess what! You don’t need to get your textbooks from the campus bookstore.

Instead, consider buying your textbooks used online, borrowing them from your peers, renting them from companies like Chegg, and looking around at local bookstores.

#6 Order school supplies online in bulk

When compared to tuition, school supplies like notebooks, folders, and pens are relatively cheap. But you’ll be buying those same supplies every year for 12+ classes. So, why not save yourself a bit of money by just ordering those supplies in bulk online?

We know this isn’t one of the money-saving tips that will single-handedly prevent you from going into student loan debt. If only it were that easy… But, hey, every little bit counts!

Ways to Save Money on Housing and Utilities

Here are 5 tips to help you start saving money on housing and utilities while you’re in college.

#7 Live off-campus with roommates

Did you know living off-campus with roommates can be cheaper than living in a dorm? Sure, you’ll have to pay for things like rent, utilities, and groceries. But you’ll likely save money in the long run because most student housing plans are not cheap! 

So, why not do a bit of browsing at the local listings and compare prices between living in a dorm and living in a shared apartment. Of course, all of this depends on where your college is located. If it’s right in the middle of the most expensive part of town, it probably makes more sense to stay in the dorms.

#8 Buy used furniture from thrift stores and online marketplaces

If you do decide to live off-campus, you’ll need furniture. And as tempting as it may be to decorate your apartment as you’ve always dreamed with brand new furniture, don’t do it! You’ll be surprised at just how expensive a new rug, desk, or even just a simple chair can be.

Instead of buying new, shop for used furniture at thrift stores and online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace. You can often find pieces that are still in great condition and save a lot of money this way.

#9 Open a college student-friendly bank account

You may not have a lot of money right now. But you still need a bank to store the money you do have. And you want to make sure you’ve chosen a bank that isn’t needlessly taking your money either!

As a student, you’ll want to look for a bank account that offers perks like no-fee checking and savings accounts, free ATMs, and mobile banking. This will help you avoid fees, save money, and better manage your spending habits in the long run.

There are many banks where you can go to open a student-friendly checking account. But we recommend checking out the Aspiration Spend and Save Account. It’s an online account that offers all of the perks we just mentioned. And, on top of that, it’s also the most environmentally-friendly banking option you can find. Check out our Aspiration review to learn more!  

#10 Manage your expenses using a service like Rocket Money (formerly known as Truebill)

If you’re not careful, things like utility bills, recurring fees, and subscriptions can add up quickly. By using a service like Rocket Money, you can make sure you’re not being overcharged and save money on expenses that you might otherwise miss. 

Plus, Rocket Money doesn’t cost anything for a basic account. They only charge you when they successfully secure savings for you!

#11 Ask for practical gifts on your birthday and holidays

This isn’t the most fun money-saving tip. But it is effective! Because you can save a lot of money by telling your friends and family you’d prefer practical gifts for your birthday and holidays.

What’s a practical gift? It’s any gift that saves you from spending money on a necessary expense. For example, it could be a gift card to your favorite grocery store, a new piece of software you need for your studies, or an appliance like a coffee machine so you can stop spending money at the coffee shop down the street.

Ways to Save Money on Food and Drinks

Here are 7 tips to help you save money on food and drinks while in college.

#12 Attend on campus events with free food

One of the best things about college life is that there are practically always events with free food happening on campus. Whether it’s a club meeting or a departmental seminar, take advantage of these opportunities to save money on your food budget and learn more about what’s going on at your college.

#13 Take full advantage of your student meal plan

Going out to dinner every so often is nice. But if you want to save some serious money, then make the most of your student meal plan. This is, of course, assuming you’re on a student meal plan. If you are, try to eat all your meals on campus (at least throughout the week) and you’ll see a dramatic decrease in your food expenses.

#14 Sign up for grocery store membership cards

Most grocery stores and supermarkets offer some sort of membership or loyalty card. By signing up for these cards, you can receive special discounts and save a lot of money on your groceries each month. Just make sure to use the card every time you shop to maximize your savings.

#15 Buy groceries in bulk

Another way to save money on groceries is to buy in bulk from stores like Sam’s Club or Costco. These stores offer great deals on large quantities of food, which can help you save a lot of money in the long run.

#16 Use grocery store coupons

There’s nothing wrong with using coupons to save money on groceries. In fact, it’s a great way to stretch your budget and get more for your money. Just be sure to only use coupons for items that you actually want to purchase. You aren’t really saving money if you use coupons to buy food you’ll never eat!

#17 Learn how to cook your own food

Cooking food at home is almost always cheaper than eating at a restaurant, so it’s a great way to save money as a college student. If you’re not sure how to cook, there are plenty of resources available on YouTube that can teach you the basics.

#18 Make your own coffee

It’s a lot cheaper to make coffee at home rather than buying it from a café. All you need is a coffee pot and some quality beans.

Sure, maybe you’ll never be able to make an Iced White Chocolate Mocha like you’d get at Starbucks. But making your own coffee isn’t that hard to do! So, if you wanted to, you could be your own Starbucks barista with a bit of effort and time.

Ways to Save Money on Entertainment

Here are 4 ways to save money in college on entertainment-related expenses.

#19 Be on the lookout for free events

There are always free events happening in your city and college campus. So, be on the lookout so you don’t miss the ones that interest you most! From concerts to museum exhibits, there’s something for everyone. Not sure where to look? Check out events that are advertised on Meetup, Eventbrite, and Facebook events.

#20 Take advantage of student discounts using your student ID

There are tons of companies that offer student discounts, so make sure you always have your student ID on you. You can get significant discounts at movie theaters, restaurants, clothing stores, car rental companies, and a whole lot more. 

Check out this ultimate list of student discounts to see just how many places you can save money just by being a college student.

#21 Use your student gym membership

Don’t waste your money on a gym membership. If your school has a gym, take advantage of it! Sign up for group fitness classes. Make plans to work out with your friends. Go there for a study break.

#22 Share the costs of subscriptions for streaming services with friends

You can split the costs of subscription services with friends. For example, a Spotify Premium Family Plan costs $15.99/month and can be used by up to 6 people. So, if you split the costs with 5 friends, you’ll each pay less than $3/month, which is even cheaper than the Student Plan!

Ways to Save Money on Transportation and Travel

Here are 4 ways college students can save money on transportation and travel.

#23 Use public transportation as often as possible

Having a car while you’re in college is cool. But have you seen how much gas and car insurance costs?! Don’t spend your money on a car if you don’t have to. Public transportation is much cheaper than owning a car. Not to mention, it’s better for the environment!

#24 Get a bike

If public transportation’s not your thing, consider getting a bike. Biking is a great way to get around and it’s good exercise, too!

#25 Carpool with your friends

If you do have a car and live far away from campus, carpool with your friends to save on gas money. Planning a carpool system can be tricky at first. But if you can find friends who have a similar class schedule it can work out great.

If you frequently go off campus, you can also save money by splitting the costs of an Uber or Lyft with friends or classmates going to nearby locations.

#26 Plan your holiday vacations and travel plans in advance

You already know when things like Winter Vacation and Spring Break are going to happen. So, save as much money as you can by planning your trips early! This way you can take advantage of cheaper airfare and discounts on accommodation.

Ways to Make Extra Money in College

And, last but not least, here are 4 ways to make extra money while in college. For even more ways to make money, check out our list of ways to make an extra $500 a month!

#27 Start investing

Investing can be a great way to grow your money over time. And if you start when you’re young, you’ll be more likely to accumulate enough money to reach your financial goals.

Plus, these days, you don’t even need a lot of money to get started. Some even pay you to learn about investing, like Tornado! And that is just 1 of many options for beginner investors. You can learn more by reading our guide on how to start investing as a college student!

#28 Start a side hustle

Everyone usually recommends college students to get part-time jobs. And this is good advice if you can find one that accommodates your busy schedule. But, if you want a more flexible work schedule, another great option is to start a side hustle.

This can be anything from freelance writing to dog walking. You can use the money you make to pay for things like textbooks or rent, or you can save it. Again, you can check out our list of ways to make extra money for even more ideas and where to find work for each side hustle!

#29 Sell your unused stuff on online marketplaces

You likely have a lot of stuff lying around your house that you don’t use anymore. Why not sell it on an online marketplace like eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace? You’d be surprised how much money you can make this way. And, on top of that, you can declutter your home at the same time!

#30 Resell products you find on online marketplaces

Have you heard of the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” It definitely applies to online marketplaces because you can find a lot of products for dirt cheap prices or free, and then resell them for a higher price. This is a great way to make some extra money. And it doesn’t take too much effort!

Final Thoughts

College is, without a doubt, expensive. But we hope you can use some of the tips we’ve shared here to start cutting down on unnecessary costs! 

And, if you want more tips on how to better manage your finances in college, check out the rest of our blog where we share advice on topics like how to build credit fast and how to get the best tax refund as a college student!