5 Ways | How to Save Money in College for Students

Learning how to save money in college will set yourself up for more financial freedom upon graduation. Lets face it, college tuition in the United States is extremely expensive and can lay a burden on any university students bank account. Utilize these money saving tips to start to grow your bank account.

1. Save Money on Housing

One of the best ways to save money as a university student is through housing choices. Aside from college tuition, housing is often the most expensive cost for students. It can also be one of the most confusing and frustrating things to deal with. Student housing is great for freshman and sophomores as it offers the ideal college experience, although it often lacks the space that most desire. Student housing offered by the university is usually cheaper then most off campus housing in the “free market”. Depending on your university, most students move off campus after their sophomore year. In fact, in the United States, most students live off campus. According to the NY Times, 87% of students live off campus. This makes up for a very large amount of students that decide to live off campus.

Off Campus Housing

When it comes to off campus housing, do your research. It would be best to be a leader when you and your prospective roommates are deciding where to live next year, that way you do not get roped into anything too expensive. Have a talk with your future roommates to discuss how much each person can afford to pay in rent and utilities each month. This can be an uncomfortable conversation but it is a necessary one. If they are out of your price range, an alternative is to join an off campus housing Facebook group for your university. Finding available rooms, whether it is a sub-lease or full lease, is a great way to find housing that is in your price range. The ultimate goal here is to save money and housing is a sure way to lessen your expenses, leading to more money saved

Become an RA (Resident Assistant)

I know acting as the dictator for a floor of freshman may not be what you intended to do after leaving dorms, but it can save you THOUSANDS of dollars ! Universities often pay RA’s in the form of free housing. This means that you could save thousands over a period of 1-2 semesters and the duties are not that bad when offsetting how much money you will save.

Student saving money in college

2. Buy Old Textbooks to Save Money

A great way to save money in college is to buy old textbooks. I know taking the clear film off a new textbook is one of the best feelings known to earth, but your wallet will thank you later (or immediately). According to the University of Pittsburgh, “A new textbook, like a latest edition, is on average 58 percent more expensive than a used book or older edition”. You could be saving half your money just by buying a used or one model older textbook. The material in the new addition often does not change very much. Although, be sure to discuss with your professor if an older edition textbook would suffice. More then likely it will. Websites like BookScouter and Chegg are great sites to find cheap used books that are a fraction of the price of new textbooks.

cost of new textbooks
Source: Amazon• Graphic by Brian Gentry | Online Visual Editor

3. Auto Saving

One of the best ways for college students to save money is to setup an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account. A common question I get asked is “should I put money into my savings before or after monthly bills / expenses “. Put money in your savings account before paying bills. Make sure you create a monthly budget prior to taking this leap. Check out this article, how to save money on a low income to learn how to budget as well as more money saving tips.

Pay Yourself First

Pay yourself first is where you build your spending plan around your savings goals. As long as you keep to your budget, with your savings plan being top priority, you could start saving hundreds every month just by avoiding discretionary spending. Back to the headline; set up an auto transfer from your checking account to your savings account that is based around the budget discussed earlier. A good rule of thumb is to save 20% of your income or monthly cash flow. The financial planner in me suggests to put these savings into an index fund so your money grows over time without you having to do anything.

4. Meal Planning to Save Money

Meal planning is one of the best ways to save money in college. University offered meal plans are often extremely overpriced unless you stay in the food hall all day. Otherwise, the cost per meal is much higher on a university meal plan then if you bought your own groceries. As claimed by the USDA, the typical college student spends between $167 and $367 a month on food. This is great ! Although most students fall closer to the $367 mark and this does not account for eating out at restaurants or take out food. If you ate out once per week at $20, then that would add $80 to your monthly food bill.

Meal Prep

Meal planning helps students budget how much they are going to spend on food every week. Prior to going to the grocery store, decide how much you have to spend on groceries based on your budget. Once you do that, meal prep to plan what meals you will have each day to avoid sudden urges to get takeout. It is helpful to make the food in bulk at once and store in separate containers pertaining to each day. That way all you have to do is reheat the food. College students are very busy people and having ready to eat food is crucial to ensuring last minute take out food is not ordered when cramming for a test.

How to save money for college students

5. Save Money on Transportation

Transportation is another great way for college students to save money. Deciding whether or not you need a car on campus should be heavily focused on the reward-cost ratio. If the reward is that you get to drive to the better Chipotle across town but it is costing you hundreds of dollars in insurance and monthly car payments, then saving money is not top of mind. Car insurance and monthly car payments add up to thousands of dollars that could have been saved.

Public Transportation

Consider using public transportation offered by the university to get around campus or the city if you go to a university in a city as I did. More often then not, these transportation services are free for college students which can end up saving you thousands of dollars at the end of the semester. Your tuition pays for college transportation services so it would be wise to get your moneys worth and utilize these services instead of owning a car. Although, if you use a car in order to get to work then the reward-cost ratio is justified as money is being earned.

I hope by the end of this article you have an idea of how to save money in college. Expand upon these ideas to grow your wealth even further which can be used to help pay off student loans from the annoyingly high college tuition that many American university students face.

To summarize, the best ways to save money in college for students is to research housing options, buy old textbooks, set up auto saving and pay yourself first, meal planning, and deciding what transportations options fit your budget. Use these tips to pay off your student loans fast


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  • Sharpe, Rochelle. “How Much Does Living Off-Campus Cost? Who Knows?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 5 Aug. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/education/edlife/how-much-does-living-off-campus-cost-who-knows.html.
  • Bourque, Delilah. “Latest Textbook Editions Put an Extra Burden on Students.” The Pitt News, 21 Sept. 2018, www.pittnews.com/article/135562/uncategorized/latest-textbook-editions-put-an-extra-burden-on-students/.
  • Schwahn, Lauren. “Pay Yourself First: Reverse Budgeting Explained.” NerdWallet, 20 Feb. 2019, www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/pay-yourself-first-reverse-budgeting-explained/.
  • Bejelly, Kelly. “HOW MUCH DO COLLEGE STUDENTS SPEND ON FOOD?” A Girl Worth Saving, 20 Nov. 2020, www.agirlworthsaving.net/how-much-do-college-students-spend-on-food/.


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