Saving money during college can be tough when school funds are drying out your bank account and you kind’ve want to eat this week and, well, it would be nice if you could have a coffee with friends without going into debt. With these tips to cut spending during college, you’ll be able to do all that without going broke.
1. Make Coffee At Home
It’s tempting to run to the nearest Starbucks every morning before class or work and grab your favorite specialty drink. Honestly, you couldn’t make something that good at home, could you?
Fortunately, you can. It will require you to have a coffee maker and some bags of coffee (you can even buy Starbucks brand coffee grounds), but those pay for themselves in the long run. There are plenty of recipes online for homemade gourmet coffee, using little more than the creamers and spices you can find at your grocery store, and you’ll be saving that $5 to $7 per day you’re spending at coffee shops (to calculate that for you, that’s roughly $25 to $35 for a five-day work or school week—that’s money that can more than pay for gas).
2. Stay In Instead Of Going Out
“But how am I supposed to keep a social life like that?” you ask. The trick here is to either invite your friends over or stay at their place—as long as you’re staying in. Even if you order takeout to feed everybody, it’s definitely nowhere near as expensive as using gas, dining in at a restaurant, maybe going out drinking, or paying for any other activities you decide to do that day.
Order a pizza or pop some bagged popcorn and watch Netflix—or see if any of your friends has a movie collection they can pull from. Barring that, there’s always YouTube, card games that range from very tame to hilariously raunchy, or just sitting around talking.
3. Cut Back On Alcohol
I’m not saying anybody here is an alcoholic. But, c’mon, even drinking in moderation is expensive. You could buy specialty coffees all week and probably never spend as much as you would on a few drinks at the bar. Even buying from the liquor store to take home adds up.
Maybe it helps you sleep, maybe it’s fun with friends, but so are a lot of other things that are healthier for you, anyway. Saving money is way more important right now—at least until you’re out of college.
4. Shop At Secondhand Stores
I know a lot of people have this idea that secondhand stores are where soccer moms and grannies shop (probably thanks to at least one awful experience you had when you were younger, trailing your mom through the dusty aisles as she picked the most hideous things the racks had to offer . . .). When you’re the one doing the shopping, though, you’re free to sort through all the gems a secondhand store has to offer until you find something that’s uniquely you.
Wonderfully broken-in jeans, boots at one-third of the price you would find in retail stores—no one is going to know or care where you find your clothes, but they’ll probably want to when you tell them how little you paid for your outfit.
5. Rent Books Instead Of Buying
This might be something you’re already doing (and if it is, good on you), but not everyone has jumped on the rental boat. If you think it’s easier to shop at the on-campus bookstore, consider how you’ll be saving money by renting a used copy for $50 or less rather than the $200 or so most bookstores charge for a brand-new textbook.
Not to mention . . . most of us don’t keep those textbooks once we’re done with them, so why not rent something you can send back later? If you don’t have a bookshop that offers rentals near you, check online and browse your options. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Chegg and have yet to find one book on that site I cannot rent for a great price.
6. Look For An Ebook Option
In addition to renting your required texts instead of buying, check online to see if the book is offered in ebook format. Even if you purchase the book outright, sometimes buying an ebook costs less than renting a hard copy; this is because ebooks are much cheaper to produce and therefore sell.
Amazon is a good starting point for finding out whether your textbook is offered as an ebook. If it’s still too pricy there, check those rental sites and see if you can rent the ebook (yes, this is an option offered for some books). Not only will you saving money, but you’ll be able to carry multiple texts around on your tablet, laptop, or Kindle.
7. Eat Out Less
It can be tough to realize how much you’re spending on food until you calculate it. Maybe you always order the cheapest thing off the menu or eat at fast-food joints that are cheaper than dining in, but just like that special cup of coffee adds up, so does eating out every day.
Maybe you’re not much of a cook, but you don’t have to be to make food at home. There are plenty of simple recipes online or, if you prefer, canned soups, packaged ramen, sandwiches, and all those other meals college students are notorious for are actually . . . really cheap and not bad. Especially if you add a few spices or toppings to suit your tastes.
8. Walk Or Bike Everywhere You Can
Luckily, if you live on or close to campus, most places you’d need to get to (bookstores, food joints, coffee shops, grocery stores, etc.) are within walking or biking distance. A good pair of walking shoes or a bike will cost way less than a tank of gas every week, believe me. Not only will you be saving money in the long run, but you’ll do wonders for your health if you get your daily workout in just by running errands.
To make it even more fun, invite a friend to go with you. It’s easier to talk yourself into exercise with an accountability buddy around, and they’ll be saving money as well.
9. Don’t Buy Expensive Makeup
As someone with highly sensitive skin who has tried cheap makeup, let me be the first to say it is plenty doable and no harsher on your skin than the brand-name stuff. Plenty of lesser-known brands sell makeup specifically for sensitive skin (mineral makeup, vitamin E makeup) that are on par with any other brand.
Unfortunately, when it comes to brand-name makeup, what you’re usually paying for is the name rather than any superior quality. Most will contain the exact same ingredients you can find in other brands. Give your wallet a break and opt for the cheaper stuff—no one will be able to tell the difference.
10. Cancel Your Gym Membership
How will you work out without all that fancy gym equipment? Easy. You work out with all the materials and places you have at your disposal: take a jog around the campus or park, work your pushup and sit-up routine in your dorm or pretty much anywhere else (really, it requires next to no room), or do other bodyweight and cardio workouts that require absolutely no equipment.
Lost on where to begin? YouTube has a ton of free workouts from professionals who dedicate their time to filming videos for every kind of routine you could imagine. Just type the kind of workout you’re interested in into the search bar (cardio, HIIT, bodyweight) and you’ll end up with so many results, you won’t know where to start!