27 Ways to Save Money in College and Still Have Fun

Want to save money in college, but think it’s impossible? Here are 27 ways to save money in college and still have a great time.

It’s been nearly 20 years since I was in college. I loved the freedom and was excited to see what the next chapter of my life would bring. The last thing on my mind was trying to save money in college. Heck, I had student loans, a little bit of money from my parents and credit cards. I was going to be good, right?

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I graduated college with close to $50,000 in total debt that took me years to pay off. College is no doubt expensive, and you want to have fun while in school. Thankfully, there are ways to cut down the cost without cutting down the experience. Whether you’re just starting college or have a few years under your belt, here are some ways to save money that I wish I would have known about when I was in school.

Simple Ways to Save Money in College


Ditch the car. Walk, bike or use public transportation. Not only are they healthier options, but they’ll save you a big chunk of money.

Apply for scholarships. This one is a given. Even if they’re in small amounts, that’s less money you need to pay out of pocket.

Fill out your FAFSA. You’re too late for the 2016 school year, but you can start on 2017 as soon as October 1. It never hurts to see what kind of aid you qualify for.

Don’t buy high priced books. I worked at the bookstore in college, and it’s crazy how much textbooks are marked up. You can rent textbooks, buy used textbooks on Amazon or borrow them from a friend. Don’t forget to keep them in good condition so you can resell them at the end of the semester.

Use the library. Speaking of textbooks, if you only need it for a short period of time, check it out at the local library and spend nothing!

Avoid cable. Really, how much time will you have to watch TV? Not only are there many things to do besides watch TV, but you’ll also be busy with classes and other activities. Staying away from cable will save you easily $50-$100 per month. If you want to watch TV, buy the Amazon Fire TV Stick and forget the monthly bill.

Watch the binge drinking. It’s college, I know, but binge drinking is a huge drag on a budget, not to mention unhealthy.

Pay your bills on time. This is another no-brainer. Pay your bills on time to avoid interest or late fees.

Get a credit card. I know this one is controversial. Credit cards accounted for half my debt when I graduated from college. That being said, get a credit card with a small limit and use it once a month and pay it off in full each month. Not only will it help build discipline, but it will build your credit, which will save you money in the long run.

Get a student bank account. Banks love to charge fees. Many local banks offer student accounts that require lower minimum balances that help you avoid fees.

Ask for student discounts when you buy anything. Many local businesses offer discounts to students. It may not be much, but if you have to buy something it doesn’t hurt to save a little money.

Learn how to cook. I know cooking seems difficult; it really isn’t. You can find many recipes online, many of which only require a handful of ingredients. Buy a crockpot – it’ll be your best friend and provide several meals instead of one.

Find a part-time job. Working in college is not only a great way to make extra money, but it can also help you offset costs. You might also pick up valuable skills that you can put to use later in life.

Live with others. If you live off campus, this is a great way to save money so you can split housing expenses.

Attend campus events. Why pay to see a movie if you can see one for free, or greatly reduced, on campus? The same goes for concerts and other social events.

Don’t put spring break on the credit card. This is one of the stupidest money mistakes I ever made. It sounded great at the time, but paying for the trip for months after wasn’t any fun. There are many cheap options out there if you do a little homework.

Go to class. No-brainer, I know. But, every class you skip is money out the window.

Start a budget. Budgets aren’t for everyone, but you won’t know until you try one. Start a simple budget by tracking what you make and how much you’re spending. It’ll help you control your spending, so you’re not always out of money.

Go to happy hour instead of going out for dinner. The menu is usually cheaper, but you still get the fun of going out.

Become a Resident Advisor. If you live on campus, this can be a great way to get free room and board and maybe even a paycheck.

Make your own coffee. Coffee shops are fun to hang out in, but the costs can add up.

Buy a cheap coffee maker. Invite some friends over and save yourself money.

Skip the gym membership. Your campus likely has one you can use for free (well, it’s likely part of your fees and therefore you’re already paying for it) so you might as well use it.

Take as many classes as you can. I’m not saying you should burn yourself out because that’s the last thing you want. However, every extra class you take each semester accelerates your time to graduation – thus saving you money.

Want to save money in college, but think it’s impossible? Here are 27 ways to save money in college and still have a great time.

Consider community college. If you’re not certain what you want to major in, or you simply want to knock out a few basic courses, community college can save you thousands of dollars.

Save money every paycheck. Assuming you have a job, take a portion out of it each month and put it in a savings account. It doesn’t matter how much it is, just get in the habit of saving regularly. You can even use a tool like Digit to take small amounts out of your checking account to force you to save.

Use a coupon whenever you go out. You may not always find a discount, but use sites like Groupon, Living Social or even restaurants’ websites/social media channels for deals and discounts.

Don’t buy new. This is especially the case with decorating your apartment or dorm room. You pay a premium when you buy new. Buy used or even borrow from your parents or other family members to save money.

There are many other ways to save money in college; you just have to be creative and look for savings opportunities. Yes, you do want to enjoy your time in college, but you don’t need to spend a lot to do that.


What are some other ways to save money in college? What’s one thing you can’t believe you spent/bought in college? Do you think it’s important to work while in college?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed.
The following two tabs change content below.
I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more. If you're wanting to learn how to monetize your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.


  • I did a lot of these in college! I didn’t have a car for my first two years and managed to wait tables in my hometown any time I had a break. I really wish I had curbed the binge drinking, though. I probably would have left college with a much larger cushion of savings!

  • Lila says:

    I’m in college and do many of these. Although I do have a gym membership. Here in Omaha it only costs 21.39 with tax for the VIP at Blue Moon Fitness. =)

  • This is a smart list! I agree with everything on it. I overspent on everything during my college years. I wasn’t very good with money in my early 20s!

  • Great list! I did many of these things (though it’s been a long while). I worked throughout college in a work-study job and my wages went directly toward my tuition. I never saw a dime, but I think this really motivate me to follow through and do my best. So, even if I was out until 2 am, I still got up and went to class the next day!

  • I did a bunch of these. RA was definitely the easiest job I ever had.
    One thing I wish I’d done was keep applying for scholarships after you get there. I applied and got scholarships in high school, but didn’t keep it up once I was at school.

  • Even though I had a full scholarship to attend college, I still worked part-time. It really helped me pad my savings account.

  • Michelle says:

    Great list! In my home town, you were given free community college for 2 years if you volunteered for 50 hours. I did the volunteer work and qualified, but instead I went to a private university. I wasted so much money, UGH!

  • Great post! Interesting that they’re making the FAFSA available in October now. I remember filling it out with my parents on new years every year. I would add season tickets as a big expense. My school had a D1 football program and as a result the tickets were fairly pricy, but most students ended up not showing up to most games. I suspect a lot of schools are similar (unless you’re a Michigan or any of those big programs in the south). Most of the time, you could get tickets for half the price the week before a game.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I know, I remember doing the same exact thing. Great point, don’t know how I forgot that! I know my season tickets were at least several hundred dollars. Looking back, I’d still do it but there are certainly other things I’d cut.

  • Great tips John! College is definitely a time when saving money can pay off huge long-term. Now if only someone could solve the issue of increasing tuition rates….I can’t imagine how much it will cost my kids (who aren’t even born yet) to go to college!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *