10 Ways for College Students to Save Loads of Money

By Amanda Gokee on 23 May 2017 0 comments

Between big expenses like tuition and housing, and smaller everyday expenses such as school supplies and coffee, the costs of being a student can rack up fast. According to the College Board, tuition, fees, and room and board at a public four-year in-state school cost an average of $20,000 a year.

But there are a lot of ways for students to save money. Here are 10 ways to tackle expenses of every size. (See also: 12 Easy Ways to Avoid Student Loan Debt)

Big savings

Tuition and housing make up the bulk of student spending, so finding ways to reduce those costs can pay off big.

1. Look at off-campus housing for lower rent

While living on campus can be a fun college experience, university housing often comes with a big price tag. Room and board at my private university cost approximately $10,000 a year — that's about $1,250 for the eight months school is in session.

You may be able to find more competitive rents off campus. Check websites for apartment listings in your college town.

Also talk with your university's housing department about opportunities for free housing that may be offered if you provide advising services to younger, first-year students. This could result in huge savings and be an interesting college experience.

2. Apply for scholarships to save money on tuition

Tuition is often the most expensive part of going to school, with some private institutions in the United States charging as much as $33,000 — and that doesn't include room and board. While federal financial aid can help, it's often not enough.

There are a plethora of scholarships available, both locally and nationally, that you can apply for. The best part is, unlike federal student loans, scholarships don't have to be repaid. To find them, check with your university's financial aid office, your high school guidance counselor, your parents' employers, and organizations related to your field of study. Also try using the U.S. Department of Labor's free scholarship search tool.

Medium savings

Textbooks, entertainment, and transportation all add significant costs to your overall college bill. Try trimming or offsetting these expenses with these suggestions.

3. Save on textbooks

Textbooks can have a very high price tag. When I was a student, I remember books costing up to $100, and sometimes even more for specialized course booklets that included all of the semester's reading assignments. With multiple classes and most classes assigning at least five books per semester, it was easy to spend at least $500 on books alone in a semester, or $1,000 per academic year.

Buying used textbooks is one way to save. In my experience, they cost about half the price of new books. You can buy books directly from students who have already taken the course or check online retailers like Amazon for deals on used books.

Another option is to rent your textbooks, which means that you will pay a smaller amount upfront to the bookstore, but that the book won't be yours to keep at the end of the semester. Chegg and Amazon both offer rentals, and both claim you can save up to 90 percent by renting.

Alternatively, you can cut out the cost of books entirely by checking them out for free at your college library. Supplies are limited, so you may have to wait to get the book you need, but you can't beat the price. (See also: 20 Places to Buy or Rent Textbooks)

4. Sell back your textbooks at the end of the semester

Chances are, you can get some of your textbook investment back by selling your books when you're done using them. You can likely make back a couple hundred dollars at the end of the semester. One easy option is to use Amazon, which has a streamlined process for buying back books for up to 80 percent of what you originally paid. Amazon will then sell the book used. You can also check with your university bookstore, as it may have a program in place to buy back books.

A third option is to sell the book yourself. By cutting out the middleman, you'll get to pocket more money from the sale. You can ask around, or post notices on bulletin boards or online to find other students who are going to take the same class. If the book is required reading, chances are you will be able to find a buyer fairly easily with just a little bit of extra work.

5. Participate in studies to earn cash

If you don't have the time to commit to a full-time job, there are plenty of ways to earn on campus without the commitment. Check in with different departments about research studies that they may be running.

These opportunities can range from writing tests to filling out questionnaires. Once, I was paid $100 an hour to have scans taken in an MRI machine.

6. Take advantage of free facilities

Familiarize yourself with everything your college or university offers on campus. You can save $50 and up a month on an expensive gym membership, for example, if you have access to this type of amenity for free as a part of your tuition. Some schools also offer free tutoring, software, legal services, and psychological counseling. All of these can save you money.

7. Reduce transportation costs

If you live off campus, consider ditching your car for an economic bicycle that will get you to class for free, saving you on the cost of gas, maintenance, and parking. Public transportation may be another way to get where you need to go without paying car and parking expenses. When you go home at the end of the semester, check with friends and on-campus forums to find out if you can find a ride with someone and split the gas costs.

Small Savings

Even small savings can add up. Check out these ways to pare your everyday expenses.

8. Save on coffee

Some college students have a costly coffee dependency, and at a cafe you can expect to spend as much as $3 to $4 on a coffee. If you are buying coffee once or twice a day, in a month you could be spending over $150!

While a coffee maker might cost you a little bit up front, if you are a big coffee drinker it will pay for itself within the first month. Plus, with Italian coffee makers (around $30, depending on which size pot you choose), you can get stronger coffee and a better buzz for late night studying or just getting to your 5 o'clock class.

The Handpresso is a handheld espresso machine that is as convenient as it is cheap. Simply pump, add boiling water, a coffee pod or loose espresso grounds, and press a button for delicious coffee. Based on my experience buying ground coffee and milk in the grocery store, an Americano with milk only costs around 30 cents per coffee using this machine.

If you make two 30-cent coffees per day, rather than buying two at $3 a cup, by the end of the year you could save nearly $2,000 in coffee expenses!

9. Find free events and entertainment

Check if your university offers free lectures, movie screenings, concerts, or other arts events instead of paying big bucks to go to ticketed events. You'll be surprised how much you can do for free with just a student ID. Signing up for a newsletter will help you to stay on top of the cool speakers that the university is hosting.

Also use your college library, not just for studying but for entertainment options. Take advantage of newspapers, magazines, and movies that the library offers you to check-out, all completely free. By opting for this type of entertainment and reading materials, you can save a lot of money. With the average movie ticket costing around $9, if you instead go to two free movies per month or watch DVDs from the library, you'll save over $200 by the end of the year.

10. Stay in style for less

Trends move fast, and buying new clothes all the time can add up to significant costs for students. You don't have to completely forget about fashion for four years to stick to a tight budget. Check out thrift stores for fashions at a tiny fraction of the cost of new clothing. Also, find out about consigning the items you no longer want at the end of the semester.

Doing the math

Each item on this list may not seem like a lot — a coffee here, a movie ticket there — but when you add it all up over the course of the year, it can mean big savings for students. It's worth the effort to examine which of these costs you could cut, and then start realizing those savings.

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