15 Life Hacks for College Students (or Anyone Else Trying to Save Money)


For many, college is the first time living away from home — and often living without a lot of money.

Necessity is the mother of invention, though, this is why students discover and develop hacks to save money. Beyond the Ramen meal cliche, college students are true DIY masters that know how to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Here are 15 useful college student hacks that can help anybody save money around the house. (See also: 20+ Freebies for College Students)

1. Double Your Storage Space

By folding your T-shirts the right way and re-using soda can rings to stack hangers on hangers, you can increase your room for storage. Another closet organizing trick is to use an empty wine box to keep shoes neat and organized under your bed, and avoiding the where-is-that-darn-shoe game before rushing to your morning class.

2. Find Free Air Freshener

If you cannot afford a can of Febreze or scented candle, here is a nifty trick. Since you must wash your clothes, you might have some dryer sheets. Once your room starts getting smelly, tape the dryer sheet to your AC and crank it up. This trick also works with regular fans. Leave your AC unit or fan running for a couple of minutes and — voila! — fresher room.

3. DIY Speakers

Fit your smartphone into an empty plastic bottle, and you will amplify the sound of your device. Another trick to make your phone's alarm clock sound extra loud is to drop into a glass vase. Not only will you have a harder time pressing the snooze button, but the sound will be much louder.

4. Make Vintage Soft T-shirts

Skip the $30 dent on your wallet and give any T-shirt that smooth feeling with this trick. Mix one quart of water and half a cup of salt. Brine your T-shirt in the salt water mix for about three days. Then machine wash with a dash of detergent. Tumble dry, and enjoy.

5. Unclog Any Drain

To save money, students often get roommates, and having several people sharing the same bathroom puts a lot of pressure on plumbing. Baking soda, vinegar, and hot water get the job done as well as expensive chemical products and are much friendlier to the environment. First, pour some piping hot water down your drain. Then, pour half a cup of baking soda and wait about 5 minutes. Then add a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup hot water. Wait 10 minutes, and then wash down the mix with piping hot water again. Open (drain) sesame!

6. Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

Cast iron skillets are awesome for crafting some amazing breakfasts. However, they can be really hard to clean, and too many people end up throwing away these expensive kitchen tools because they cannot remove stuck-on food or use steel wool scrubbers. If you scrub too hard or use chemicals, the skillet is ruined. Instead, scrub the pan with a paste of coarse kosher salt and hot water. If you are trying to remove rust, rub the skillet with half a raw potato and a sprinkle of baking soda. After using either method, you often need to re-season the skillet.

7. Take Care of Stripped Screws

Too many pieces of flat pack (or Ikea) furniture cannot be fixed because people strip those screws. During my college days, a friend of mine would give "ruined" chairs, book shelves, and night stands a second life with this trick: Place a rubber band on top of the stripped screw, and then put the screwdriver on top of that. The rubber band helps the screwdriver grab the stripped screw.

8. Cover Up Scratched Wood

Speaking of furniture, wood pieces in college dorms and apartments usually take a beating, but scratches on wood are no match for walnuts. Take care of those bumps and scrapes by rubbing a walnut on the damaged area. The areas will darken as you rub. My college fraternity always had a stash of walnuts in our dining room.

9. Polish Scuffed Linoleum

Many college students can only afford on old houses and apartments, which often come with scuffed linoleum floors. Using white toothpaste, rub the spot with a dry cloth.

10. Leverage the Power of WD-40

This a must-have a tool for any college student. WD-40 can:

  • Take care of hard-to-open sliding windows.
  • Remove decals by spraying surrounding areas and lifting edges with a credit card or spatula.
  • Clean up walls with crayon markings.
  • Polish scuffed linoleum (make sure to wash area clean afterward!).
  • And of course, lubricate squeaky door hinges.

11. Restore Sagging Caning

You don't have to wait until your chair's canning completely gives. Take action by rubbing the bottom of the sagging caning with a wet sponge that has been submerged in warm water. Let the canning dry overnight. Repeat as necessary to tighten up that canning.

12. Open Beer and Soda Bottles

People, particularly college students, are obsessed with figuring out how to open beer and soda bottles without a bottle opener. If you can't find an opener, here's one thing you almost always can find — a Macbook charger. If it is one of those that has the metal part, you can use it to open a beer bottle. Make sure that the charger is unplugged from the outlet! If you're too afraid to use a Macbook charger, then learn how to open a bottle with a lighter.

13. Cook With a Coffee Cup

Coffee is a college student's best friend — and now, the cups can be too.

14. Power Up Your Wi-Fi Router

College students are the masters of finding free Wi-Fi. So when they pay for it, they want to make sure that they can use it as much as possible, no matter where in the house they are. Instead of buying a Wi-Fi extender (starting at $30), you can increase Wi-Fi strength with aluminum foil. You can also use a soda or beer can to boost your router.

15. Transform Your Hoodie

Another must-have item for college students are hoodies. They protect them from a cold morning or a bad hair day… or they can be turned into a laptop bag. Or a pillow, strap bag, backpack, or baby carrier. No wonder Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg never left the house without one!

What are other college students hacks that we could add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

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