Editor: This is a guest post from Jennifer Wen, a financially savvy post-graduate student at Brown University.
Hi Savings Hackers! I was asked to share some of my tips on how I save money in college and after a little bit of thought I came up with a list I believe will be super helpful for those looking to dramatically cut costs.
Over the last couple of years I (and my roommates that adopt my strategies) have managed to save thousands of dollars using all of the below tips, however, I want to preface that by mentioning that creating and sticking to a budget is mandatory to yield the best results.
For the last year or so I’ve been using a budgeting app track all of my income and spend. Sadly, I don’t have a lot of income at this stage in my life, so that makes tracking my spend even more important.
Budgeting combined with utilizing the strategies below have been extremely beneficial for me, and I hope they will be for you as well!
I always buy used textbooks to save money. I find that they're just as good as new books, and I save up to 75% on the cost of new books.
That can amount to hundreds of dollars in savings for each semester. I also always look for coupons and discounts when I'm buying used books.
Favorite Places to Buy Used Textbooks
I've found some great deals on used textbooks at a variety of places. Here are some of my favorite places to buy used textbooks:
Amazon: Amazon is a great place to find used textbooks, and you can often get free shipping if you have an Amazon Prime account.
eBay: eBay is another great place to buy used textbooks. You can often find textbooks at discounted prices, although you'll need to be careful about the condition of the book before you buy it.
Local Bookstores: Many local bookstores carry used textbooks, and they may offer discounts if you buy multiple books at once.
Friends & Classmates: Ask around your friends and classmates to see if anyone is selling their textbooks. They might be willing to sell them to you at a discounted rate.
University Bookstore: The university bookstore usually has a section devoted to used textbooks, so be sure to check there too.
I love cooking, and it's a great way to save money too. I can control what goes into my food, and I know it's going to be healthy and delicious.
10 Filling Meals College Students Can Cook
1. Beans & Rice: Beans and rice are a staple of many cultures, and they're both very inexpensive. Beans are high in protein and fiber, and rice is a great source of carbohydrates. You can mix them together or cook them separately, depending on your preferences.
2. Pasta: Pasta is another cheap, filling dish that's easy to make. You can combine it with vegetables, meats, cheese, and sauces to create a variety of flavorful meals.
3. Burritos: Burritos are an awesome way to use up leftovers and make a cheap, filling meal. Fill a tortilla with beans, rice, cheese, and any other ingredients you have on hand. YUM!!!
4. Soup: Soup is a fantastic way to use up any vegetables you have in the fridge, as well as any leftover meat or beans. You can easily make a big pot of soup that will last several meals.
5. Quiche: Quiche is a versatile dish that can be easily adapted to whatever ingredients you have on hand. You can use any combination of vegetables, meats, and cheese, and it's easy to make ahead of time and freeze for later.
6. Omelets: Omelets are a great way to use up any leftover vegetables or meats. Plus, they're easy to customize with whatever ingredients you have on hand.
7. Stir-Fry: Stir-fry is a quick and easy meal that you can make with whatever ingredients you have. All you need is a protein, vegetables, and a sauce, and you're good to go.
8. Sandwiches: Sandwiches are a classic lunch option that can be made with any combination of ingredients. You can easily make them ahead of time and freeze them for later.
9. Pizza: Pizza is a great option for college students on a budget. You can make your own with store-bought dough, sauce, and cheese, or you can buy a pre-made pizza and add your own toppings.
10. Salads: Salads are a healthy, filling option that can be easily customized with whatever ingredients you have on hand. You can add proteins like beans, eggs, or chicken, or you can stick with vegetables and cheese.
And of course, there’s always ramen!
Splitting Rent Off-Campus
I split rent with my roommates, which makes living in a city more affordable.
I live with three other roommates off-campus, and we split our rent four ways. This has been a great way to save money, and I estimate that I save around $600 every month.
We also pool our resources, so we can buy things like cleaning supplies and food together, which saves us even more money. It's a great way to make living off-campus more affordable.
Finding Off-Campus Housing
Finding off-campus housing can be a daunting task, but there are some things you can do to make the process easier.
Research: Research the area you want to live in to get a better understanding of the local housing market. Look for information about the cost of living, the types of housing available, and safety ratings.
Networking: Talk to your friends and classmates to see if they know of any available housing. You can also ask your professors or student advisors if they know of any opportunities.
In-Person Visits: Once you've narrowed down your search, it's important to visit the properties in person. This will help you get a better understanding of the area and the living situation.
Negotiate: Once you've found a property you like, negotiate with the landlord or property manager to get a better deal. You can offer to sign a longer lease, pay a larger security deposit, or pay rent in advance to get a better rate.
References: Ask your professors or employers for references to show potential landlords that you're responsible and reliable.
Finding off-campus housing doesn't have to be a stressful process. By taking the time to research, network, and negotiate, you can find the perfect place to call home.
Craigslist: Craigslist is a great place to find a potential roommate. You can search for listings in your area, or post your own listing if you're looking for a roommate.
Roomster: Roomster is a roommate finder platform that connects you with potential roommates. It offers a variety of search filters to help you find the perfect roommate.
Roomi: Roomi is another roommate finder platform (app) that helps you find potential roommates. It also offers a variety of search filters, so you can find the perfect match.
I've taken to brewing my own coffee at home instead of buying it at a café.
I like Starbucks coffee as much as the next person, but I save so much more by brewing my own coffee at home. I get to make my coffee exactly how I like it, and I estimate that I save around $20 every month.
Plus, I can make my own lattes, cappuccinos, and more with a few simple ingredients and a bit of practice.
I make the most of all the amenities available on campus, like the gym, library, and more. I know that I'm paying for them as part of my tuition, so I might as well use them.
I take advantage of the gym on campus to stay in shape. I can use the machines, take group fitness classes, and use the pool - all for free.
The library is a great place to study, and it's often much quieter than my dorm room. I can also access a variety of resources, like textbooks and research materials, for free.
I use the computer lab on campus if I need to print something or if I don't have access to my own computer.
I'm involved in several student organizations on campus, which is a great way to meet new people and learn new skills.
I own a bike instead of a car, which is much cheaper and environmentally friendly. I also take advantage of public transportation when I need to travel further away.
I estimate that I save around $100 every month by using a bike and public transportation instead of driving. The cost of gas, insurance, and other car expenses can add up quickly, so opting for a bike and public transportation is a great way to save money.
I always use my student discount when I can, whether it's for food, clothes, travel or electronics. Every little bit helps!
Places That Offer Student Discounts
There are many places that offer student discounts, so it's important to take advantage of them whenever you can.
Here's a big list of places that offer student discounts.
Electronics Stores: Many electronics stores, such as Best Buy and Apple, offer student discounts on laptops, tablets, and other electronics.
Restaurants: Many restaurants, such as McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, offer student discounts.
Movie Theaters: Most movie theaters offer discounts on tickets and concessions to students.
Travel: Many airlines, hotels, and rental car companies offer discounts to students.
Cell Phone Plans: Many cell phone providers, such as AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, offer student discounts on phone plans.
Insurance: Many insurance companies, such as Geico and Allstate, offer discounts to students.
Software: Many software companies, such as Microsoft and Adobe, offer discounts to students.
By taking advantage of the student discounts available, you can save hundreds of dollars each year.
Don't forget to ask about discounts whenever you're making a purchase - you never know what you might find!
I opt for generic brand makeup and beauty products, which are just as good as their expensive counterparts. There's SO much money you can save by purchasing generic products vs. brand-name products.
Generic Beauty Products and Brands
Generic beauty products and brands are just as good as their expensive counterparts, and they can save you a lot of money.
Here are some of the most popular generic beauty products and brands.
Drug Store Brands: Drug store brands, such as Cetaphil, Neutrogena, and Aveeno, offer a variety of high-quality, inexpensive beauty products.
Target Brands: Target brands, such as Up & Up and Pixi, are a great option for those looking for budget-friendly beauty products.
Trader Joe's: Trader Joe's offers a variety of beauty products, such as facial cleansers, moisturizers, and lip balms, at affordable prices.
e.l.f.: e.l.f. is a popular online brand that offers a variety of high-quality beauty products at affordable prices.
By using generic beauty products and brands, you can save an average of 30-50% off the cost of the same products from more expensive brands. That can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings each year.
Entertainment doesn't have to be expensive, after all it's about enjoying yourself and sometimes sharing these experiences with others, not about spending money.
There are plenty of ways for college students to have fun without breaking the bank.
Here are some of my favorite cheap entertainment options.
Matinee Showings: Matinee showings at the movies are usually much cheaper than evening showings. I usually save around $5-10 per ticket by attending matinees.
Local Events: Many cities and towns have free events, such as concerts, festivals, and art shows. Check your local newspaper or online listings to find out what's happening in your area.
Outdoor Activities: Spending time in nature is a great way to relax and have fun without spending any money. Go for a hike, bike ride, or picnic in the park - all for free!
Board Games: Having a board game night with friends is a great way to have fun without spending money. You can borrow board games from friends or the library, or buy them at thrift stores for a discount.
Sports: Sports are a great way to have fun and stay active. Look for free or discounted sports leagues in your area, such as basketball or tennis.
Free Museums: Many museums offer free admission or discounted rates for college students. Check your local museum websites for more information.
Buying cheap clothing doesn't mean sacrificing style or quality. Here is a list of the best places to buy cheap clothing, including the average price for specific garments and the estimated savings vs. buying new.
Thrift Stores: Thrift stores are a great place to find high-quality, inexpensive clothes. You can usually find clothing for $2-$10 per item, and you can save up to 75% off the cost of new clothing.
Garage Sales: Garage sales are a great way to find cheap clothing. You can usually find clothing for $1-$5 per item, and you can save up to 90% off the cost of new clothing.
Discount Stores: Discount stores, such as TJ Maxx, offer a variety of clothing at discounted prices. You can usually find clothing for $10-$20 per item, and you can save up to 50% off the cost of new clothing.
Online Shopping: Online shopping can be a great way to find cheap clothing. Websites such as eBay, Amazon, and Etsy offer a variety of clothing at discounted prices. You can usually find clothing for $5-$15 per item, and you can save up to 40% off the cost of new clothing.
DIY Clothing: Making your own clothing can be a great way to save money. You can buy fabric and patterns at a variety of stores and make your own clothes. You can save up to 80% off the cost of new clothing.
By taking advantage of the cheap clothing options available, you can save hundreds of dollars each year.
I try to make my own presents or ask for practical gifts for holidays. I also purchase discounted gift cards to save money when I do need to buy a gift.
10 Cool Gifts You Can Make For Less Than $20
1. Homemade Soap: Making your own soap is a great way to make a unique gift for less than $20. You can find soap-making kits online or at craft stores.
2. Baked Goods: Baked goods make a great gift, and you can make a variety of treats for less than $20. Try making cookies, brownies, or cupcakes for your friends and family.
3. Candles: Candles are a great way to add a cozy atmosphere to any room. You can find candle-making kits online or at craft stores.
4. Jewelry: Jewelry is always a cool gift, and you can make your own for less than $20. Try making necklaces, bracelets, or earrings with beads and other supplies from a craft store.
5. Pottery: Making pottery is a unique way to make a creative gift for less than $20. You can find pottery-making kits online or at craft stores (like JoAnn's & HobbyLobby)
6. Art Prints: Art prints make a stunning gift, and you can make your own for less than $20. Try using watercolors, markers, or even a computer to make a unique piece of art.
7. Photo Albums: Photo albums make a thoughtful gift, and you can make your own for less than $20. Try using your own photos or prints from online or craft stores.
8. Handmade Cards: Handmade cards are a fantastic way to add a personal touch to any gift. Try using paper, markers, and other supplies from a craft store to make a unique card.
9. Custom Mugs: Custom mugs make an amazing gift (seriously, people love it!), and you can make your own for less than $20. Try using markers and other supplies from a craft store to make a personalized mug.
10. Gift Baskets: Gift baskets make a useful gift, and you can make your own for less than $20. Try using items from a craft store, such as a basket, ribbon, and decorations, to make a unique basket.