How to Save Money as a Student

Being a student is hard enough. You have to think about classes, tests, assignments, and try and keep yourself in a good head space in the process. It can be hard.
Now, throw in thinking about making money and saving some of that money and it can be almost impossible to keep yourself organized.
Saving money as a student is going to be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. You just need to make some simple, smart decisions that will get you moving in the right direction each and every day.

1. Have a Budget

This tip honestly may seem like it’s obvious to some, but so many people don’t actually have a budget while they’re in school. We wrote an entire guide to budgeting for students that can help you through the process.
Having a budget will help you know where to put your money, and where you shouldn’t put it so you can make financial progress or at least not dig yourself into a hole during college.
You should grab a copy of our budgeting binder as a simple way for you to plan your budget on paper.

2. Sell Your Clothes Before Buying New

We all need to buy clothes from time to time. It can be because our style changes, we gain or lose weight, or for a number of other reasons.
However, before you go and purchase a ton of new clothes you should look at your closet like a nice way to fund your new clothes.
A really simple place for you to sell your clothing is through Poshmark! Using Poshmark is easy because it’s a free platform where people from all over will see your listings, and you’ll get a large chunk of the sales.

3. Rent Movies or Video Games at the Library

During school we all need a decent way to reliever our stress and sometimes that means watching movies or playing video games. However, video games can be extremely expensive.
Your local library will actually have movies, books, and video games that you can rent so you don’t need to pay full price. You can have them for a while and enjoy them, and bring them back sometimes entirely for free.

4. Cook Your Own Meals

If you have access to a full kitchen while you’re in school, you should try and cook as many of your own meals as possible.
Eating out every day is going to be extremely expensive and not the healthiest way for you to live. Everyone knows that cooking at home will be less expensive and better for you in the long run.
Start making a grocery list and going shopping so you can eat healthy and delicious meals for cheap.

5. Buy Used Textbooks

Other than housing and tuition, textbooks are going to be one of the largest expenses for you in school. It’s really fun to spend hundreds on a book, isn’t it?
Well, you should try to avoid spending money on full priced text books that are brand new because it’s just throwing money away.
You can look online for used textbooks, or search the name of your school and textbooks on Facebook and usually there will be a group or two for that purpose!

6. Automate Your Savings

When it comes to saving money, you can actively save by making smart decisions every single day, or you can start planning ways to save passively by automating your money.
A really awesome way to automate your savings so you don’t even need to think about it, is to start saving with Acorns. They’ll connect to your bank account and invest your spare change.
If you spend $4.70 on a small purchase, acorns will save the other $0.30 so you can start saving money and make financial progress without realizing it’s even happening!

7. Take Advantage of Free School Events

Most campuses are going to have weekly events happening that you can go to for cheap or even for free. There may be concerts, plays, bingo nights, and so much more.
You can save a lot of money by going to discount events, and you’ll also meet a ton of people who are all in the same place as you!

8. Look For Coupons

There is no shame in getting and using coupons for purchases that you have to make no matter what. You can save so much money when buying groceries and toiletries if you take some time to find a couple coupons online or in a newspaper!
You can even find coupons for online purchases using Honey! Honey is a free browser extension that searches the web for coupon codes so you can save money. 

9. Get Cash Back Online

Sometimes in school it can be hard to avoid spending money, but it’s always a good idea to buy things online so you can get the best deal and get cash back.
When you have to buy things online for yourself or gifts for others, you should use Rakuten (formerly Ebates) to get cash back and get paid!

10. Use Your Student ID for Discounts

Your student ID is gold for discounts at a ton of places. You can get discounts at grocery stores on certain days, on bus passes, and so much more.
You should carry your student ID with you at all times, and even ask when checking out at any store if they offer student discounts! You never know what might happen.

11. Distinguish Your Needs and Wants

A really big lesson for people to learn (some don’t even learn this until they’re in their 40s!) is how to differentiate their wants and needs.
If you see everything you want as something you need, you’re going to end up spending so much money on unnecessary clothing, shoes, and electronics that aren’t necessary for your life.
Being able to look at the things that you are thinking about buying and realizing that you just want them, can help you not spend money on these things because they aren’t a necessity ton help you graduate.

12. Open Bank Accounts for Cash Bonuses

A lot of banks are willing to do anything to get people to sign up for their services, and most of the time they’re willing to give money away just to get you.
Banks will give sign up bonuses, especially to students because it’s a great way to acquire a new customer and possibly keep them for the next 50 years!
A great example of this for Canadian students is Tangerine! You will be given $50 for free when you deposit your first $100 as a special bonus for Not Quite an Adult readers, you just need to enter the orange code 50681730S1 when you sign up!

13. Sell Your Old Books

One thing that students are forced to spend a ton of money on in school is books, both textbooks and reading books.
You shouldn’t ever just donate books when you’re in school because someone else on your campus is going to need them! Even if they’re a bit out of date, someone will buy them.

14. Buy Snacks in Bulk

If you have a favourite snack that you eat in between classes or after dinner each night, why not buy that snack in bulk?
Buying things in bulk will save you a ton of money compared to buying them in convenience packaging at a corner store, meaning you’ll save tons in the long run.
You can even invest in some small snack sized food containers so you don’t have to spend money on plastic bags either.

15. Start Your Shopping at Discount Stores

When you need to go buy things like toiletries, or even food, you should start shopping at a discount store first.
This could mean starting at something like a dollar store, which has a lot of the things you’ll need in college, or a discount big box store.
A lot of the time the people who make expensive brands are the same ones who make the inexpensive brands too, so the quality is essentially the same.

16. Avoid Name Brands

When you’re in school, it’s easy to try and impress the people around you because you want to make friends and make lasting impressions on others.
This makes a lot of students spend their money on name brands and expensive clothes that they don’t actually need. You can make a great impression on somebody in a $20 shirt the same way you could in a $50 shirt.
Don’t let yourself get sucked into trying to impress others with the way you dress, or even the expensive foods you eat. Avoid those name brands an you’ll save hundreds.

17. Be a Resident Advisor

Your housing in school is one of your biggest expenses, so why not try and get it for free? Or at least a discounted price!
Being a resident advisor in your college is an incredible way to get really inexpensive housing for just a few hours of work a week.

18. Actually Go to Class

Being in school is going to cost you a ton of money, no matter what. Paying for classes is expensive and a lot of students are paying for classes and not even attending them.
If you really want to save money in school and make your money worth it, you should go to your classes. You’ll get the most out of your education this way.
Also, being in class means you aren’t spending money on entertainment or food in that moment, which can help you save!

19. Cut Out Bad Habits

When most people are in school they are at a prime age to develop bad habits and vices that can cost you a ton of money.
You should try your best to quit bad habits that are costing you money, like smoking and drinking, eating a ton of junk food, or anything else that you may do.
You’re still at a time in life when your life is easily changed, so you should change your bad habits soon to save money and maybe even save your life.

20. Don’t Shop When Hungry

This money spend tip is the oldest one in the book! When you go to a grocery store when you’re hungry, you’re much more likely to buy things you don’t actually need just because they look delicious.
Try your best to avoid grocery shopping on an empty stomach and eat a meal before so you can avoid those impulse decisions.

21. Have a No-Spend Day

It’s really easy for you to spend a few dollars every day on drinks and snacks and especially meals when you’re in classes. A great way to switch it up, is to have a no-spend day.
On these days, you’ll avoid spending any money. This means you don’t pay for parking, you don’t buy coffee, and you don’t do any shopping in general.
This will help you realize that you don’t actually need to spend money each day and can help you switch up some of your spending habits.

22. Live With Your Parents

If you really want to save money in school, the first place to look for places to save is your housing costs.
If it’s possible to live at home with your parents or another family member while you’re going to school, take advantage of that so you can save.
I do, however, understand that a lot of people can’t live at home for location or personal reasons like toxicity. So, don’t put yourself in an unsafe situation just to save money.

23. Call Your Cell Phone Provider

Cell phones bills are extremely expensive, especially if you’re on a contract with a new phone. It really doesn’t make sense why we pay so much.
Thankfully, a lot of cell phone companies are able to give discounts to people who ask for them. It’s honestly that simple!
You can make an easy 5 minute phone call to your cell phone provider and ask if there’s anything they can do to lower your monthly bill, and see what happens.

24. Pay Your Bills on Time

One of the simplest ways to throw money away is to pay your bills late and end up paying late fees. Most companies are going to charge a fee if you miss a payment or if you’re even just a few days late.
You should definitely try your best to pay your bills on time, but if it’s not possible this may be solved by a single phone call.
Most companies are willing to wave late fees if you call them up before you’ve actually missed the payment and let them know that you aren’t going to make it on time, and ask for some leniency. They are usually willing to work with you because they want their money either way.

25. Walk or Ride a Bike

One thing most students don’t realize, is that you definitely don’t need a car when you’re in college. Unless you work extremely far from home, or travel home every weekend.
Cars are extremely expensive when you factor in your gas, insurance, and maintenance and can cut into your monthly budget by a lot each month.
Most bigger cities will have discounted bus passes for students with their student ID and that’s an awesome way for you to save.
You can also plan your weekly errands at places around your home or around campus so you don’t have to drive a ton.

26. Shop on Student Discount Days

A lot of grocery stores in college towns are going to have specific days that have a discount for anyone who is a student!
For example, the big grocery store in our city has a 10% discount for students on Tuesdays. This works for the grocery store because Tuesday is their slowest day and they can bring in more customers this way.
A 10% discount may not sound like a lot, but it can really add up when you think about going shopping on that day all year long.

27. Use the On-Campus Gym

Staying healthy in school is super expensive and you should avoid going to an off campus gym and paying full price for a membership if you can.
Most colleges will have a decent sized gym on campus with all of the machines you need, and most of the time you’ll get a membership entirely for free.

28. Make Meals with Friends

Cooking a real meal when you’re in school can get really expensive if you’re cooking for one. Thankfully, there is one really great way to save money on cooking meals!
Invite your friends over! You can go grocery shopping together and split the cost between a few people, making the price per meal much more manageable.
It’s also extremely fun for you to cook with friends, you can put on a good movie and chat about life in the process. You’ll be able to eat a delicious meal and not have to spend an arm and a leg at a restaurant.

29. Drink Water

Drinking water is not just good for your health, but it’s also good for your wallet. Water is the least expensive beverage you can purchase, and can really save money if you cut out sugary drinks like juice and soda.
You can get a brita water filter and a high quality water bottle and save a ton of money in the long run.

30. Avoid Using Credit

Unlike a lot of personal finance people, we’re firm believers that credit cards can be used responsibly and can actually help you with your money.
However, I don’t think you should be using credit cards in college. When you use credit, you can sometimes fall into a trap where you think that the available credit you have, is money available for you to spend.
You don’t want to have to start paying huge credit card bills and racking up interest, while also dealing with a growing student loan balance.

31. Make Coffee at Home

Caffeine is the only thing that gets us through school, let’s be real. It is so hard to stay awake in classes and studying without coffee is practically impossible.
However, buying a coffee every morning before class can really add up at the end of the year. I’m not saying that you should never buy coffee, but having some instant coffee in your dorm room, or a coffee maker in your home, is a great and easy way to save money every single day!

32. Don’t Buy Stationary You Won’t Use

A huge thing for a ton of students (including me) is feeling tons of joy when shopping at the campus supply store for things like pens, pencils and fancy notebooks.
It can be really tempting to always get new stationary and other supplies because they’re cute and fun to have, but will you use them?
I know personally, I found myself buying these things and not even using 10% of the things I purchased. You don’t need 10 notebooks, 100 pens, and a 25 pack of highlighters.
Take some time to really think about what you’re purchasing before you end up with a school supply store inside your bedroom.

33. Rent a Room Instead of an Apartment

One of your biggest expenses in school is going to be your housing if you aren’t able to live at home with your parents.
It can be tempting for you to rent an entire apartment just so you can have your own space, however, this is the most expensive option. You don’t actually need that much space when you’re in college.
You’re going to be spending most of your time in classes, or at work, or hanging out with friends. The amount of time you’ll spend in your home is going to be minimal.
It’s really smart to find a home near your school where you can rent just a bedroom, with kitchen and living room access, for just a few hundred dollars.
You’ll still have a bit of privacy by having your own bedroom, but you won’t have to pay $1,000+ for an apartment near your college.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to save money as a student wasn’t that hard, was it? We hope that these tips will help you have a bit more money in your bank account at the end of your semester and will ease the transition into adulthood for you!