There are a lot of things that make college some of the best years of someone’s life. Financial freedom is not one of them. But giving up fun isn’t the only way to avoid daunting credit card bills. Here are 50 tips for students looking to live up their college years without racking up the debt.
In this article:
Score some extra cash
1. Online Scholarships
Take advantage of scholarships offered online through websites like Collegescholarships.com and Fastweb.com. With a wide range of topics and categories, it’s likely you’ll find a couple that intrigue you.
2. Psychology Studies
If your college has a grad school, their psychology department most likely need students to participate in various studies. Depending on the study, you might not qualify to participate but if you do, it can be a good amount of money for a small investment of your time.
3. Look into becoming an RA
Most college dorms offer RA programs that let you subsidize your housing cost, make some extra cash, or both.
Depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for a work-study position. These jobs are specifically designed to be manageable alongside a full college curriculum.
4. On-campus jobs
If you do not qualify for work-study, check with your student center to see what kind of other positions are available on campus. Other on-campus jobs might include the front desk at your campus gym or working in the cafeteria. The commitment is usually lower than off-campus jobs and as far as convenience goes, you can’t beat that location!
If you don’t know any families nearby, you can find open positions through a website like Care.com.
If babysitting isn’t your forte, you can check out Craigslist or other websites to find families eager for a college student to tutor their budding prodigy.
7. Local contests
Check out whether or not your campus or local area offers any contests you’d be qualified for. Poetry contests? Singing contests? Use your skills to make some pocket change here and there.
8. Liberal arts
Are you a humanities or English major? Put your expertise to use by selling your artwork or working freelance as a blog contributor or editor.
Work the student thing
9. Use your student ID
Many retailers, movie theaters, and other everyday destinations offer student discounts when a valid student ID is presented.
10. Take advantage of other student discounts
There are easy-to-access student discounts for items that are not so daily as well. Apple, HP, and Dell are just some of the technology companies that offer student discounts on laptops, etc. Many airline companies also offer student rates on plane tickets and travel packages.
11. Free campus entertainment
Check out what kind of free events your campus offers to students. A lot of schools organize karaoke nights and other events free-of-charge for students looking to stay busy on the weekends. As an added bonus, this is a great way to expand your social circle and meet some people you might not otherwise come across.
12. Save on school supplies
Take advantage of social sites like Facebook to see if anyone has used books or materials they’re willing to sell or trade for. Sites like chegg.com are another hassle-free way to buy and sell textbooks and other study materials.
13. Student banking
Research student banking account deals and pick the best one for you. Banks know that college students are often opening their own bank accounts for the first time so they lure you in with free checking accounts and other perks. Know what you’re getting yourself into but don’t be shy about taking advantage of these perks to save money on monthly fees and charges.
14. Get involved
Look out for cultural events or special lectures around campus that include lunch or dinner. Save $10 and learn something new. It’s a win-win.
15. Test out of classes whenever you can
This’ll save you money on textbooks and possibly even tuition if you can graduate early.
16. Make lists
Bring lists with you whenever you go shopping and stick to them! That way, you don’t overspend on groceries or clothing.
17. Develop a weekly routine
Get a routine going to make you more efficient. This will cut down on how many loads of laundry you end up doing, along with other frequent tasks that cost you money.
18. Keep the coupons!
Collecting coupons and frequent visitor punch cards is only helpful if you actually use them. Keep these things in sight so that you remember.
Do a Self-Audit
19. Cut out bad habits
Get rid of bad habits that eat at your wallet like smoking and drinking. And get the added bonus of better health!
20. Evaluate your everyday expenses
Review the things you buy everyday like your morning coffee. Things that cost just $1 a day can add up over time. Look into cheaper options.
21. Make a budget
Keep track of your monthly expenses and income to stay within your limits. Mint.com and other services are great expense trackers.
22. Categorize your spending
Look at where you spend the most. Is it restaurants, groceries, gas, clothing? Strategize ways to cut down in that particular area.
23. Re-evaluate your meal plan
If your campus uses a fixed-meal plan and you don’t eat much, then it’s probably not the best way to go. You can also try cooking on your own, as this is usually cheaper than the campus meal plan.
24. A rose by any other name
If you have a lot of brand name food, toiletries, and cleaning products, then consider switching over to the generic.
25. Be picky about your entertainment
Do you need to buy seasons tickets to EVERY school sport? Decide which one is most important to you and let the rest of them go.
26. Get a bike
Instead of spending money on gas, car insurance and maintenance, invest $300 in a good bike. You’ll save money and get some exercise as well. And speaking of…
27. Lose the car
If it’s an option, leave your car behind completely to eliminate parking tickets and cut out auto expenses. If you occasionally need your car, consider renting out with a peer-to-peer car service like RelayRides or Getaround.
When parents aren’t so bad
28. Stay on the family plan
Even if your parents make you send them a check every month, do what you can to stay on their family plan for your cell phone. Bundle packages are almost always going to be cheaper than individual plans.
Any family or friends living nearby in a house? Take advantage of their laundry machine or go over there for dinner once a week. Give back by helping around the house when you can.
30. Hang home for the weekend
If you live close enough to campus, try to spend one weekend per month at home. You’ll save all the money you would’ve otherwise spent socializing and you’ll make the ‘rents happy at the same time.
31. Student credit cards
Get your parents to co-sign a student credit card that earns rewards where you spend the most: gas, groceries, textbooks or eating out.
32. Buy on eBay
From clothing to hair products to electronics, you can find anything and everything on eBay. If you can settle for less than “new,” this can be a huge money-saver.
33. Buy on Craigslist
When shipping costs rule out eBay (i.e. for bigger, bulkier items like microwaves and TV’s), check your local listings on Craigslist. Get used to buying things used.
34. Sell your stuff
If you’ve got things to buy, then you probably have things to sell. Make some extra cash by selling your old items on eBay and Craigslist. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
35. Seek out consignment stores
Check out local consignment shops. Trade your clothes in for cash or store credit and buy designer items for a fraction of the cost.
36. Just say no
It can be tempting to go out to every dinner or join in on every weekend trip but you’ll save yourself a lot of dough if you can teach yourself to just say no. Instead, propose a hike or potluck dinner – it can actually be more fun.
37. Beware the vending machine
A dollar here and there can add up. Instead of feeding the vending machine, save some cash by getting your water bottles, soda, and snacks in bulk.
38. Avoid duplicates
When money is tight, one is enough when it comes to wardrobe essentials like winter coats and boots. You probably don’t have enough space for more than that anyway! There’s a reason those dorm closets are so small!
39. Embrace window shopping
Indulge in window shopping to avoid impulse buys. If you see something you want to buy, think on it for at least 48 hours. You’ll be surprised how many things you forget about after just a few days.
40. Stay alert
Saving money means protecting it too. Watch out for traps designed for naïve students like store credit cards. Tricky terms and conditions and complex interest rates can sneak up on you when you least expect it.
Have fun outside the box
41. Expand your horizons
Check local listings for free festivals, museums, and art galleries nearby. During the summer, keep an eye out for outdoor concerts and farmers markets as well. Websites like funcheap.com list low-cost events in your area.
42. Cheap dates
Meeting new people and dating are an important part of college but dinner and a movie can be pricey. Check out our list of cheap date ideas for college students.
43. Take a break from Netflix
Put the brakes on Netflix for a while and rent DVDs from your school’s library for free instead. If you’re okay with a limited selection, downgrade to Amazon Prime for Students – for $39 a year, you get access to Amazon Instant Video.
Never underestimate group buying power! Groupon is a great way to snag discounts and find new, exciting events in your area. Try using Groupon Now (its mobile app) to avoid buying coupons you never use.
45. Social media freebies
out for social media freebies and other coupons. Many businesses partner with sites like Yelp.com and offer coupons and discounts when you “check in” or “Like” their Facebook pages.
Sharing is caring
46. Share clothes with roommates
Save money by sharing clothes and/or trading with friends. Try organizing a clothing swap every quarter or semester.
Take advantage of your close quarters and coordinate rides with friends.
48. Join a grocery co-op
Many things are cheaper in bulk, including food. Join your house- or dorm-mates to buy food from Costco and divide it between the lot of you rather than taking individual trips to more pricey stores.
49. Look up fun DIY projects
Pinterest and YouTube offer tons of tutorials and guides that help you learn how to make and do things yourself instead of spending money on them.
50. Be confident and be yourself!
Don’t worry about “keeping up” if all your friends are getting money from their parents and you’re not. Don’t worry about the latest fashions if you can’t afford it. Remember – you’re only a college student once and making memories is priceless.
Your might also enjoy:
- 7 Sites to Buy, Sell and Rent Textbooks Online (and on the Cheap)
- What Happens When You Don’t Pay Your Student Loans?
- How Can I Get Started in Taking Control of My Finances?
Student image courtesy of Shutterstock.