How to Save Money as a Broke College Student

You can only eat so much instant ramen before you turn a blob of salt. Here are some ways that college students can stretch their budgets even further!

Back to school time means a whole new class of freshman starting college for the first time. And while that’s an exciting time in anyone’s life, it can also be one of the most expensive times in your life. Not only do college costs continue to rise, and many students have never had to handle their own budget before. So even when college students think they’re spending wisely, their parents might beg to differ.

It’s all too easy for budgeting newbies like college students to spend way beyond their means, which could end up hurting their credit scores for years to come. These students could even end up needing to take out a payday loan or a cash advance because they’ve blown through all their money!

If only there was a blog post that could help college students save money. Well good news, there is! And it’s this one. This is your assigned reading material for Student Savings 101!

Rent out your textbooks.

College textbooks prove that knowledge is one of the most valuable commodities in the world. Or at least it better be, considering how much your school is charging for them.

The only reason a pound of college books isn’t worth more than a pound of gold is that the smallest college book is ten pounds, minimum. And they make you buy a new one each year, even if the updated edition barely changed anything. There has to be a better way!

“Rent your books,” advised Chris Tuck, a financial planner with SJK Wealth Management (@SJKWealthManage). “This was not an option years ago and the game was to sell your books back to the library for pennies. Now companies like Amazon and Barnes and Noble let you rent a textbook for the semester. It may save you hundreds, and I promise you will not be opening your Calculus II book ever again, no need to purchase it for life.”

Certified financial planner Luis F. Rosa (@luis_f_rosa) echoed that tip: “One way for a broke college student to save money is to rent their textbooks instead of buying them. Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble offer this option, so you can get access to your textbooks at a fraction of what it would cost to purchase them.”

But you need more than just books at college. Unless you plan to eat your books, which would not be cost effective.

Cut down on takeout and fancy beer.

Let’s be realistic: even if your school has a cafeteria, you’re probably going to get bored of the options they offer within a few weeks and start looking for other food sources. And things can get expensive if you aren’t careful about what those other food sources are.

“Purchase food from your local grocery store instead of ordering takeout,” suggested digital brand strategist Shadé Y. Adu (@futuredrshade). “The cost of ordering pizza and snacks adds up quickly. Find a local grocery store that delivers and cook. Have a potluck and enjoy food with your peers together.”

But it’s not just what you eat. You have to be careful how many dollars you’re drinking.

“Kick the expensive coffee habit,” recommended Tuck. “College students drink a lot of coffee and those expensive lattes add up quickly. An easy way to save is to have a coffee maker in your dorm room.

“Save even more by finding a deal online for a free coffee maker with the purchase of a couple bags of coffee beans. They may even throw in a free mug. I still have my free blue Gevalia mug from Freshman year.

“You might have to learn how to run an old-school coffee pot with a filter—not as easy as a single cup pod—but a lot cheaper and your friends will think ‘you’re so retro.’”

And if you’re of age, Tuck also suggests: “Cheap Beer. It’s an acquired taste, but acquiring it is so much fun. I went to school in New York where a cocktail can run you over $10. You have the rest of your life to enjoy nice wine and scotch. Take these four years (five if this is your favorite tip) to enjoy the cheap stuff.”

Use student discounts and card rewards. 

Can you major in savings? Well, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up some knowledge in that area, regardless. Thankfully, you may already have a card in your pocket that will save you money.

“Search for student discounts,” Tuck told us. “Whether online shopping or around campus, there are plenty of retailers offering a discount with your student ID. I used this personally until about 27 years old when the local movie theater realized I was going on a decade as a student.

“You can get discounts at Apple, your Amazon Prime subscription, sites like UNiDAYS and pretty much everywhere else. You won’t get these deals again until 50 and you get an AARP card, so take advantage.”

But that isn’t the only card that can lead to potential savings.

“Look for cash back debit cards for regular purchases,” suggested Adu. “Make your money work for you. If you have to pay for food or toiletries, use a debit card that provides you with opportunities to make some of your money back. Transfer your cash back into a savings account.”

And then there’s the most effective saving method of all …

Earn extra money.

What if instead of just saving money, you made money? That’s like double the savings! College jobs have been around for a long time, but now you can use technology to better work around your classes.

For example, here’s what Business Marketing major Miranda Warner told us:

“When I am home in Seattle, especially during long breaks such as summer and winter break, I always try to take in the most dogs that I can through (@RoverDotCom).

“As a college student, I am constantly in need of money. Whether it is for food, books, or apparel for different sorority events—it seems that money is always a struggle. Yet with my earnings from Rover, I have had the ability to secure myself and save up my money, so that during the year finances are not much of an issue.

“During the summer I also take online classes to get ahead in my Business Marketing major, which makes being a Rover Dog Sitter the perfect job for me. Dogs are my absolute passion, and I love everything about them.

“Working with Rover provides the opportunity to make money, all while being able to work on my education at the same time. For a dog-obsessed college student, this is absolute heaven for me to be able to do this job!”

Not into dogs? Just search online about what you do like (or could at least tolerate) and there are probably options for you!

College can be fun and expensive. Just make sure you don’t end up with no money in savings, relying on no credit check loans like payday or title loans just to make ends meet. (Any bad credit loan, even a relatively affordable installment loan, probably isn’t a great idea if you’re a full-time student.) Use these tips and hopefully you can raise your ratio of the former to the latter.

To learn more about saving money (or earning a little extra) check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:

How do you save money as a broke college student? We want to hear from you! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Shadé Y. Adu (@futuredrshade) is a digital brand strategist. Shadé helps women entrepreneurs use the power of social media and live streaming to brand, build, and monetize digital programs, products, and services. Shadé has been featured in Hello Beautiful, Black Enterprise, The Network Journal, and the Rachel Ray Show. Shadé has spoken at and facilitated numerous workshops in Kazakhstan, Ghana, and universities, high schools, and institutions throughout the United States.
Luis F. Rosa (@luis_f_rosa) focuses on working with young up and coming professionals who are looking to better position themselves for a successful financial future. Luis is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and is enrolled to practice before the IRS. This diverse industry knowledge allows him to best serve his clients by understanding how one financial decision affects the other, allowing him to better guide them toward achieving their goals.
Chris Tuck is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional. He has a passion for creative problem-solving and works with a wide breadth of clients, specializing in designing custom financial plans to help clients work towards their goals. Chris received his Bachelor of Engineering from Hofstra University and was previously a Civil Engineer for Lockwood, Kessler & Bartlett Inc. in New York. He now designs the roads and bridges to his client’s financial futures. Chris is also an active member of the portfolio management team at SJK Wealth Management (@SJKWealthManage).
Miranda Warner is currently a 21-year-old Junior at Washington State University, pursuing a degree in Business Marketing. She has always had a love and passion for dogs and has made efforts to help dogs all over the world. Her dad’s occupation resulted in moving around all over the United States, as well as 3 overseas countries. By the age of 18, she had moved nine times and lived in Thailand, South Korea, and Romania. Romania and Thailand, unfortunately, have a big problem with homeless dogs roaming the streets. It broke her heart seeing so many hungry and sick dogs living in unhealthy conditions. So to help, she volunteers with different charities and even fostered different litters of puppies in her home.

The information contained herein is provided for free and is to be used for educational and informational purposes only. We are not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law and we do not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit. Articles provided in connection with this blog are general in nature, provided for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for individualized professional advice. We make no representation that we will improve or attempt to improve your credit record, history, or rating through the use of the resources provided through the OppLoans blog.