The Scholarship System: 6 Steps on How to Win College Scholarships and Secure Financial Aid

75 Easy Ways to Save Money in College

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We all know that college can be expensive. That’s what makes locating appropriate scholarships so important (if you haven’t started applying for scholarships yet or want some simple tips on how to find the best scholarships to apply to, join our free webinar to get the ball rolling). But, even if you do well in landing funds that don’t require a debt repayment plan upon graduation, that doesn’t always mean all of your expenses are met (or that you want to spend all that money if you don't need to!)

Once the FAFSA has been completed, grants have been awarded, and have the scholarship applications are on their way, it is important to ensure your college student is also making smart money choices to keep their expenses down. So, if you aren’t sure how to broach the subject of living frugally with your child or you want to have a series of tips to pass down, we've got your back.

Here are 75 easy ways you can share with your child  so they can learn how to save money in college.

Before College

If your student is still in high school, here are some money saving options to take advantage of NOW!

1. Have them sign up for Advanced Placement courses to prepare for AP exams

2. Check into CLEP exams for college credit

3. Dual enroll in college courses while in high school

Tuition, Textbooks, and Reference Resources

4. Attend community college for the first two years for lower tuition options

5. Look into international colleges and universities that may be lower cost

6. Rent textbooks instead of buying

7. When textbooks must be purchased, buy used instead of new

8. Look for prior editions of textbooks (many times, the information is the same, just rearranged)

9. Use the college library

10. Use the public library

Room and Board

11. Live at home instead of on campus

12. Select the cheapest (safe) apartment or dorm room option available

13. Get a roommate

14. Monitor utility use (turn lights off when leaving a room, don’t leave the water running when brushing teeth, etc.)

15. Consider on-campus dining plans

16. Limit eating out- Try $5 Meal Plan to save money when cooking at home

17. Buy non-perishable groceries in bulk for cost savings

18. Meal prep in bulk

19. Choose drip coffee over specialty drinks

20. Use rebate apps like Ibotta or Checkout51 to get cash back on things you normally buy (like bread, eggs, you name it.)

21. Sign up for the Walmart Savings Catcher to scan your receipts and receive cash back.

22. Clip Coupons


23. Go carless and use public transit instead

24. Look into student transit discounts

25. Walk or bike instead

26. Carpool!

27. Consider taking the bus or train instead of flying home for breaks (ask about student discounts too)

28. Skip traditional spring break trips for a staycation or volunteer experience that includes transportations, room, and board . Still need to find housing? Try an affordable alternative like AirBnB where people rent out their homes at a major discount compared to hotels! I use this all the time - both in the U.S. and internationally!

Entertainment and Communication

29. Have a movie night in instead of going to theaters

30. Choose Netflix or Hulu over cable

31. Attend free social events through the college

32. Get a prepaid cell phone plan

33. Stay within your cell phone plan limits to avoid overage fees

34. Use college Wi-Fi to send emails to friends and family instead of your data plan

35. Use Amazon Prime for Students (entertainment AND free shipping!) 

36. Avoid buying alcoholic beverages when out (restaurant markups are HUGE)

37. Ask every restaurant, movie theater, mini golf course, etc. if they offer student discounts

38. See if your local library or parks department offers free entertainment (think music or movies in the park, book clubs, etc.)

Gifts and Holidays

39. Make homemade gifts

40. Do a Secret Santa instead of shopping for everyone

41. Bake a cake instead of buying one

42. Potluck instead of going out

43. Ask for practical items as birthday and Christmas gifts to save money


44. Shop gently used clothing stores

45. Hang clothes to dry instead of using a dryer

46. Make your own laundry detergent and fabric softener

47. Shop clearance

48. Buy classic, quality clothing instead of following trends

49. Do a clothing trade with friends instead of shopping

Banking and Finance

50. Find free checking account options

51. Take the free checks offered with new accounts

52. Track spending to avoid overdraft fees

53. Avoid credit cards with annual fees or other charges

54. Pay credit card balances in full

55. Pay bills on time to avoid late fees and penalty interest rates

56. Start a change jar

Electronics and Other Shopping

57. Look for student discounts when buying a computer

58. Check for discounts on software too

59. Buy a computer that meets your needs and not one with unnecessary bells and whistles

60. Stick with a basic printer over flashy models, especially if you are only printing documents

61. Get antivirus software to protect your computer and smartphone

62. Don’t upgrade your cell phone if your current one still works, even if you are eligible for upgrade

63. For states with sales tax, check for any tax-free shopping weeks

64. Comparison shop whenever possible, especially through online retailers with free shipping and local stores

65. Live near a residential area? Check out yard sales

66. Go to swap meets

67. Try Freecycle and the free section of Craigslist

Health, Fitness, and Grooming

68. See if there is a local free clinic available for basic medical needs

69. Use on-campus exercise facilities, if available

70. Choose low-cost workout options, like running in the local area, over joining a pricey gym

71. If you have to join a gym, ask about student discounts

72. Choose hairstyles that grow out well to avoid excessive upkeep

73. Check into local beauty schools for discounted haircuts and other services or try Groupon for discounted services

74. Skip nail salons for at-home manicures (invite friends over, and it can be entertainment too!)

75. Look into low-cost shave clubs for cheaper razors

As you can see, there are a lot of ways your college student can save money in college while they obtain their degree. In fact, there are likely many more that didn’t end up on the list!

Do you have a money saving tip that can help a struggling student make ends meet? Please add it in the comments below!


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