3 Ways For Students To Save Money

College is a minefield of financial disaster, but it also offers unique opportunities to save money. A combination of marketing forces and old-fashioned sympathy for starving students presents cost-cutting opportunities for those who keep their eyes open.

A post on Frugal Beautiful lists ways for students to slash expenses:

* Ask for a student discount, even when there doesn’t appear to be one. You never know when someone behind the counter will feel for your low-income, high-studying plight and cut you a break.

* Don’t buy textbooks. Look for interlibrary loans, rentals and other students who will lend you overpriced books.

* Examine bills from your school closely. Check your school billing department’s math and make sure you’re not getting stuck with unnecessary fees. You may find an error that will save you big.

Saving Money as a Student: My Top Frugal Hacks [Frugal Beautiful]


Edit Your Comment

  1. dakeypoo says:

    My wife and I have been out of college for over 5 years, but we still use our college IDs at the movie theater for discounts.

    • Thyme for an edit button says:

      You should save that one for a “5 Ways You Can Save Money Through Fraud” article.

      • dakeypoo says:

        Are you sure about that? Lots of places advertise “discount with college ID.” Nowhere in that does it say you must still be in college, but just possess a college ID.

        • Thyme for an edit button says:

          Okay, you can save it for the “5 Ways You Can Save Money by Pretending You Don’t Know What the Discount Meant” article.

          Do they have a “discount with senior ID” too? Let me know where the theater is so I can swipe my mom’s ID card and get a discount. It doesn’t say you have to be a senior or that it even has to be your ID!

    • Rainicorn with baby bats says:

      Guilty of this too. Ticket prices are so goddamned high, I barely go anyhow. The theatre makes their money from concessions, so if I get a discount at the door then I typically buy something inside.

  2. Rebecca K-S says:

    The textbook industry is so goddamn infuriating. List price for my books next semester comes to $600 – over $200 apiece for two books. This past semester I spent $110 to rent books and literally didn’t need a single one of them. At $400 per credit hour, it’s just one more waste of money I really don’t need.

    • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

      No luck on amazon?, or you could try to find the previous edition of some books, although I know that doesn’t always work out.

      • Rebecca K-S says:

        I’m always super anxious about getting previous editions. I know it’s worked out for a lot of people, but I just figure I’ll be one of those people who gets screwed, end up in a class that requires some CD that’s missing or something. I’ve been renting from Chegg the last few semesters, and I’ll probably do the same this semester, and send them back if it seems I’m wasting my money again.

        • Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

          What major are you in? I was CS/IT, and there were only two classes that I absolutely had to have the current edition. Both instances still infuriate me thinking back on them;

          1. A math class where the teacher herself wrote the book. It was in the form of a “special bundle” at the campus bookstore, and the only “bundle” part of it was a unique code for an assignment turn-in system. That means that instead of buying it used for $35, I had to buy it new for $150. Just for that code. A serious conflict of interest, still pisses me off it was allowed.

          2. A physics book that had something similar. It came bundled with a unique code for an online turn-in, making it impossible to buy old editions. This system also let you buy individual codes for $50 (Sweet! I’m paying $50 to be capable of turning in homework). I ended up torrenting the textbook and paying the $50 for the code (The publisher and the homework turn in are owned by the same company, so I wasn’t punishing one for the other’s actions). I still feel justified in that action.

          • Rebecca K-S says:

            Dietetics. I totally acknowledge it’s probably a really irrational anxiety, but I possess it nonetheless. I’m mostly concerned about classes that require a CD or access code that won’t come with a used/older book.

        • FatLynn says:

          I am very specific in letting my students know that I don’t give a damn what version of the textbook they have. Most professors will be happy to answer the question, when you figure that most of us have spent an awful lot of time in school.

    • j2.718ff says:

      The worst part is textbooks will often come out with new editions, where the only significant difference is a re-numbering of questions. I’m glad I had a decent professor who photocopied the assignments, so it didn’t matter if you had the 4th 5th or 6th edition of the book to complete the homework.

      • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

        I work in the textbook industry. We wouldn’t send out a reprint just for reordering question numbers. Not that I’m saying the ridiculous prices are necessarily justified; they’re not. Typically reprints will go out after a significant number of factual changes (or those affecting the use of the book, such as incorrect answers) have been collected. It might not be immediately recognizable to the average customer but reprints are the publisher’s opportunity to correct any errors noticed since the last printing.

    • Cat_In_A_Hat says:

      I learned this after spending most of my scholarship’s “living” stipend on books and readers, almost $500 per semester, that this industry was a joke and rip-off. My older sister went to the same university as me and after her second year switched to the library loan system aka “check out all the books you need for the next semester during the summer to save money” system. It took some work but I managed to get copies of almost all my books with the exception of semester specific readers by certain professors. Luckily my university was huge and had tons of libraries making it a bit easier to find a copy somewhere on campus, check it out for a few weeks, then return them. I couldn’t fathom spending as much as I did my first semester each and every semester over the course of my time there. I still have some of the books I had to purchase and haven’t parted with them since the buy back system in itself is a joke. Spend $200 for a textbook, we’ll give you $15 back!

  3. Chasing Headless Chickens says:

    Number 4: don’t go to college.

    • FearTheCowboy says:

      Bing! We have a winner!

      I never went to college.

      I spent those four years working my ass off in entry-level jobs.

      By the time that friends got out of college, I was making twice what they were, and often got them a job.

      I’ve made *over* $100K/yr since I was 25. I’m now 40, and life is pretty damn good. All because I couldn’t be bothered to shell out for higher-level education

      • Rebecca K-S says:

        Yes, I’m sure your lack of college education is 100% responsible for your current situation.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        I hear they’re hiring a posterboy down at the I Didn’t Go To College And Look How Well I’m Doing Foundation. Although with a 100k+ salary I’m sure you don’t need the extra funds.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Individual results are not indicative of national results.

      • pop top says:

        Awesome! What’s it like being the exception to the rule who’s trying to convince everyone that it’s actually the inverse?

        • Jane_Gage says:

          I doubt he(?)’s the exception. With all the open enrollment shitholes out there the market is flooded with Full Sail degrees that are worthless, and conversely if someone works in a trade or middle management at a grocery store or started their own business, they could be doing quite well.

      • SBR249 says:

        Yes, because the job market and entry requirements today is exactly the same as it was 15 years ago.

      • pinkbunnyslippers says:

        If you’re looking at college as JUST a way to make more money in life, you’re going about it all wrong.

  4. Cat says:

    If you’re going $100,000 in debt, but save $1.75 on a movie ticket, you’re not exactly being frugal.

    • Marlin says:

      If you’re going $100,000 in debt…

      You better have a MD in front of your name. or be ready to be made fun of the rest of your life due to owing 100k for a education for a For-profit school.

      • Rebecca K-S says:

        $100k is not too difficult to rack up at in four years at a state school nowadays. 120 credit hours alone will run you around $50k at my school, and plenty of people get loans to cover housing (etc) and books as well.

      • sponica says:

        I have that much and two degrees….not that it’s helped me anything.

        Funemployment’s only fun the first month….

  5. Don't Bother says:

    I will testify that you should, absolutely, look at your bills. Every. Dang. Semester. I saved myself about $300-400 each year because I didn’t opt for the school’s health insurance. I had my own. All I had to do was fill out an e-form to prove that I was covered and BAM. Dollars out of my loans, thank you very much.

    Also, as for the text books, I always just sold mine. Some students will let you borrow them, and some want to charge you a renter’s fee. It sounds mean, but if you paid $200 for something you’ll never use again, it’s nice to at least get $20 from someone that’s using it for three months.

  6. FreeMarketFan says:

    Lesson to all you students out there – or soon to be students.

    I don’t care if the Syllabus says you need 15 books. If you need to buy books, you buy them once you start using them and know you’ll need it for the whole semester. At that point you find it on Amazon or somewhere else used.

    Lesson 2.
    Buying groceries from off-campus. I know that common area that sells chips and sodas and everything else is quick and easy but it comes at a cost. Find someone with a car – offer gas money and get yourself to a Sams Club/Walmart/Target/whatever and buy the stuff there.

    • Rachacha says:

      Lesson 2 is also a good tip if you are traveling for business and will be staying in a hotel for several days. I will usually go to the local grocery store, pick up some soda and some snacks to enjoy in the evening. Good way to save money, especially if you get a daily per diem for food.

      • dakeypoo says:

        My per diem is 66 bucks a day. I can easily eat out three meals for that.

      • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

        Wish I had thought of that before checking into that Vegas hotel room with my Samoan Lawyer. When I woke up after some rough nights the decision to flee came suddenly. Or maybe not. Maybe I’d planned it all along –subconsciously waiting for the right moment. The bill was a factor, I think. Because I had no money to pay for it. Our room service tabs had been running somewhere between $29 and $36 per hour, for forty-eight consecutive hours. Incredible. How could it happen? But by the time I asked this question, there was no one around to answer. My attorney was gone. He must have sensed trouble.


        It crept up my spine like first rising vibes of an acid frenzy. All these horrible realities began to dawn on me. Here I was, alone in Las Vegas, with this goddamned incredibly expensive car, completely twisted on drugs, no cash, no story for the magazine. And on top of everything else I had a gigantic goddamn hotel bill to deal with.

        How would Horatio Alger have handled this situation?

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Lesson #2 FTW: I’m 5 years out of college, but I remember the first time I went to the 7-11 on campus…you want to talk about price gouging, this was horrible. Same thing at every other small store within a mile radius of the campus. I finally found a grocery store off campus, took a 5 minute bus ride, did my shopping while dodging homeless drunks begging me for change, got my supplies for about half of what campus stores were charging, and then vowed to do all my shopping at home where we have grocery stores that do not require a police officer stationed at the checkout area.

  7. dulcinea47 says:

    Please don’t try to do interlibrary loan for a book that you’re going to need for an entire semester. It won’t happen.

  8. Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

    A skilled welder or electrician can make over 65k a year. Just sayin…

    • Rebecca K-S says:

      The ability to weld doesn’t make it a good career choice. I love welding, but I was not happy when it was my job.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        There’s also natural aptitude. I can’t make it out of the house without injuring myself in some way. I doubt giving me a hot torch and molten metal is a good idea.

      • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

        Yeah I’m not saying it’s an ideal choice for everyone, but it seems like no one is even considering a labor position like that these days. My point was that college is not always necessary for a decent paying job. Sure it isn’t a superstar white collar job… but in all seriousness there aren’t many of those anyway.

        • Rebecca K-S says:

          I wouldn’t argue with that for a second. It’s a shame what’s happened to the skilled labor pool.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:


  9. brinks says:

    Drink at home, not at the bar. You can be stumbling drunk at home for what it would cost you for three drinks plus tip at a bar. Plus, no DUI!

  10. Jamie All Over says:

    Previous editions of the textbook FTW.

    I got my Linguistics book last semester for $4 (with shipping).

  11. Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

    Buy previous editions of text books. Unless you’re in a bleeding age field of study, there is no reason for the most up to date book. Current editions of books will be $75~150, but old editions are usually $5 or $10. The only risk is that the questions at the back of the book will be changed, but even this doesn’t happen too often (Except for math-related books. Those always change. In that case, split the cost of a book with a group of people and photocopy the question pages, usually the chapters themselves are identical to old editions).

    If you’re in a technical major, odds are there is better and more up to date information for free online, anyway.

  12. ElleAnn says:

    Sell your books at the end of the semester (if the bookstore will take them or you can find another student who will be taking the same classes). Even if you think you’ll need your books in grad school or for some undefined future job, you probably won’t. We just bought a house and my parents are bugging me to come get my shelves of textbooks. I’ve never once wished I had any of the books I kept. My parents have been kind enough to store a bunch of my stuff for 10 years while I moved countless times to different apartments in different cities. If you don’t have parents who can/will provide free storage, you’ll be the one hauling the massively heavy crates up the stairs into that 5th floor walkup you just rented… and after 2-3 moves you’ll be ready to donate them to the homeless people in the ally to use as kindling.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      This is degree-based advice, it will not apply to everyone. If you’re getting a medical, science, or engineering degree you want to hold on to those books. I’ve used mine often enough that I keep a few at work for quick reference.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      Buy book at start of semester: $150.
      Sell book at end of semester, new condition: $5.

      I wish I were joking.

  13. deathbecomesme says:

    Don’t rent your books! Buy them on Amazon or some other online service(craigslist) and then sell them back for ~80% of the purchase price. I broke even or got more $ back by buying on Amazon and then selling them on craigslist. For example my Trig book cost 120 on campus used. I got it on Amazon for 80. Sold on craigslist for 100

  14. crispyduck13 says:

    Don’t sell your books back to the bookstore, they give you pennies for a $200 book that they will then resell for $120 on their used shelf. Sell on Amazon, Ebay or Craigslist.

  15. Outrun1986 says:

    My biggest tip for college is to drink water. You have no idea how much you can save by just drinking water. I watched student after student spend tons of money on pricey cafeteria drinks. These drinks cost sometimes $2-4 each. They would buy multiple per day. This adds up very quickly, and the cheapest drink, a fountain soda was like $2. You could save hundreds or even thousands by just drinking water from the fountain, or at the very least buying a pitcher filtration system for a few bucks if the water was not suitable to drink. Commuters could bring drinks from home.

    Also if its allowed don’t get the meal plan. Meal plan was required at my college if you lived there, but since the food was so horrible basically no one ended up using all of their meal plan. The meal plan was also very expensive. Its not worth it to get the meal plan if you are just ordering take out or getting something from off campus every day, and yes I have seen people on the meal plan who would live off take out and fast food from the places around campus. This would obviously depend on each individual situation though.

    In general at least here its probably much cheaper to live off campus, and you won’t have to deal with the rules of the college, pay for parking, or required meal plans (for the cost of the meal plan here, you could probably rent an apartment for the whole semester!!) Yes it was that bad. You also won’t have to fly home as much if you live far away or worry about staying in a hotel when the college is closed. The college would close here over Thanksgiving which means students who didn’t want to fly home to their families had to get out of there (so they had to stay in a hotel), you weren’t allowed to stay in your dorm, which is another added expense.

    • Not Given says:

      My son drank water all through college and still only drinks water. My husband and I will drink diet soft drinks but when we’re out we always drink water.
      Also, I’m quick on the one adult and one senior and in a few years, I’ll proudly say two seniors (buffet, tickets, etc) please. A dollar is a dollar.

  16. u1itn0w2day says:

    Uh, how about living the life of an actual academic student instead of an adolescent party animal feeling entitled to the latest tech & perks.

  17. FatLynn says:

    A note on textbooks: even if you need some kind of e-learning code, you can usually get it on its own from the publisher. My students can get the code online, and a used copy of the old edition for far less than a new textbook.

  18. econobiker says:

    If you have a car make sure that you register/tag and insure it in the locality that costs less- whether at college or at your parent’s residence. I saved about $3000 by doing this ($700 per year X four years= $2800 plus less hassle for AL tag & insurance versus NJ tag & insurance.)

  19. Daniel says:

    These are some good ways to save. What I found to work really well is to rent textbooks instead of buying them. It’s also much better for the planet because you’re reusing these 200 paged textbooks rather than buying new. The website I’ve been using is Chegg.com and if you use the promo code: CC101167, each time you rent a book, they take 5% on your total. Just thought that was a nice little tip to add. I like to follow this tips its pretty good and will be very helpful to me to save money. I am extreme spender and may be it will help me to stop spend and save few bucks instead of taking payday loans online.