Saving Money at College

You may have worked through all of your high school years, saving pennies and trying to avoid those new shoes or latest video games so that you’d have some savings for college. Now that you’re at school, you’re working a part-time job and worrying about not spending too much money. It can be challenging for frugal scholars who are suddenly on their own for the first time – faced with all the variety and temptations that semi-adult life has to offer – and who have to figure out how to stretch those hard earned and saved dollars so that they don’t get a reputation as some kind of campus shut-in: like a Miss Havisham of the Quad. Fortunately, there are several ways you can make your money go farther without sacrificing all the fun and opportunities that come with going to college.

See Also: Top Affordable US Colleges and Universities of 2013

Student Discounts

Many business and entertainment venues offer discounts to student for everything from bus passes and computer equipment to theater tickets and travel. Some advertise them widely on campus, often in the form of a guide to student discounts that you receive at the beginning of each academic year. Other businesses, however, have student discounts but only offer them to you if you ask about them.

Some of the discounts can be worth quite a bit if you are careful and plan accordingly. In larger cities, many entertainment venues offer “rush” tickets which students with valid IDs can buy at a steep discount within a specified time before the show begins. Sometimes the tickets are even for great seats. The advantage to the student is a cheap seat to a hot ticket; meanwhile the theater or other venue fills up and sees some revenue on seats that otherwise would have remained unsold.

Whenever you’re in a store near campus or considering a major purchase, be sure to ask if there’s some kind of student or education discount or special pricing. Apple is one retailer that has consistently offered educational discounts. Many software companies like Adobe and Microsoft also offer student pricing or even packages geared specifically toward students. The credit branches of some auto manufacturers also occasionally offer rebates or discounted loan rates to students who qualify. Don’t be shy – the simple act of asking could save you a lot of cash.


I once volunteered to help staff a fundraising event for a non-profit affiliated with my school. I didn’t have to do much: just dress nicely, decorate some tables and greet people warmly. For that, I got a free meal for which the actual patrons were paying more than a hundred dollars per plate, plus the other volunteers and I got to hang out into the wee hours with the keynote speaker, John Grisham. I got an evening’s worth of entertainment, dinner and an interesting anecdote that I can use at parties, all for the cost of bus fare.

So my fellow frugal scholars, when you read about an event that sounds interesting and you see the per-ticket cost and despair, fret not. Simply call the venue, the promoter or the sponsoring organization and ask if they have need for any volunteers. You wille to put in some sweat equity, but you’ll save money and may actually get an experience you couldn’t pay for anyway.

Textbook Rental

Okay, so textbooks aren’t as glamorous as celebrity authors. However, all students know that they are an amazingly absurd dent in the scholarly war chest. I’m sure we’ve all picked up that paperback with thin pages, looked at the sticker and done a double take. How much?! For this? Really?! Then of course you buy it, use it and go to sell it at the end of the semester only to learn that the professor is switching to the new edition or the class isn’t being offered until the following year.

One way to take a little of the financial pain out of textbook roulette is to rent them. (You didn’t want to keep that organic chemistry book to read to your kids at night when you become a parent, did you?) Many textbook sellers, some online (like Abe Books) will ship you the books for free, let you highlight them, and then cover the cost to ship them back at the end of the term. All for a price that is lees than the cost of a new book – and you don’t have the bother of trying to sell them when you’re done with them.

It is possible to be frugal and live a full student life. A little chutzpah, a little research and a little effort can go a long way in stretching the dollars that you’ve been working hard to sock away. You may have to work harder or ask a few more questions, but in the long run it will pay off for you.


  1. Renting text books will save you money over buying (even buying used). But the better deal is to buy your books off Amazon and then resell them at the end of the semester.

    If you use a book rental service, you can get hit with late fees if you forget to return the books or if they somehow get damaged. But if you just buy a used copy off Amazon, you can typically get a good deal and not have to worry about those hassles. When it comes time to sell your book, price it about $5 below the lowest cost used book on Amazon. Bargain hunting college students will just click purchase on whichever used book has the lowest cost. Discounting yours by a few bucks puts yours at the top of the list and ensures a quick sale.

    I used this approach through my college years and basically broke even on all my text book costs. It takes a little leg work to mail out the books, but the system worked great for me.

  2. I love the idea of being a volunteer. Many times, doing so can provide you with nearly the same experience as the paying guests, but it will also give you another way to, well, GIVE! Excellent suggestion. I think we all need to find a little extra time to give in our lives.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>