Frugal Health Tips for College Students

By Staff


A tight budget and a busy schedule can make it hard for a college student to stay healthy. Combine those facts of college life with thousands of other students in a crowded, germ-ridden spaces and you can practically feel yourself coming down with something before you even get to campus. There are, however as Consumer Reports suggests, several things you can do to keep yourself healthy… physically, mentally and financially.

Get vaccinated
Many colleges will require you to do so before you enroll, anyway. Using your on-campus health service is a good way to take advantage of some of the student services you like already paid for. The Tdap vaccine (which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), HPV vaccine, meningitis vaccine, and seasonal flu vaccine are among those vaccinations that the CDC and others recommend to adults, which includes college students who are 18 years of age or older. Some states require additional vaccinations. Use the state requirement search from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make sure you’ve gotten all the vaccinations that your school’s state requires before heading off this fall.

Dorms, cafeterias, and academic buildings can carry lots of germs. To give yourself a fighting chance at avoiding infections, keep your things clean, as well as surfaces including door handles and light switches. Avoid wasting money and precious storage space on tons of products and instead stock your dorm room with some simple cleaning supplies such as disinfectant wipes or paper towel and some all-purpose cleaner. Bounty and Pine-Sol Original were both top performers in Consumer Reports’ paper towel and all-purpose cleaner tests, respectively.

East Healthily and Frugally
Underclassman heading back to dorm rooms will most likely have a meal plan. Prevent college weight gain by refraining from overeating at the all-you-can-eat facilities and by keeping only healthy snacks in your dorm room. For upperclassmen moving off campus, buying and cooking groceries will probably become a new responsibility. On the bright side, making healthy choices will be easier without all the greasy foods from the cafeteria tempting you. And you don’t have to spend a lot to eat healthy. Look for cheap proteins, such as beans and eggs, which cost less per serving than pasta. If you have space in your freezer, buy meats in bulk on sale and freeze them for later use. Frozen vegetables are another good product to buy in large amounts. For quick frozen meals, Consumer Reports testers recommend Birds Eye Voila Chicken Florentine, which was the best value and was rated very good for nutrition. Frozen waffles, like Consumer Reports‘ top rated Trader Joe’s Multigrain, are another quick fix that can make a healthy breakfast option.

Stay Hydrated
Some schools have banned sales of bottled water on campus and have instead installed water bottle filling stations. If your school hasn’t done so yet, consider investing in your own water filter and refillable water bottle. By cutting out all those bottled water purchases, you’ll be saving money and the environment. You can easily fill up the water filter and keep it in the fridge in your dorm room or off-campus apartment. The Clear2O CWS100A, $23, was a Best Buy in Consumer Reports’ water filter tests. According to CR, “You can spend all the money you’re saving from your water filter on some much-needed coffee to get you through the semester!”

Stock Up in the Pharmacy Section
Before heading back to school, prepare a little first aid kit with the basic stuff that you might need during the semester, including pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic), ibuprofen (Advil and generic), or naproxen (Aleve and generic), skin cleansers and ointments, bandages, allergy medicines, heartburn drugs, antidiarrheal tablets, and cough lozenges. Take a look at Consumer Reports’ OTC medication guide to take the guesswork out of what to pick when you’re sniffling, coughing, fighting pain, or suffering from heartburn.

Use Protection
Prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by being prepared with condoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 20 million new sexually transmitted infections each year in the United States alone and that worldwide, in 2008, there was a total of 110 million new and existing infections. While four of the infections analyzed can be easily treated and cured when caught early (Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis) they often show no symptoms. Untreated STDs can cause further health issues, such as an increased chance of infertility in women. And remember, there are STIs that cannot be cured. For more information on different STDs and how to prevent and treat them, visit The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s STD page.