Here are ten money-saving tips to help you cut your expenses as a college student!
- #1 Buy Used Textbooks
Consider using Amazon or other online textbook outlets to save hundreds of dollars by buying used versions of your textbooks. Don’t be afraid to ask the professor if you can purchase an older edition of a book as well—it may be that the older edition has very few changes and would work just fine for your course.
For example, Development Through the Lifespan, 5th edition, By Laura E. Berk, sometimes required for HDFS 129: Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies may cost between $113-150 to be purchased new, however may be purchased used for starting as low as $79.99.
That's a savings of around $40 for one textbook.
- #2 Make Your Own Coffee
Buy a coffee maker or even find a small used espresso/cappuccino machine for your dorm room or apartment and save hundreds of dollars.
For example, a daily latte, cappuccino, or mocha can cost you between $2.50 and $3.50 depending on the size you buy. If you buy one every morning of the week, that adds up to $560 an academic year. If you instead purchase a cheap coffee maker and a tin of coffee for $8 every month—you could spend as little as $92 an academic year.
That's a savings of around $468 an academic year.
- #3 Skip the Fast Food and Late-Night Takeout
The cost of eating out adds up quickly, even with fast food!
For example, a quick burrito after a night on the town every Friday and Saturday night is about $6 a meal. This is about $384 of late night fast food fixes per semester. Instead, buy $5 of extra snacks per month and spend about $45 an academic year.
That's a savings of around $339 an academic year.
- #4 Pack Your Lunch
Bring leftovers from the night before or make yourself a sandwich for lunch.
If you eat out even one day a week at about $6 a meal versus packing a brown-bag lunch (average cost about $1.50), you spend an additional $135 per academic year. Think what that could cost if you ate lunch out five days a week? Check out this Brown Bag Savings Calculator to find out.
- #5 Split the Rent With a Roomate
You can save as much as a thousand dollars a year if you have more than one roommate.
If you decide to live in a downtown apartment complex like University Towers, you could get a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment for two residents and each pay around $470 a month, plus utilities/cable. If you have a one-bedroom, one-bath large apartment for three residents, you could spend as little as $350 a month for rent, plus utilities/cable.
That's a savings of around $1,080 an academic year.
- #6 Walk, Bike, or Skateboard Around Town
You can avoid paying gas, parking, and/or bus fares if you walk or bike instead. Walk and bike enough and you might even be able to skip the cost of a gym membership.
If you decide to have a car around town you could spend hundreds of dollars on gas ($100/month), parking at your apartment ($100/month), purchasing a commuter lot parking pass ($90/year), paying for your emissions/inspections test ($70/year), and car insurance ($80/month). This excludes maintenance and/or actual monthly car payments.
That's a savings of around $2,680 for opting to live without a car.
- #7 Oatmeal is Fast, Filling, and Affordable
Shop in bulk for dried foods like oatmeal and save.
Grocery stores list per unit prices on the selves, so consider these when buying dried foods and save. Oatmeal in a large tub can cost as little as 7.6 cents an ounce and includes 42 ounces. If you buy it in smaller containers it can cost almost twice as much at 14.2 cents per ounce. While the initial cost is slightly more (and is only pennies), the extra cost adds up quickly. If you eat oatmeal most mornings and buy a container every other week at 14.2 cents an ounce that contains 12 ounces of oatmeal throughout the academic year, you may only spend $30.60. However, instead if you buy a 42-ounce container 6 times during an academic year, you’ll end up with more oatmeal and only have paid $19.15. You save $11.45 just on buying this one dried good in bulk. Consider how much this will add up for other goods as well.
- #8 Turn Down the Heat
Especially when you are not home and/or at night. Set the thermostat to between 55 and 60 degrees during the winter months and then turn it back up when you are home.
For example, it costs $0.54 per unit of gas (pre taxes) through Columbia Gas here in State College. For each one-degree drop for an eight-hour period, your gas bill can be dropped about 1 percent. So, if you are able to drop your temperature one degree each day for even 25 days of the month (from 100 units for a bill of $54 to 75 units for a bill of $40.50) simply by dropping your temperature when away, you could save $13.50 per month. If you do this for each winter month (November through March) you could save $67.50 each year.
- #9 Turn Off the Lights and A/C
If you’re not using a light, you’re not spending money on the per unit charge from your electric company. The same thing goes with the A/C, if it is not on it is not costing you.
Like your heat, electricity is charged by the amount of usage, and costs 6.9 cents per unit (KWH) of electricity (West Penn Power in State College). If you turn lights off, you could use fewer units of electrical power. Better yet, if you keep your A/C off you can save on electrical power, which can use hundreds of units of power even over the course of a week. Say you drop your monthly usage by 300 units of power by not running your A/C for about 5 days (or so), you can save about $20.70 per month. If you do this for the 3 summer months (June to August) in particular you could save about $62. This could be even more if you also limit your use of lights and other electronics.
- #10 Use Your Student Discount
Living in a college town, many restaurants and stores offer student discounts, but they might not post it. Don’t be afraid to inquire about a potential student discount. Some merchants honor LionCash and others, like College 9 Movie Theatre, will simply honor a discount by showing your student ID.
If you use your ID you can save $1 off of your movie ticket at the Movie Theatre. If you go to 10 movies throughout the year, you’ve saved $10 with your ID just at one retailer. Consider using it at many locations and the savings add up!
* The ideas for this sheet came from a few different sources, including:
- College Scholarships (2011). 118 ways to save money in college. Retrieved from http://www.collegescholarships.org/student-living/save-money.htm
- UCLA CashCourse. (2011). Overspending. Retrieved from http://www.cashcourse.org/faoucla/articles/id/1792/25-tips-to-stretch-yo...
- ACC ConsumerCredit.com (2011). Financial calculators brown bag calculator. Retrieved from http://www.consumercredit.com/brown-bag-calc.htm
- Bond, A.B. (1999). 10 tips for the thermostat: Your key to savings. Care 2 Make a Difference, retrieved from http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-thermostat-tips-save-money.html